Emotional Fundamentalism in River of Earth Essay

Emotional Fundamentalism in River of Earth Essay

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James Still's River of Earth presents the bleak realities faced by an Appalachian family that struggles with meeting their most basic needs. The Baldridge's struggle with poverty is surely representative of many Appalachian families during the Depression era. The hardships of poverty, and its psychological and physical effects, are worsened by the isolation and sense of helplessness felt by the characters within River of Earth. Religion functions as the combatant to these struggles; the form of Christianity offered by Still strays from the standard fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone preachings often associated with evangelism in the Appalachian region. Instead, a more emotional form of fundamentalism is found. Religion is a positive, empowering force that is both spiritually and socially freeing for the otherwise repressed and isolated characters within the novel.
Within the text, Still offers little escape for the characters. They are grounded and focused on the realities at hand. There is little indulgence in fanciful things or things not of this world. Religion is one of the few escapes the characters are allowed. Still does not offer a standard fundamentalist take on Christianity, despite the strong fundamentalist strains that are often associated with Appalachia. Generally, fundamentalism strongly emphasizes innate depravity and the damnation sinners face. Instead, Still lightens the message. Sermons on hope, grace, and mercy are extended to the characters. Through this more forgiving variety of Christianity, the characters are able to look forward to an eternal existence without adding any more stress to their current existences. It is suggested there is a tendency in Appalachia to lean towards forms of Christianity that pe...


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...tianity that thoroughly responded to the needs of individuals. The isolation and desperation found in Depression-era rural Appalachia greatly influenced the type of Christianity that involved in the region. The need for society, community, control, and most significantly, optimism, spawned a form of Christianity that was both social and accommodating to sensitive emotional needs.











Works Cited
Photiadis, John D., and John F. Schnabel. "Religion: A Persistent Institution In A Changing Appalachia." Review Of Religious Research 19.1 (1977): 32. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
Still, James. River of Earth. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1978. Print
Tillich, Paul. "Paul Tillich on the Method of Correlation." The Christian Theology Reader. Ed. Alister McGrath. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, 43-46. Print.
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