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Dialectic of Community and Fragmentation in Organizing for Social Change
Unformatted Document Text:  17 Required attendance at sermons or religious services establishes one type of fragmentation, the poor are not worthy of food until they are exposed to a healing message. A deeper dimension of fragmentation is connected to the content of the sermons. Consider the following excerpt from our field notes: The chapel speaker on this early Sunday morning was Phil, a short thin man who appeared to be in his sixties. My first impression of Phil is that he spoke to us from a “YOU” perspective instead of a “We” perspective. He seemed to continually imply through his attitude and words how he was different from the rest of us. I felt like he spoke down to us. I felt demeaned by his preaching. At one point he said that the majority of Christians are frustrated with their lives because they want to be. He had an argumentative spirit to him. He portrayed himself as the expert who would show the rest of us idiots the way. Phil spoke what I call the typical “worm” sermon. We were all made to feel like worms. The problems of sin that we all faced were only personal and private. If we would clean up our act and turn to Christ, our lives would change. He made it seem all so simple and easy. I wondered if Phil had any idea what these men faced. Any comment made by the men about public sin and oppression such as corporate economic greed, low paying employment, high cost housing, the enslavement of welfare, and the fatherless families that many of them came from was met with an overly simplistic answer that God does what he wants. It was as if he was saying “tough luck.” All of our problems were the result of not following Christ. If we follow Christ all of our problems will be solved. And we better believe this or we may not be able to eat dinner in a few minutes. After Phil was finished preaching, he announced that there was a church service that evening and those who wanted to go needed to be at the mission at 6:00 p.m. He told us that those of us who go to church will have a bed held for them at the mission and will receive food afterwards (Field notes, 1999, p. 151). Sermons such as Phil’s cast the poor as people who are different in kind from the middle and upper classes. This separates or fragments the poor from other people in our culture. On the one hand, if the homeless or poor person’s identity arises out of an essential difference, they cannot be denied as important,

Authors: papa, Michael., Papa, Wendy., Wasserman, Keith., Kandath, Krishna., Worrell, Tracy. and Muthuswamy, Nithya.
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17
Required attendance at sermons or religious services establishes one type
of fragmentation, the poor are not worthy of food until they are exposed to a
healing message. A deeper dimension of fragmentation is connected to the
content of the sermons. Consider the following excerpt from our field notes:
The chapel speaker on this early Sunday morning was Phil, a short thin man
who appeared to be in his sixties. My first impression of Phil is that he spoke
to us from a “YOU” perspective instead of a “We” perspective. He
seemed to continually imply through his attitude and words how he was
different from the rest of us. I felt like he spoke down to us. I felt demeaned
by his preaching. At one point he said that the majority of Christians are
frustrated with their lives because they want to be. He had an
argumentative spirit to him. He portrayed himself as the expert who would
show the rest of us idiots the way. Phil spoke what I call the typical “worm”
sermon. We were all made to feel like worms. The problems of sin that we
all faced were only personal and private. If we would clean up our act and
turn to Christ, our lives would change. He made it seem all so simple and
easy. I wondered if Phil had any idea what these men faced. Any
comment made by the men about public sin and oppression such as
corporate economic greed, low paying employment, high cost housing,
the enslavement of welfare, and the fatherless families that many of them
came from was met with an overly simplistic answer that God does what
he wants. It was as if he was saying “tough luck.” All of our problems were
the result of not following Christ. If we follow Christ all of our problems will be
solved. And we better believe this or we may not be able to eat dinner in a
few minutes. After Phil was finished preaching, he announced that there
was a church service that evening and those who wanted to go needed
to be at the mission at 6:00 p.m. He told us that those of us who go to
church will have a bed held for them at the mission and will receive food
afterwards (Field notes, 1999, p. 151).
Sermons such as Phil’s cast the poor as people who are different in kind
from the middle and upper classes. This separates or fragments the poor from
other people in our culture. On the one hand, if the homeless or poor person’s
identity arises out of an essential difference, they cannot be denied as important,


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