A Bridging of Faith: Religion and politics in a New England City.

Demerath, N. J., and Williams, Rhys, H. A Bridging of Faith: Religion and politics in a New England City. Princeton University Press, 1992.

N. J. Demerath III and Rhys H. Williams describe the interaction of religion and politics from a historical perspective in the city Springfield, Massachusetts. The study was part of a larger project on Church and State relations and focuses on the complex and shifting relationships between religion, politics, law, economy, and other socio-cultural issues. The emphasis is on historical description of developments bearing on aforementioned themes in Springfield; the authors add a brief reflexive commentary to conclude and summarize their observations.
<p>Springfield was founded in 1636 on the banks of the Connecticut River with twelve original families; it grew in a mid-sized industrial town with a population of about 150,000. Congregationalism was the predominant religion in the first one hundred and fifty years and largely kept outsiders, the majority of them Catholics, at bay. However, over the past half-century, Catholics have come be the majority community demographically. The book episodically describes the development of concerns within the Springfield polity over the issues of religious establishment and religious freedom, the involvement of faith communities in issues such as homelessness, economic development, sexuality and sectarianism, and the issue of sex education in public school.</p>
<p>The authors do not engage in generalizations or attempt to draw broadly applicable principles derived from this study; instead they map religious, political, and civic developments in Springfield’s history along the sociological ideas of secularization and sacralization and the interaction between the two. The authors conclude that contrary to expectations, religion has continued to exercise considerable political influence on specific issues in a complex interaction with socio-cultural, economic, legal, and constitutional factors.</p>