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The Spirit's Tether: Family, Work, and Religion among American Catholics Paperback – August 1, 2013
by Mary Ellen Konieczny  (Author)
Cultural conflicts about the family - including those surrounding women's social roles, abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception - have intensified over the last few decades among Catholics, as well as among Americans generally. In fact, they are the source of much of the political polarization we see. But how do individuals in local settings and cultures - especially religious ones - experience and participate in these conflicts? Why are they so resonant?

By exploring how religion and family life are intertwined in local parish settings, Mary Ellen Konieczny seeks to explain how and why Catholics are divided about the family. The Spirit's Tether presents a detailed comparative ethnographic analysis of the families and local religious cultures in two Catholic parishes, one conservative and one progressive. Through an examination of the activities of parish life and the faith stories of parishioners, this book reveals how parishes support and shape the ways in which Catholics work out the routines of marriage, childrearing, and work-family balance, as well as how they connect these everyday challenges to public politics. Local parishes, Konieczny argues, promote polarization through practices that unintentionally fragment the Catholic tradition.
Editorial Reviews

"The Spirit's Tether is a compelling and rewarding book a thoughtful contribution to relevant issues, and a thoroughly engaging read."--Journal of Religion


"Anyone who has felt deeply estranged from fellow Catholics with whom he or she shares, in the end, so much in common stands to gain insight from this book into the dynamics that drives us apart."--American Catholic Studies 


"Konieczny provides a level of detail about the religious practices and identities of these Catholics that is unmatched by many studies... Konieczny's book makes a significant contribution to the literature on family, work, and religion among religiously committed Americans." --Sociology of Religion


"A very interesting ethnography... a fruitful basis for future exploration. Summing Up: Highly recommended." --CHOICE 


"The Spirit's Tether makes a unique contribution to sociology of religion by bridging analyses of church teachings and local congregational culture with the experiences, emotions, and identities of women and men who are the life of these parishes." --Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 


"Mary Ellen Konieczny paints a powerful portrait of the moral divides over social justice, sex, motherhood, and marriage now separating liberal from conservative Catholics in America. This book deftly explains the social, religious and cultural roots of these moral divisions, which promise to grow more salient as conservative Catholics gain more power within the Catholic Church and liberal Catholics continue to identify with progressive social positions that put them at odds with the Catholic hierarchy. This is the best book I have read on the cultural conflicts now dividing contemporary Christianity in America."--W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia 


"Possessing a keen eye for telling detail and a talent for clear prose, Mary Ellen Konieczny has crafted a profoundly sensitive inquiry into the role religion can play in processes of moral polarization." --Loren D. Lybarger, Associate Professor of Classics and World Religions, Ohio University, Athens 


"Mary Ellen Konieczny's comparative ethnography of two Catholic parishes sheds significant light on the diverse and contested terrain that is American Catholicism in the 21st century. Konieczny thoughtfully couples explorations of congregational practices and parishioner narratives to reveal how differently Catholicism is enacted and understood across liberal and conservative lines." --American Journal of Sociology 


"Konieczny's book is useful in that it situates itself within the 'culture wars' debate and forces the reader to contemplate how the ideology of the culture wars work within the largest Christian denomination in the United States. Thus if you are interested in Catholicism as a religion, the American family as an ideology, or the culture wars as a societal problem, then this book has something to offer you... Her book is well-written and able to keep the reader's interest with her interjections of real-life stories. As ethnography and a work of recent history, I recommend this book to all academics." --Pneuma 


About the Author

Mary Ellen Konieczny is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.
Product Details
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019996579X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199965793
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
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