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By including this information the author provides elements of foreshadowing and dramatic irony, pointing out the hypocrisy of the church in which Lily has grown up in a way that sets the stage for the contrast between the two religions that will be developed later in the story. The Methodist Church in Sylvan, whose deacons "locked arms across the church steps" to turn away Negroes who might come to worship with them (Chapter 1), consider hell "nothing but a bonfire for Catholics" (Chapter 3). Their righteous intolerance contradicts the message of love taught by the Christ whom they profess to follow, and their failure to touch those Catholics they would convert is exemplified by the plastic gloves they wear with the five-part plan of salvation written on them. Ironically, Lily, who gets no sustenance from the church in Sylvan, finds healing in the Catholic sect of the Black Madonna, precisely because its members, in stark contrast, touch her - they reach out to her, provide for her needs, and love her unconditionally.
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