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Church Groups Trying to Bridge America's Divisions
Many scholars and citizens alike have counted on civic groups to create broad ties that bind society. Some hope that faith-based civic groups will spread their reach as government retreats. Yet few studies ask how, if at all, civic groups reach out to their wider community. Can religious groups--long central in civic America--create broad, empowering social ties in an unequal, diverse society?
Over three years, Paul Lichterman studied nine liberal and conservative Protestant-based volunteering and advocacy projects in a mid-sized American city. He listened as these groups tried to create bridges with other community groups, social service agencies, and low-income people, just as the 1996 welfare reforms were taking effect. Counter to long-standing arguments, Lichterman discovered that powerful customs of interaction inside the groups often stunted external ties and even shaped religion's impact on the groups. Comparing groups, he found that successful bridges outward depend on group customs which invite reflective, critical discussion about a group's place amid surrounding groups and institutions.
Combining insights from Alexis de Tocqueville, John Dewey, and Jane Addams with contemporary sociology, Elusive Togetherness addresses enduring questions about civic and religious life that elude the popular "social capital" concept. To create broad civic relationships, groups need more than the right religious values, political beliefs, or resources. They must learn new ways of being groups.
Kathleen Flake, associate professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University examines the logic of those women who thrived, rather than suffered, in early Mormon polygamy, and finds that the marriage covenant granted them priestly rights and independence through the powers of heaven.
Children of God
This groundbreaking analysis of the controversial religious group, The Family, or The Children of God, uses interviews, observational techniques, and a comprehensive questionnaire completed by more than a thousand Family members. William Sims Bainbridge explores how Family members infuse spirituality with sexuality, channel messages that they believe emanate from beyond life, and await the final Endtime. He also examines attempts by anti-cultists and the state to “deprogram” members of the group, including children, by forcibly seizing them. The book’s blending of theoretical analysis with vivid accounts of this remarkable counterculture poses a fascinating question for social scientists and society—how is it that The Children of God both differ from the general public and, in other ways, are so surprisingly similar to it?
STEPHEN M. CHERRY draws upon a rich set of ethnographic and survey data, collected over a six-year period, to explore the roles that Catholicism and family play in shaping Filipino American community life. From the planning and construction of community centers, to volunteering at health fairs or protesting against abortion, this book illustrates the powerful ways these forces structure and animate not only how first-generation Filipino Americans think and feel about their community, but how they are compelled to engage it over issues deemed important to the sanctity of the family.Revealing more than intimate accounts of Filipino American lives, Cherry offers a glimpse of the often hidden but vital relationship between religion and community in the lives of new immigrants, and allows speculation on the broader impact of Filipino immigration on the nation. The Filipino American community is the second-largest immigrant community in the United States, and the Philippines is the second-largest source of Catholic immigration to this country. This ground-breaking study outlines how first-generation Filipino Americans have the potential to reshape American Catholicism and are already having an impact on American civic life through the engagement of their faith.
Suffering and Divine Healing in American Culture, 1860–1900
Faith in the Great Physician tells the story of how participants in the evangelical divine healing movement of the late nineteenth century transformed the ways Americans coped with physical affliction and pursued bodily health. Examining the politics of sickness, health, and healing during this period, Heather D. Curtis encourages critical reflection on the theological, cultural, and social forces that come into play when one questions the purpose of suffering and the possibility of healing. Curtis finds that advocates of divine healing worked to revise a deep-seated Christian ethic that linked physical suffering with spiritual holiness. By engaging in devotional disciplines and participating in social reform efforts, proponents of faith cure embraced a model of spiritual experience that endorsed active service, rather than passive endurance, as the proper Christian response to illness and pain. Emphasizing the centrality of religious practices to the enterprise of divine healing, Curtis sheds light on the relationship among Christian faith, medical science, and the changing meanings of suffering and healing in American culture.
Second-Generation Spirituality in Korean American Churches
Second-generation Korean Americans, demonstrating an unparalleled entrepreneurial fervor, are establishing new churches with a goal of shaping the future of American Christianity. A Faith of Our Own investigates the development and growth of these houses of worship, a recent and rapidly increasing phenomenon in major cities throughout the United States. Including data gathered over ten years at twenty-two churches, it is the most comprehensive study of this topic that addresses generational, identity, political, racial, and empowerment issues.
