As a result of provisions codified in the 1996 PRWORA, and later, through presidential Executive Order, many Americans now encounter the welfare state through small programs run by local churches. Both liberal and conservative worship communities in the US have embraced and maintained a `traditional' family ideology in which nuclear family ideals are normative--despite increasing levels of diversity in the way the majority of Americans organize their family lives. The central concerns of this dissertation revolve around whether and how programs receiving funds associated with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) are organized around the needs of families that do not fit the traditional nuclear male-breadwinner ideal. I pose three primary questions: 1) How do institutionalized models of family and gender in faith-based organizations inform service providers' interpretations of clients' needs? 2) Do the models of family circulating in faith-based organizations have consequences for the ways these organizations become gendered social spaces? 3) In environments where models for the "Ideal Family" exist in tension with other forms of family life, will organizational rhetorics about family and gender reflect this diversity? To answer the above questions, interviews and participant-observation in four case study organizations (one theologically liberal, two theologically conservative, and one "community-based"), as well as 39 interviews with program authorities in 27 different organizations (drawn across a Midwestern, metropolitan area) were conducted. Although the organizations profiled exhibited a good amount of practices accommodating family diversity, organizational rhetorics did not always reflect the full diversity of participants' family lives. Significantly, I observed a deep ambivalence surrounding non-nuclear family models, a pattern I argue is attributable to the way such family forms call into question dominant beliefs and practices related to the social construction of gender. Furthermore, I found that in settings of community and faith-based social service provision, rhetoric associated with the ideology of religious neoliberalism is pervasive, and extends beyond the discourse circulated by the theologically conservative coalition of elites with which it is normally associated. I argue the pervasiveness of religious neoliberalism is driven by structural conditions compelling organizations to resort to individualistic "moral resources" in the absence of material resources, which limits providers' capacity to promote and access alternative discursive resources that might otherwise reference structural inequality. Lastly, my data indicates that organizations' self-definition as either community-based or faith-based does not indicate "more" or "less" religion, as many other analyses otherwise presuppose. The boundaries between organizations with religious characteristics and those with "non-religious," or more secular, self-presentations are porous, in that they shift over time and in both directions (i.e., organizations become more explicitly expressive of their religious character, or they choose to consciously abandon elements of their religious identity as time passes and their structure develops).
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2013. Major: Sociology. Advisors: Dr. Penny Edgell, Dr. Kathleen Hull. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 407 pages, appendices A-F.
Docka-Filipek, Danielle E..
Case studies in compassion: need interpretation, gender, and family in an era of faith-based provision.
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