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.This is well documented in the scholarly literature andeasily determined in casual conversations.It is underscored throughout thisregion, where, in local restaurants, individuals or families may be seen pray-ing before meals; where the U.S.Constitution be damned prayers maybe offered before, during, and after school and school-related events; wherecity halls, judge s chambers, and other public places may exhibit religioussymbols: where, in short the separation between church and state may bea constitutional ideal but is one often and sometimes overtly violated in manyareas, rural ones in particular.In rural communities, white or black, no special mention need be madeof religion, but it crops up in everyday conversations and situations. Godis thanked formally at meal times and acknowledged at others in a varietyof ways.Indeed, the concept of God as a force in people s everyday livesseems easier to grasp and somehow more believable in rural than in urbanor suburban areas.9 The relative calm and beauty of rural areas offers the 104 Rooted in Placesort of scenic backdrop in which a term like  God s majesty appears morefitting, especially if compared to the aesthetic quality of most urban areas,whether expensive high-rise apartment buildings or urban ghettoes.Thisdistinction is especially true for African Americans, as noted by sociologistsLarry L.Hunt and Matthew O.Hunt, who state that  the black church wasthe central institution in African American communities in the rural South.and has become a less dominant institution in the urban North. 10 Thisis, I believe, relatively easy to understand.In urban areas, family and com-munity bonds and the religious beliefs that in many instances buttressthem have been more weakened and the population is more mobile.Inrural areas, with comparatively less mobile people, hence comparativelymore stable family and community bonds, the individual (and the individual sfamily and community), nature, and God seem to merge, creating their ownsynthesis.As geographer David Hummons says:  American agrarianism.does not simply avert the superiority of rural over urban life but involves asystem of beliefs and claims: that rural life is closer to nature, fosters greaterinterdependence, supports democratic citizenship, and nourishes moral andreligious life. 11Religion is, at heart, important because it distinguishes some things fromothers.It accords comparatively great importance to ideas and beliefs thatinvolve a willingness to suspend an emphasis on  this world and projectoneself into an  other world, a world essentially  beyond this one.In thisway, religion of whatever kind may involve a kind of transcendence inwhich one believes in the supremacy of a  place quite distinct from mun-dane, everyday life.At the same time, a very sharp distinction is drawn be-tween  sacred and  secular realms; indeed, the most damning commentthat can be made (by Christian fundamentalists) about much contemporarysocial thought and practice is that it is based on  secular humanism, in con-trast to Christian (sacred) beliefs, thought by those who practice them tobe more rooted in morality.Without respect to any one religion, the sociologist Peter Berger has writ-ten very poetically about its larger and, perhaps, largest premise:It is well at this point to recall the definition of religion used a littleearlier the establishment, through human activity, of a sacred cosmosthat will be capable of maintaining itself in the ever-present face of chaos. In the Lord s House 105Every human society, however legitimated, must maintain its solidarityin the face of chaos.Religiously legitimated solidarity brings this funda-mental sociological fact into sharper focus.The world of sacred order, byvirtue of being an ongoing human production, is ongoingly confrontedwith the disordering forces of human existence in time.The precarious-ness of every such world is revealed each time they dream reality-denyingdreams of  madness, and most importantly, each time they consciouslyencounter death.Every human society is, in the last resort, men bandedtogether in the face of death.The power of religion depends, in the lastresort, upon the credibility of the banners it puts in the hands of men asthey stand before death, or more accurately, as they walk, inevitably, to-ward it.12Sociologically speaking, then, religion is a way of bringing order to theworld.It posits a belief system that helps to create social order and stabil-ity.It is, for Berger, a  sacred cosmos, a world built, to some degree, uponreligious belief.It posits an  ultimate world that can only be experiencedby fervently held beliefs, beliefs that may assuage one s fears about thechaos of everyday life and, ultimately, death.The strength of one s beliefand one s need to sustain it is captured well by the concept of the  Protes-tant ethic, unique in Western thought and, for the sociologist Max We-ber, something merged in Western experience with the rise of capitalism,as he writes in his famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capi-talism.13 In the ethic s grand synthesis, salvation came through one s ownhard work.Small Books, Big ThoughtsDuring my stay in Colonial County, I became very aware of thissynthesis and the importance of religion in everyday life, at least as it playedout in one small community and in one of that county s churches [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]