Religion and Politics in Modern America
Despite constitutional limitations, the points of contact between religion and politics have deeply affected all aspects of American political development since the founding of the United States. Within partisan politics, federal institutions, and movement activism, religion and politics have rarely ever been truly separate; rather, they are two forms of cultural expression that are continually coevolving and reconfiguring in the face of social change.
Faithful Republic explores the dynamics between religion and politics in the United States from the early twentieth century to the present. Rather than focusing on the traditional question of the separation between church and state, this volume touches on many aspects of American political history, addressing divorce, civil rights, liberalism and conservatism, domestic policy, and economics. Together, the essays blend church history and lived religion to fashion an innovative kind of political history, demonstrating the pervasiveness of religion throughout American political life.
Contributors: Lila Corwin Berman, Edward J. Blum, Darren Dochuk, Lily Geismer, Alison Collis Greene, Matthew S. Hedstrom, David Mislin, Andrew Preston, Bruce J. Schulman, Molly Worthen, Julian E. Zelizer.
Spirit Possession and Its Provocation of the Modern
In her innovative new book, Kalpana Ram reflects on the way spirit possession unsettles some of the foundational assumptions of modernity. What is a human subject under the varied conditions commonly associated with possession? What kind of subjectivity must already be in place to allow such a transformation to occur? How does it alter our understanding of memory and emotion if these assail us in the form of ghosts rather than as attributes of subjective experience? What does it mean to worship deities who are afflictive and capricious, yet bear an intimate relationship to justice? What is a "human" body if it can be taken over by a whole array of entities? What is agency if people can be "claimed" in this manner? What is gender if, while possessed, a woman is a woman no longer?
Drawing on spirit possession among women and the rich traditions of subaltern religion in Tamil Nadu, South India, Ram concludes that the basis for constructing an alternative understanding of human agency need not rest on the usual requirements of a fully present consciousness or on the exercise of choice and planning. Instead of relegating possession, ghosts, and demons to the domain of the exotic, Ram uses spirit possession to illuminate ordinary experiences and relationships. In doing so, she uncovers fundamental instabilities that continue to haunt modern formulations of gender, human agency, and political emancipation. Fertile Disorder interrogates the modern assumptions about gender, agency, and subjectivity that underlie the social improvement projects circulating in Tamil Nadu, assumptions that directly shape people’s lives. The book pays particular attention to projects of family planning, development, reform, and emancipation.
Combining ethnography with philosophical argument, Ram fashions alternatives to standard post-modernist and post-structuralist formulations. Grounded in decades of fieldwork, ambitious and wide ranging, her work is conceived as a journey that makes incursions into the unfamiliar, then returns us to the familiar. She argues that magic is not a monopoly of any one culture, historical period, or social formation but inhabits modernity—not only in the places, such as cinema and sound recording, where it is commonly looked for, but in "habit" and in aspects of everyday life that have been largely overlooked and shunned.
The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation
Despite the masses still lining up to enter mega-churches with warehouse-like architecture, casually dressed clergy, and pop Christian music, the "Post-Boomer" generation-those ranging in age from twenty to forty-is having second thoughts. In this perceptive look at the evolving face of Christianity in contemporary culture, sociologists Richard Flory and Donald E. Miller argue that we are on the verge of another potential revolution in how Christians worship and associate with one another. Just as the formative experiences of Baby Boomers were colored by such things as the war in Vietnam, the 1960s, and a dramatic increase in their opportunities for individual expression, so Post-Boomers have grown up in less structured households with working (often divorced) parents. These childhood experiences leave them craving authentic spiritual experience, rather than entertainment, and also cause them to question institutions. Flory and Miller develop a typology that captures four current approaches to the Christian faith and argue that this generation represents a new religious orientation of "expressive communalism," in which they seek spiritual experience and fulfillment in community and through various expressive forms of spirituality, both private and public.