Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pumpkin Centrism

“Baptist Pumpkin Center” is today’s subject. I’m not the only person to notice the sign on I-12, the one that Barbara and I pass once or twice a year going around the New Orleans area, on our way to and from Atlanta. Thousands of drivers see it coming and going and it’s too much fun to pass up. Bill Rempel posted about it briefly here.

That would be Exit 35 on this short “intrastate” Interstate. It really does mark Pumpkin Road on the west side of Hammond (or Ponchatoula, depending on your point of view. Whatever.) It’s likely there are Baptists on Pumpkin here – although you’re more likely to find a bunch of them on Pecan here; Immanuel Baptist Church is on Pecan Street in Hammond.

Friends, I think today’s text is about opportunity. The Exit 35 sign is pretty specific: this here’s a Baptist Pumpkin Center. Not your Methodist or even your high-church Episcopalian Pumpkin Center. Certainly not your namby-pamby, ecumenical “Christian” Pumpkin Center. Down here north of New Orleans, there’s room in folks’ hearts for just one center of squash fruit, or Cucurbita Cucurbitaceae as pumpkinados persist in saying, and that’s the Baptist Pumpkin Center.

(Sigh. A pumpkinado is a person who’s a squash enthusiast – a fan – but that’s for another post.)

Other religions could have the own pumpkin centers. I’m surprised that the Catholic Church hasn’t already established its own pumpkin centers on a worldwide basis. There’d be a good deal more ceremony attached to these. Perhaps Brandeis University has established its own pumpkin center, a Jewish pumpkin center; or, since there’s already been a considerable effort to plant trees in Israel, a global effort to establish pumpkin centers in the Holy Land will soon appear in synagogue religious schools throughout the US. Then the issue of whether the patches would be Orthodox or Reform pumpkin centers would rear its unattractive head…pumpkins are kosher for Passover as far as I know.

Muslim pumpkin centers might suffer from the same kind of doctrinal split: Sunni or Shia? Buddhists might welcome the peaceful nature of their own pumpkin patches, wherein the Eight-fold Way could be contemplated.

I do not advocate proselytizing insofar as pumpkins are concerned – no. A person’s pumpkin preference ought to be his or her own, I say. So really, Pumpkin Centers could be like those all-faith chapels one sees in airports (praying that you aren’t trapped on a delayed flight can address any form of deity…and pumpkin).

It’s possible to blame this all on Charlie Brown and Linus’s search for the Great Pumpkin. But I’m thinking that “Pumpkin Centrism” is older than that, rooted deeply in America’s spiritual reawakening in the early 19th Century. And the Baptist Pumpkin Center in Louisiana is one of the last visible remnants of this nationwide urge toward gourdish worship practices.

Well, I thought this would be a good day to bring it all to your attention – and my thanks to “Lyria” (T A Noonan) for the photo. May the Great Pumpkin watch over you and keep you, no matter in what Center you worship.


Anonymous said...

umm actually baptist is one town and pumpkin center is another town..on your way to New Orleans next year you should get off on the exit and you'll see for yourself..LOL

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Right - bring realism into it, why don't you?

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at your post, and the accompanying comments. I travel past that sign at least 4 times a year, and have often wondered... thanks for the laughs and the clarification.

D Herrod said...

Sounds like the conversations we have as we drive past that sign.

Anonymous said...

love it.

have been looking for information on the Baptist Pumpkin Center for quite a time.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks, A. On a February drive to/from Atlanta, we noted that the State of Louisiana had changed the spacing of the words on the sign...we suspect at the urging of the "town fathers." Now the drive-by experience isn't quite as obviously weird.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure, but I THINK that coming from an opposite direction lists the order of the towns differently, as in Pumpkin Center, Baptist. Baptist a road on the north side of I-12, and Pumpkin Center is the road that crosses over I-12 oriented North/South, and used to be called Old Parish Road, as it divided the parishes of Tangipahoa and Livingston.
Humorously enough, it is populated by numerous Baptists, with a few Catholics thrown in for good measure!

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Best of the Season, Anonymous. I think the other comments made the same points as you have here, but it's always nice to find out who's cruising by (on the blog as on the Interstate). Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Darn! I had it wrong. It used to be called Parish Line Road...I saw it randomly on an old map years ago and had jumbled the name earlier.
Best of the season to you, as well!

Stillie said...

Glad to find this! I'm on my laptop, returning to TX from TN, and saw that sign again. I've always wondered what it meant and decided to Google it. This post may not have cleared it up entirely, but sure did make for some humorous reading. Thanks!

Richard Laurence Baron said...

You're welcome, Stillie - hope you made it the rest of the way home. Best for the New Year and feel free to share humor: It'll help us all live longer (presuming that's a good thing).