Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City: Religion, Immigration, and Civic Engagement in Miami

Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City: Religion, Immigration, and Civic Engagement in Miami

Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City: Religion, Immigration, and Civic Engagement in Miami

Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City: Religion, Immigration, and Civic Engagement in Miami

Synopsis

In addition to being a religious country- over ninety percent of Americans believe in God--the United States is also home to more immigrants than ever before. Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City focuses on the intersection of religion and civic engagement among Miami's immigrant and minority groups. The contributors examine the role of religious organizations in developing social relationships and how these relationships affect the broader civic world. Essays, for example, consider the role of leadership in the promotion and creation of "civic social capital" in a Haitian Catholic church, transnational ties between Cuban Catholics in Miami and Havana, and several African American congregations that serve as key comparisons of civic engagement among minorities.

This book is important not only for its theoretical contributions to the sociology of religion, but also because it gives us a unique glimpse into immigrants' civic and religious lives in urban America.

Excerpt

On a typical Sunday in Miami, a Haitian pastor from Port-au-Prince lays hands on the afflicted in a storefront Pentecostal church in Little Haiti, while a few miles west a Catholic priest from Nicaragua says Mass in Spanish to his diverse Latino flock. A few blocks further west, a group of elderly Cuban Catholics plans a fund-raising event for the Diocese of Guantánamo-Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Meanwhile, in Miami’s southern suburbs, another Catholic church is receiving the bishop of Trinidad, and further south still, Mexican fieldworkers busily prepare for the feast of their patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Nearby, tucked away in a large church on a side street, African American Protestants, most of Bahamian descent, respond enthusiastically to their pastor’s sermon on the importance of preserving God’s land, the good earth that the Lord bequeathed to them.

Miami’s diverse religious landscape stretches not only across Miami-Dade County, but throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Indeed, many of these religious activities may appear to be more foreign than “American,” not of the United States. Are they? Do they focus exclusively or even primarily on immigrants’ home countries and perhaps isolate the immigrants from U.S. society? Do they impede rather than assist in immigrant integration into Miami and the United States? Are the immigrant churches somehow fundamentally different from American houses of worship?

Based upon ethnographies of immigrant and African American congregations in Miami, complemented by a survey of local youth, this book addresses these questions. Each ethnographic chapter provides in-depth detail of the congregation’s activities, both those that are focused inwardly and those that reach out to the broader civil society. The survey provides a broader examination of the relationship between religion and civic engagement among Miami youth. This first chapter reviews previous work on immigrant religion and civic . . .

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