Ah, Sunday. Sunday is one of my absolute favorite days of the week; the energy of the day unique and undeniable – relaxed, familial, the calm respite to start or end the week, depending on your perspective. When I was working, Sunday’s were my Saturday’s so it was of course a delightful day, but even when I’m not working, I can feel the energy of a Sunday. It seems like no matter where you are, and almost no matter what kind of job you work, everyone feels Sunday. And in paradise, nicknamed by many as “God’s Country,” it felt like the subtle shift of the day was even more pronounced.
As we wandered from Kauai’s rainy east shore to the sunny south side, it was striking how many churches we saw. I think aside from the multitude of shades of green, and the stunning abundance of trees and wildlife, the only thing we so much variety in was the churches. Every kind, from Baptist to Hindu, Scientology to Mormon, Lutheran to Buddhist, types of churches I couldn’t recognize and I’m not sure I’ve even heard of, not to mention the surf culture possibly being considered a religion in and of itself. Even more impressive though, is the fact that they are all neighbors and consider each other as such; the Buddhist Mission is literally next door to the Seventh Day Adventists, a hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses across the street from the Catholic Church, it goes on and on. Seriously, just Google “churches in Kauai” (and probably most of the other islands as well), and you will see the map light up with those red/pink dots, highlighting the heavy concentration and incredible diversity of religion represented on the island. At points I wondered, do they all get along?? But I was to find an answer that would suffice soon enough…
When we arrived at our beach of choice for the time being, it seemed as though there was something special going on, and apparently we missed the memo. Approaching the picnic areas, grassy lawns, and sandy beach, we saw different tents set up, heard numerous melodies, and saw so many different groups of people, it seemed like it might be some sort of market or festival, so we wandered a little closer. Turns out, it was no farmer’s market, and definitely not a music festival, but rather a common place for various churches to be holding their Sunday gatherings. Simply put, it was beautiful. Everyone seemed to be happily connecting, both with their own groups and with others, talking, sharing, laughing, playing; I’m tempted to call it a religious convention where everyone was open and accepting.
We decided to set up our spot a little further away from them and closer to the water, and as I watched the scene unfolding set against the beyond-words backdrop of ocean, rocks, mountains, clouds, rain, and sun, I couldn’t help but contemplate “God’s Country.” I’ve heard and seen Hawaii referred to as “God’s Country” before, and have always assumed it was a reference to the awe-inspiring beauty of it’s abundant and contrasting natural landscapes; after today, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it’s the multifarious religions who’ve found a home on the land, perhaps it truly is about the land, and I’m sure someone could write an entire thesis on the possibilities (and another on the history), but one thing I’m sure of, there is something divine here.
As a short-term visitor, I can only speculate, but I would venture to say that the power of the land has something to do with it. You could drive the entire island of Kauai in probably half a day (not counting stops and short detours), but there is more variety to the weather and landscape than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. When you’re surrounded by a place where the natural landscape is so powerful, and has such an immediate effect on your life, the idea that God, or the Supreme Being, or the Divine energy of the world (whatever you want to call it), exercises it’s AWE-some power on a daily (or more like hourly) basis, it seems natural that the people would have a strong connection to their religious roots, whatever those may be. Beyond that, when you understand that every area provides a new temperature, a new type of precipitation, or a new perspective in general, it might lead you to a clearer understanding of accepting diversity, whether that be in nature, population, or religion.
Whatever is happening here in Kauai, I think it’s obvious that “God” is in everything, and is everywhere, and whether it’s because of religion or the landscape, I would say that it’s definitely safe to call this place “God’s Country.”
Stories from the road-trip that inspired moving to the PNW, and other travel adventures.