28 August 2004

Politics as Identity, Religion as Community

Mountain family, old planter family: old ideas of community no longer served, and the descendants of those families were finding a new community in the ministry. But it hadn't been quite like this for Frank. He grew up in a blue-collar white urban neighborhood. It wasn't "ethnic," and it had no sense of community. It was Southern, but the Southern history and Southern past that were bred in the bones of the mountain boy and the plantation girl had had to be learned, studied, by the boy from the city. Because he had been born into a crowd, his early ambitions had been different.

"I wanted to be an individual, a nonconformist, a person with his own rights, opinions. But at the same time I did want an identity. And I found that in the Democratic Party. It started at high school. I got into the Democratic group and quickly became a leader of the teen Democrats. It became my religion, because I evaluated everything according to the party's success or failure. When I left school I went straight into the party organization. The party became my community. But it wasn't a real community. It didn't have the caring that a Christian community should have. In the Navy I had the sense of meeting Christ in reading the Scriptures, and I was touched by that. But it was isolated until I came here, which makes real on earth this relationship with God. I have found the real community here, in theology school."
SOURCE: A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1989), pp. 49-50.

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