In the late 1970s, my dad preached for a little Church of Christ in Elkin, N.C., a small town about 45 miles west of Winston-Salem.
We lived there for a year or two when I was in elementary school. I must have been 10 or 11 years old.
I remember that we lived in a church-provided home with a large basement where my brother Scott, sister Christy and I enjoyed playing hide-and-seek. I remember that a neighbor man owned a small store and always gave me a 5-cent-a-pack discount on baseball cards because my dad was a minister. I remember that we had a pet guinea pig named Snowball (she was white, as you might have guessed).
I remember that adults used to smoke cigarettes in the church parking lot after services, and nobody thought anything of it because we lived in tobacco country. I remember that the first time I experienced a shopping mall or a Chick-fil-A came on a trip to the big city of Winston-Salem. I remember that two Catholic popes died one right after the other in 1978 and kept interrupting my cartoons with news reports.
My time in Elkin was 35-plus years ago, and I don't think about it much anymore.
But my memories came flooding back this week when I came across a Wall Street Journal story about two twin brothers raised in that same town. (Hint: If you get a paywalled version of the story when you click the link, copy and paste the headline and Google it. Generally, the Journal will let you view the full text if you find the story that way.)
The story concerns how the brothers, who grew up in a Baptist household, "found their way to two different faiths," as the Journal describes it. GetReligion readers can debate whether they actually found their way to two different faiths or simply chose different versions of the same faith. Either way, it's a fascinating feature.
The top of the story:
Many people change faiths, but not like Brad and Chad Jones.
Identical twins, the brothers grew up in Elkin, N.C., a small town in the Bible Belt, the only children of devout Baptists. As boys, they attended the First Baptist Church of Elkin, studied Scripture, went to vacation Bible school and sang in the choir, as did many of their cousins, classmates and neighbors.
Today, Brad, 43, is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Charlotte, and Chad is an Anglican bishop in Atlanta. Their parents, Jo Anne and Robert, remain faithful members of their Baptist congregation. When their sons visit, each celebrates mass according to his own rite in the dining room or living room of what has become a very ecumenical Jones household.
More than half of the U.S. adult population has changed religious affiliations at least once during their lives, most before they reach 50, according to a 2009 Faith in Flux report by the Pew Research Center. In many cases, the move is from one major religious tradition to another, say, Protestantism to Catholicism, but it also includes those who leave organized religion altogether.
A little later, readers learn more about the brothers' religious journeys:
Tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Elkin is a rural working-class community, historically dominated by farms and mills and the Baptist Church. The Jones family blended in, their father working for a large building contractor and their mother a homemaker.
The boys were well-behaved and inseparable. Kindred souls, as preschoolers they spoke to each other in “twin language,” their mother said, using words that no one else understood. Neither was athletic, but both were musically inclined, joining the choir at the age of 6 and later playing in the high school marching band. Father Brad played the tuba and sousaphone. Bishop Chad, the more outgoing of the two, was the drum major his senior year. They were avid readers, digesting encyclopedias and discussing them.
“They were always in a corner, reading a book,” says Mrs. Jones.
Like many kids, in their early teen years they began questioning things, including the teachings of the Baptist Church, she says. Their curiosity was piqued in large part by an older, much-respected cousin, who lived in Greensboro and had recently converted to Catholicism. During one visit, their cousin took the boys, then about 12 or 13, to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church. It was their first time inside a Catholic church. That Sunday morning remains 30 years later one of their most vivid memories.
Although this story doesn't mention it, Bishop Chad first switched to the Episcopal Church as a teenager, then became an Anglican in college.
Meanwhile, the Journal does a nice job of explaining the major theological difference between the brothers: disagreement on the authority of the pope.
Image: Me, holding Snowball, with my brother Scott and sister Christy