Restoring Community in a Divided Countryside: Anger and Healing in America’s Heartland

If you have not already seen the online promotion of my upcoming course with Rev. Dr. Rick MacArthur, sponsored by the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality (FICS), here it is:

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019—Friday, Nov. 15, 2019
(Monday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day)
Location: Koinonia Church in Grand Junction, CO

For a brief summary, please read the following

Narrative Rationale & Course Description:

Across the spectrum of American political pundits and reporters, there is agreement on one thing: the ‘polarization’ between Right and Left, between conservatives and liberals, is undeniable. This polarization along political agendas and partisan lines not only threatens to further divide our country as a whole, but our countryside—all those people in rural communities who have lived and worked alongside each other for generations in America’s Heartland.

“We have to live here.” This is a familiar refrain among residents in small towns, alluding to the uncomfortable taboo in those same communities against saying or doing anything that may be perceived to deviate from the norm and threaten to “rock the boat” among the locals. Sadly enough, this taboo and the suspicion behind it are often used to sanction xenophobic attitudes, racist outbursts and increasing acts of violence, targeting outsiders and the “stranger” among recent and even well-established immigrants, so they can live here and enjoy their lives working and playing games and getting gold online for WoW games, find more here.

This course focuses on how today’s political polarization undermines one of the most resilient traditional values among rural communities in America’s Heartland: the capacity and willingness of people in local communities to work and live together as good neighbors, who look out for each other instead of harboring suspicion of each other. One might say that instead of “We have to live here,” it feels more like: “We choose to live here, because we like living here. This is home for us.”

This course will probe the systemic sources of the anger, pain and anguish of rural communities that are routinely ignored by our politicians and the mass media. It will also challenge the destructive justification of using this pain and anger in blaming, shaming, and scapegoating others. We will examine different examples of religious anger in order to differentiate and ‘weed’ out the negative images of anger above—from the prophetic and truly biblical understanding of ‘rightful’ (‘righteous’) anger in protecting ourselves and all those who are unjustly treated.

As leaders of various faith communities remind us, only when we responsibly care for our constructive anger in caring for each other, can we restore and heal our increasingly vulnerable communities in the spiritual transformation from enraged to engaged citizens. This healing moves us to enjoy and learn from our differences instead of stigmatizing and demonizing them.

According to the veteran community organizer Paul Born, finding joy together in chaotic times is the key to deepening and restoring vital community. It not only retrieves one of the axiomatic values that have historically sustained rural communities; it gives us hope in working together in dealing with the daunting challenges of climate change.

If you want more information, please feel free to e-mail me at: We hope you can join us. Thank you.

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Welcome to Rural Justified

Welcome to this new Rural Justified website. I am glad you found us, and I hope that the insights and content as well as resources profiled on this web site might resonate with you. Of course, I would welcome hearing from you directly, and look forward to hearing your own stories and observations as well as your suggestions of further resources.

As you make your way through the site, be sure to start with reading my About and Why Rural Justified? pages. I urge you to ponder your own response to my stated rationale and motivation for hosting this Rural Justified website. Take time, and I do mean, take time, to pay attention to the cascade of images and faces and stories evoked by reading this web site focused on “rural.” This includes paying attention as well―and I warn you, it will cost you the time and conscious effort to think about these things―to the cacophony of memories and experiences that may clash with more familiar sentimental images of “rural.” But that’s actually a good thing.

If you choose to keep reading and thinking and feeling, which is no easy feat in a madly consumerist North American culture that excels at dumbing down everyone and anyone en route to the closest shopping mall, you will have found the right place to celebrate and ruminate on things rural in ways that might surprise you and me… and I love surprises.

One final word on navigating your way through this site. Like a leisurely yet attentive walk through a forest, which I was fortunate to do on the edge of Montpelier, Vermont, last weekend, walk through this web site with the same excited sense of anticipation as you would strolling through unfamiliar woods.

I am reminded of a workshop I facilitated seven years ago on The Art of Pastoral Visitation, hosted by the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of America, in the town of Weatherford, Oklahoma. With fifty United Methodist pastors and ministers in attendance, I reminded them of the sheer pleasure and delight of “wasting time” visiting people in hospital, in their homes, in the local café, wherever.

Those of us involved in congregational ministry often overlook all the hidden benefits of visiting people―for all parties concerned. This investment in relationships, in spending time with people, which is the stuff of ministry, translates into what sociologists call “social capital.” If we are open, we might indeed be visited by the divine presence that attends our pastoral visitations…if we are open.

Visiting, as many of us know, is integral to rural communities and culture, and that is what this website is all about. So have fun wasting time visiting this new Rural Justified web site. Y’all come back at your own leisure. You’re always welcome here.

Marvin Lee Anderson




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