01: Christel Manning’s new book, God Gave Us The Right (Rutgers University Press, $19.95) provides an interesting look at the struggles conservative religious women are undergoing in their quest to return to traditional religions.
Manning interviewed women in conservative Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish communities about their efforts to negotiate modern secular ideas with the demands and rewards of traditional religious communities. Many, particularly those converting or returning to conservative evangelical traditions, are rejecting what they see as feminism’s deliberate denigration of women’s proper role as wives and mothers.
Yet while many of the women decry that belittlement, and the pervasive influence of feminism on society, they themselves have been influenced by feminism in the sense that they realize that woman’s proper role may depend on the particular gifts God has given her.
This realization can provoke intense conflict and ambivalence for conservative women who find that they have benefited from the gains many women have made in wages, careers, and increased attention to health issues — gains produced by the feminist movement they dislike and distrust. Although Manning found that evangelical Protestant women were most often vehemently anti-feminist, there were a number of women in that community who expressed some support for feminism.
This was even more the case in the Catholic and Orthodox Jewish communities she visited. Orthodox women in particular voiced a great deal of support for feminism even as they feared the impact feminist ideals might have on their traditions . The only quibble to be found with this worthwhile book is that Manning ascribes more influence to conservative religious organizations, such as the Christian Coalition or Promise Keepers, than they may in fact have, in view of both organizations’ recent serious financial troubles.
— By Lin Collette, an RW contributing editor and researcher based in Pawtucket, R.I.
02: Shopping For Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, by RW’s editor and Don Lattin, is still available to RW readers for the low cost of $18 (regularly costing $25).
A CD-ROM comes with each copy of the book linking readers from discussions in the text to related web sites.. We also call readers’ attention to the April issue of American Demographics magazine, where Shopping For Faith’s co-authors take a closer look at what has been called the “experience industry.” The article looks at how the emphasis on personal experience is driving not only spirituality, but also trends in health, education, and community life. We will include a free copy of this article for anyone purchasing the book.
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