Elusive Togetherness: Church Groups Trying to Bridge America's Divisionsby Paul Lichterman
Pub. Date: 07/05/2005
Publisher: Princeton University Press
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 groupslong central in civic Americacreate broad, empowering social
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 groupslong central in civic Americacreate 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.
Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figures vii
CHAPTER ONE: In Search of the Social Spiral 7
CHAPTER TWO: Studying the Social Spiral 42
CHAPTER THREE: Networkers and Volunteers Reaching Out 60
CHAPTER FOUR: Crying Out: Social Critics 99
CHAPTER FIVE: Christ-like Care: Social Servants 133
CHAPTER SIX: A Social Spiral Winds Outward: Partners 171
CHAPTER SEVEN: Doing Things with Religion in Local Civic Life 216
CHAPTER EIGHT: Doing Things Together: Lessons from Religious Community Service Groups 247
APPENDIX I: Theory and Evidence in a Study of Religious Community
Service Groups 264
APPENDIX II: Studying Customs 274
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