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Religious Belief in Mississippi   (Part B)
宗教信仰在密西西比州的影响 (2)

I came to Mississippi assuming -- in a European secular sort of way -- that holy scripture -- which once led Mississippi whites down the road of bigotry, was unlikely to be the state's saviour today. On the radio the so-called family Christian station was explaining why god invented women and the devil invented feminism. So far, so predictable. But a visit to Mississippi in 2005 provides a reminder that while religion has motivated all manner of charlatans and creeps in American life and still does, it is also the primary motivation for many of those who genuinely do good and are not collecting money or condemning other people's vice -- in a nation without anything but the most basic social services, without a national health service, many of those picking up the pieces are religious, often fundamentalist Christians. To be sure the President has encouraged this trend -- but in Mississippi I didn't get the impression that they needed much encouragement from far off Washington.

I went to a prison housing the most dangerous young offenders, considered so beyond the pale that they are being tried as adults. The American penal system is brutal -- the sentences are long and the conditions harsh. I had been invited to this place by Dr John Perkins a renowned black prison visitor -- a man who brings bibles and talks to the kids about the lives they might one day lead. I assumed we would be treated with icy courtesy by the whites who run the place. But I got it all wrong. We'd been inside for two minutes when a request, an order, came that we were to lunch with the sheriff, the man in charge. He was a redneck straight out of central casting -- huge and menacing. Then suddenly, as giggly as a schoolgirl. He hugged Dr Perkins and thanked Jesus Christ for the food. Over lunch he told their story -- of a meeting at a prayer breakfast which led to an invitation for Dr Perkins to visit the jail. A couple of highly motivated evangelical Christians have built a personal relationship unthinkable in even the recent past -- and are now significantly improving the lives of mainly black 16 and 17 year old murderers and rapists -- people the rest of the nation is happy to lock up and forget. This was surprise enough -- but there was more to come. We were introduced to Cynthia Cockerne -- an elderly frail white woman who has been running the rudimentary prison education effort. She was a person of quite extraordinary cheery religious fervour -- in almost every sentence she referred to the Lord. She and Dr Perkins did their stuff with the kids -- when we said our goodbyes Dr Perkins walked out with me and announced casually -- that woman is a saint -- and to think that her great uncle killed my brother. It was a racist killing -- unpunished as they all were in those days in these parts -- which this elderly couple had only realised linked them when they chatted recently about places where they had lived and events they had witnessed. They are reconciled now and working hard to make life better in modern Mississippi. I think the so-called Christian right has overplayed its political hand in George Bush's America -- but the power of evangelism at the grassroots is still huge. The televangelists and the religious fire and brimstone politicians come and go but Dr Perkins, Mrs Cockerne and the sheriff are a mighty engine and they'll still be hard at work long after Mr Bush has gone ...

参考译文:

我来密西西比的时候,曾带点欧洲世俗的观点认为曾使密西西比州的白人走向偏执道路的圣经是不可能成为该州今天的救世主的。广播里一个所谓的家庭基督教电台正在解释上帝制造女性以及恶魔创造女权主义的原因。尽管相隔遥远,但是那里的情形也是可以预知的。但是2005年对密西西比的参观却提醒着我尽管宗教使得形形色色的骗子混进美国人的生活,但同时它也成为激励那些真正做好事、不聚敛钱财或攻击他人缺点的主要因素。在一个只有最为基本的社会公益事业而没有国家公共医疗卫生服务的国家里,那些重振旗鼓的人大多数都是宗教信仰人士,而且常常都是基督教原教旨主义者。总统确实鼓励这种趋势。但是在密西西比州,我并没有获得这样的印象,他们需要从遥远之地的华盛顿获得大量的鼓励。

我去过关押着最危险的年轻罪犯的监狱,人们认为他们的行为是如此地不能为社会所容忍,所以将这些年轻人当作成年人那样予以审判。美国刑法系统非常残酷,所判处的刑期非常漫长,而且条件也很恶劣。我是应约翰·帕金斯博士的邀请来参观这一场所的,他是一个有名的黑人监狱社会工作者,他向这些孩子们传播圣经,与他们谈话,告诉他们某天可能会过上的生活。我在想我们可能会受到管理这个地方的白人的冷漠接待。但我完全弄错了。我们在里面只等了两分钟,就有一份要求或命令传来,要我们与主管这里的治安官共进午餐。他长了一个红脖子,身材高大,气势逼人。突然他就像一个学校的小姑娘那样吃吃地笑了起来,然后上前给了帕金斯博士一个拥抱,并感谢耶稣基督赐予食物。就餐期间,他给我讲述了他们的故事——在一次祈祷早餐会上,他邀请帕金斯博士来参观监狱。两个受到高度激励的福音派基督教徒建立起了私人关系,这即使是在不久的过去也是难以想象的,他们现在正在对主要是十六、七岁黑人谋杀者和强奸犯的生活进行大幅度的改善,而这些人正是这个国家其他人所乐于关押和遗忘的群体。这已足够让人吃惊了,但是更为吃惊的还在后面。随后我们被引见给帕金斯博士的妻子辛西娅·科克尔,一名身体孱弱的白人老妇人。她一直在为推动监狱初级教育而不懈努力着。科克尔夫人是一个极度虔诚的宗教信徒,她的每句话几乎都要提到上帝。她和帕金斯博士竭尽全力帮助这些孩子。我们辞别时帕金斯博士与我们一同走了出来,他随意地说到女人是圣人,因为他想到了科克尔夫人的大伯父曾经杀了他的兄弟。这是一起种族仇杀事件,但彼时彼地这是不会受到惩罚的。这对老夫妇在最近的聊天中,提到各自去过的地方以及见过的事情,正是在这个时候他们才意识到上面的那起事件与他们有着切身的关联。他们现在已经和解了,并一同努力使现代的密西西比州拥有更好的生活。我认为在乔治·布什领导的美国社会里这种所谓的右翼基督教过高地夸大了其政治作用,因为福音传道在基层的力量是很巨大的。电视福音传道者以及对宗教充满狂热和激情的政客们来来去去,但是帕金斯博士、科克尔夫人以及治安官就是一台功率强大的发动机,即使在布什总统离任后的很长一段时间里还会一如既往地努力工作着……

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