From the article linked to above and regarding Christianity in the countryside:
Among the best arguments put forward by, in particular, Pierre Morizot, for looking elsewhere for the Moors of the Aurès are his remarkable surveys of the valleys of the mountains, carried out over fifty years. In every valley are found farms, villages, olive presses, churches: very few large structures, but a myriad small ones, built in Roman opus africanum with square corners and occasional inscriptions. Far from being a Roman imposition, he sees these as indigenous sites that had benefitted from the economic and political efects of the Roman occupation of the area, and show a fairly intense penetration of Christianity in the region during the fourth and fitfh centuries.
Probably also worth looking at: Peasant and Empire in Christian North AfricaReview
The main focus throughout the book is on the rural peasantry. After a brief historical overview, which suffers somewhat from being overly broad, the remainder of the book is divided into three pairs of chapters which deal with the themes of rural consumption, rural communal structures, and the impact of Christian preaching in the countryside.
The next pair of chapters examines the relationship between rural communities’ struggle to gain some kind of self-government or representation (Chapter 4) and the growing number of rural bishops in Africa during the fourth century – a phenomenon distinct to the African provinces (Chapter 5). After a significant increase in imperial municipal promotions under the Severans, which is known to us only thanks to inscriptions, they had all but ceased by the beginning of the fourth century, and Dossey goes on to provide an enthralling account of why, in the absence of other options, the election of a rural bishop often became the most favourable course of action for these rural communities: ‘Bishops brought rural populations a measure of self-government – a local law court, a place for public assembly, and a literate mediator with the outside world’ (p. 126). According to Dossey this was usually a bottom-up rather than a top-down process, what she calls a ‘popular push’.
In Chapter 6 Dossey again picks up her thread of the increasing resemblance between rural and urban populations. Preaching to the rural peasantry meant that a previously marginalized group could employ the morals and ideas present in the canonical texts to forward their own interests. The morality of the sermons, many of which had been aimed at the excesses of the wealthy urban landlords during the third century when bishops had mainly presided over urban communities, could well have struck a unifying chord with the exploited rural peasantry of the fourth century.
The final chapter, ‘Reinterpreting Rebellion’, then neatly returns to examining the reality of the perceived threat of popular unrest. Dossey demonstrates how several texts indicate that members of the Catholic clergy were also indulging in actions which would have been considered illegal or subversive by the imperial authorities. It was in the interests of Augustine, Optatus and others, however, to demonize the Donatists, which no doubt led to biased and exaggerated accounts of the risk of civil unrest.