A Bridging of Faiths

A Bridging of Faiths: Religion and Politics in a New England City

NICHOLAS JAY DEMERATH
Rhys H. Williams
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 380
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztjs5
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    A Bridging of Faiths
    Book Description:

    Homelessness, black neighborhood development, problems of abortion and sex education--how does religion affect the politics of an American city confronting these and other concerns? And what differences have "church and state" issues made in these struggles? In answering such questions, A Bridging of Faiths conveys a feeling of the urgent social theater of Springfield, Massachusetts, and provides both a contemporary and historical sense of how power shapes and is shaped by the civic culture. Recalling the immediacy and provocativeness of classic community studies like Middletown and Yankee City, the work draws on the voices of Springfielders themselves, while it exposes tendencies that prevail throughout contemporary America. This is a tale of two establishments: Protestant for three centuries, Springfield has been for the last fifty years a Catholic city. In looking at its emerging demographic, political, and economic patterns, the book shows how church and state interact at the local level, where lives are actually lived, as opposed to how the law and public opinion say they ought to interact at the more abstract federal level. While religion is more politically influential than some social scientists might have expected, it does not possess the kind of power feared by many constitutionalists. Politicians are seeking to redefine themselves in relation to religion and in other ways, and religion as a whole faces subtle crises of mobility, authority, and secularization. From these complexities, new patterns of cultural and political authority have emerged in Springfield, similar to those now affecting other American communities and the nation.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6263-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. FOREWORD
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    John F. Wilson, Robert T. Handy, Stanley N. Katz and Albert J. Raboteau

    This detailed study of the interactions among religious, political, economic, ethnic, and legal factors in one city’s past and present is the sixth volume published by the Princeton University Press in its series “Studies in Church and State.” The series is funded by the Lilly Endowment and is located at Princeton University. Two objectives define the work of the Project. The first is to commission scholarly publications concerned with the interaction of religion and politics giving special—but not exclusive—attention to United States history. The second is to broaden scholarship concerned with church-state issues, in part by identifying authors...

  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-2)
    Jay Demerath and Rhys Williams
  7. Chapter One APPROACHING SPRINGFIELD
    (pp. 3-21)

    In 1986, Springfield, Massachusetts, celebrated its 350th birthday. Still a youngster by European standards, it is a municipal Methuselah for the United States. Celebratory events dotted the annual calendar, as the anniversary gave added legitimacy to any city occasion for good food, good music, good fond-raising, and good civic piety. Finally, the year climaxed with a solemn ceremony held not in the city’s own auditorium—its Symphony Hall—nor in the place of all previous birthday gatherings—Old First (Congregational) Church on Court Square; this time the city’s past, present, and future were consecrated by the mayor, the bishop, and...

  8. Chapter Two FROM MEETINGHOUSE TO CATHEDRAL
    (pp. 22-57)

    Few countries have been more preoccupied with change and progress than the United States. And yet many observers have seen New England as an exception. Its very name conjures lingering ties to a bygone era and another country altogether. Widely regarded as the country’s historical bedrock and wellspring, its attractiveness to tourists depends upon a quaintness that borders on the fusty. In a nation sometimes embarrassed by the sheer brevity of its conventional history, New England is a plum of antiquity buried deep within the pudding.

    But, of course, this is also misleading. In fact, few regions of the country...

  9. Chapter Three HIGH ROLLERS AND HIGH RISES
    (pp. 58-96)

    In history’s hindsight, the America of the 1950s seems a collective sigh following the desperate days of the Great Depression and World War II. As Nelson Algren once remarked, “The Eisenhower years melted like cotton candy in the mouth of history.” For many, it was a time of almost resolute innocence, an invitation to idealistic visions rather than another round of flinty challenges. But, of course, not all was dreamy beneficence. In the midst of this day at the beach, undercurrents of change were already sucking at the nation’s ankles. Many were especially apparent in urban America. On almost every...

  10. Chapter Four CORNER CHURCH AND CITY-STATE
    (pp. 97-140)

    In every American city, the winter holiday season has become not only longer but louder as a result of its clashing sacred and secular symbols. The center of Springfield’s holiday display is its Court Square. This city-owned block of grass, walkways, and monuments is bordered on the south by the red-brick facade of the city’s oldest commercial block and on the east by the prestressed-concrete civic center. The park’s other two sides represent corner church and city state explicitly. Anchored on the west by Old First (Congregational) Church with its characteristic white clapboard exterior and needlelike steeple, the square is...

  11. Chapter Five HOMELESSNESS IN THE CITY OF HOMES
    (pp. 141-172)

    For more than a century, Springfield has relished its nickname as the “city of homes.” A phrase born of late nineteenth-century affluence, it has been an important ingredient in the city’s civic pride. In 1892, the local founding publisher ofGood Housekeepingmagazine, Clark W. Bryan, produced a poetic panegyric to this dimension of Springfield life. The first and last of its seven stanzas read as follows:

    Nestled peacefully down, by Connecticut’s waters

    Full mirrored each day from the stream,

    A City of Homes, as fair as the fairest,

    Reflects from the river’s bright gleam.

    Creeping up from a valley,...

  12. Chapter Six A COVENANT IN THE CRUCIBLE OF RACE
    (pp. 173-213)

    It was a resident of a small hill town not far from Springfield—the poet Archibald MacLeish—who once remarked that “there are two classes of people: those who divide people into classes and those who do not.” Sociologists and Springfielders both fall into the former category. As much as the city’s residents might idealize its civic institutions, only a minority portray the community in completely egalitarian terms. Indeed, when asked their reactions to the statement, “In Springfield, people from different backgrounds basically get along as equals,” only 26 percent of the general sample either “agreed” or “strongly agreed.” While...

  13. Chapter Seven SEXUALITY AND SECTARIANISM
    (pp. 214-254)

    Few cities can be described as sprinting eagerly into the future. Most are anchored to the status quo by elites who have benefited from it, by a culture that reinforces it, and by a structure that finds inertia more congenial than change. Most cities tend to avoid the very issues that form the rocky trail ahead. Certainly this is true of Springfield—a city often cited for its traditionalism and one with a preference for even superficial consensus over overt conflict. But not even here can conflict be closeted permanently. Despite the city’s resolve, there are occasional subjects that disrupt...

  14. Chapter Eight BRIDGING THE GAPS
    (pp. 255-302)

    Any author of a scholarly book is apt to be peeved by the casual question, “So what are your findings?” There is something trivializing in the implication that one’s multilayered, multitextured, multichaptered work can be reduced to such terse summary. On the other hand, there is also something to the old New England tradition of boiling sap down to syrup. Books that defy quick summary may contain too much sap and too little syrup. The distillation process itself may concentrate the mind as it concentrates the solution.

    Our own summary involves four conclusions at odds with what might have been...

  15. APPENDIX A: A METHODOLOGICAL POSTSCRIPT
    (pp. 303-318)
  16. APPENDIX B: THE SPRINGFIELD QUESTIONNAIRE AND FOLLOW-UP APPEALS TO SAMPLE RESPONDENTS
    (pp. 319-330)
  17. APPENDIX C: STATISTICAL ADDENDA
    (pp. 331-346)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 347-354)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 355-358)