The Five Ends Church, which is a central feature of the Causeway Projects, is characters’ primary source of social unity and cohesion. Although the church is, of course, a religious institution, the explicitly religious aspects of its teachings rarely enter into the minds of those who live in the Causeway Projects. However, the sense of community that the church creates, along with its general teachings about acting as a force for good in the world, deeply informs the way the members of the Cause interact with one another. For instance, when Potts, the detective assigned to investigate Deems’s shooting, suggests that Sportcoat may have stolen the missing Christmas fund, Sister Gee immediately rebukes him. She knows that Sportcoat is aware of how much the Christmas fund means to community and is resolute that he would never steal it. Even Deems, a sometimes-vicious drug dealer, keeps the teachings of the church in mind. Although the church isn’t a strong enough force to keep Deems out of the drug business altogether, it does alter his selling habits. He refuses to sell to children or members of his congregation, and he does his best to keep his fellow churchgoers safe.
In other words, the church teachings strongly rebuke any notion of rugged individualism; in the Cause, no one can make it on their own—not even someone like Deems. Instead, a person must put the wants and needs of their community before their own needs and wants. Such teachings create a social ecosystem where people look out for one another because they have a shared interest in their community’s collective success. For instance, Sportcoat knows that he will be happy if he finds Christmas Fund because of the immense joy it will bring to his community. This value system proves to be effective in the Cause because it mitigates selfish behavior while encouraging actions that promote the wellbeing of the community. In the novel, this system leads not only to a more stable and satisfied community, but also to the stability and satisfaction of the individual people within the community.
Community and Religion ThemeTracker
Community and Religion Quotes in Deacon King Kong
Clemens was the New Breed of colored in the Cause. Deems wasn’t some poor colored boy from down south or Puerto Rico or Barbados who arrived in New York with empty pockets and a Bible and a dream […] Deems didn’t give a shit about white people, or education, or sugarcane, or cotton, or even baseball, which he had once been a whiz at. None of the old ways meant a penny to him. He was a child of Cause, young, smart, and making money hand over fist slinging dope at a level never before seen in the Cause Houses. He had high friends and high connections from East New York all the way to Far Rockaway, Queens, and any fool in the Cause stupid enough to open their mouth in his direction ended up hurt bad or buried in an urn in an alley someplace.
“Church is a good thing. A great thing, really. Building up our community. Thank God.” He lowered his head to Earl’s ear. “We ain’t tearing down our community, brother. We’re building it up. Look at all the businesses I got. The jobs we’re providing. The help we give people. Is the white man opening car washes? Is he running car-rental places? Restaurants? Is he giving us jobs?” He pointed to the window, the filthy street, the abandoned cars, the dead brownstones. “What’s the white man doing for us out here, Earl? Where’s he at?”
“That Christmas Club money is all we can control. We can’t stop these drug dealers from selling poison in front of our houses. Or make the city stop sending our kids to lousy schools. We can’t stop folks from blaming us for everything gone wrong in New York, or stop the army from calling our sons to Vietnam after them Vietcong done cut the white soldiers’ toenails too short to walk. But the little nickels and dimes we saved up so we can give our kids ten minutes of love at Christmastime, that’s ours to control.”
Elefante shrugged, pocketed his money, and leaned against the wall of his house. “I used to see her come and go from church,” he said. “She’d say good morning. People don’t do that no more.”
“No they don’t.”
“Seen ’em all,” Sportcoat said proudly. “Even barnstormed a little myself, but I had to make money. That ain’t gonna be Deems’s problem. He’ll make plenty money in the bigs. He got the fire and the talent. You can’t take the love of ball out of a ballplayer, Sausage. Can’t be done. There’s a baseball player in that boy.”
Sister Gee looked at the people staring at her: Dominic, Bum-Bum, Miss Izi, Joaquin, Nanette, and the rest, at least fifteen people in all. She’d known most of them her whole life. They stared at her with that look, that projects look: the sadness, the suspicion, the weariness, the knowledge that comes from living a special misery in a world of misery. Four of their numbers were down—gone, changed forever, dead or not, it didn’t matter. And there would be more. The drugs, big drugs, heroin, were here. Nothing could stop it. They knew that now. Someone else had already taken over Deems’s bench at the flagpole. Nothing here would change. Life in the Cause would lurch forward as it always did.
“I think I can handle that, Mr. Sportcoat.”
“Come again? Mister?”
Sportcoat pawed at his forehead with a wrinkled hand. There was a clarity to the world now that felt new, not uncomfortable, but at times the newness of it felt odd, like the feeling of breaking in a new suit of clothing. The constant headaches and nausea that had been his companions after leaving the swigfest for decades had lifted. He felt like a radio tuning in to a new channel, one that was beginning to fuzz into range, slowly coming in clear, proper, the way his Hettie had always wanted him to be. The new feeling humbled him. It made him feel religious, it made him feel closer to God, and to man, God’s honored child. “I ain’t never been called Mr. Sportcoat by nobody.”