Though I could not have known it at the time, a momentous event in my faith journey occurred on a Sunday evening in 1963 in Greenville, South Carolina, when, in defiance of the state’s archaic Blue Laws, the Fox Theater opened on Sunday. Seven of us -- regular attenders at the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Buncombe Street Church -- made a pact to enter the front door of the church, be seen, then quietly slip out the back door and join John Wayne at the Fox.
Only lately have I come to see how that evening symbolizes a watershed in the history of Christianity in the United States. On that night, Greenville, South Carolina -- the last pocket of resistance to secularity in the Western world -- gave in and served notice that it would no longer be a prop for the church. If Christians were going to be made in Greenville, then the church must do it alone.
There would be no more free passes for the church, no more free rides. The Fox Theater went head-to-head with the church to see who would provide ultimate values for the young. That night in 1963, the Fox Theater won the opening skirmish.
by William Willimon