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12 Books for Conservative
Social Workers

Natalia J. Garland

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Conservative social workers seem to be a minority. The profession, however, need not be theoretically or politically skewed by the preferences of hardcore liberal or radical-left thinkers. As government control shifts increasingly to the left, it does not take much to be labeled conservative nowadays. Yesterday's moderate or centrist (or even yesterday's true liberal) is today's conservative--with or without consent to the new label.

My political outlook falls just right of the old center. Since the latter half of the 1980's, I have felt comfortable within the category of Conservative Democrat. No, I am not a 9/11 conservative or a 9/11 Republican. I have always been a registered Democrat while voting for the individual candidate and not according to party affiliation. After the 2008 presidential election, however, I realized that it would be necessary for me to drop the designation of Democrat from my political and professional frame of reference. Voting in the 2008 Democratic primary stretched my conscience and decision-making stamina as far as I could go and still feel ethical and intelligent. I do not want to go through another experience like that.

More recently, I have felt appalled at certain high-ranking Democrats who seem to dismiss or criticize the free speech of citizens who disagree with or who are fearful of proposed legislation. Citizens who object to or ask questions about healthcare reform, for example, have been referred to as well-dressed mobs, angry mobs, manufactured mobs, hijackers, cable-chatter followers, food fighters, domestic terrorists, and brownshirts. As a lifelong Democrat, I feel embarrassed and disgusted over what appears to be the Party's intolerance of differences, dissent, dispute, and debate. As a social worker, I certainly understand the need for healthcare reform--what I do not understand is the apparent refusal to listen to a variety of ideas and alternatives.

In the effort to achieve an emotional transition out of the Democratic Party and into something else (Republican? Independent? Third party?), especially at this later stage of my life, I began looking for a signpost on my journey. I selected the following dozen books for their political, sociological, and cultural content (i.e., these are not clinical books). I do NOT agree with any of them completely, but find all of them worthy of examination. The books are not listed in any particular order.

(1) Compassionate Conservatism. This book was written by Marvin Olasky in 2000. It is a discussion on the roles of government and churches in providing practical help as well as instilling hope. In short, it shows how faith-based services can help others to achieve the American Dream.

Olasky emphasizes that relationship, not just the provision of services, is the key to helping people and that such relationships can succeed with a grassroots approach. There are examples of effective social service programs in America: in prisons, among the homeless, in after-school programs, and with drug addicts and single mothers. There is also some discussion on the history of church and state.


Let's look at the liberal progressive understanding once more: What is needed to fight poverty is "access to affordable housing, child care, health care, support services and meaningful employment." There's certainly no reason for anyone who has those advantages to be poor, but hundreds of thousands of Americans do have them and then become addicts or alcoholics, or mess up in other severe ways. Why? The fine essayist and novelist Walker Percy wrote frequently of the despair that sometimes overtakes modern man in the most comfortable of circumstances. Many of my students at the University of Texas, in one of the best of environments, say privately that they are miserable. Liberal progressivism has little to say to those who are bursting with benefits but have such holes in their souls that they fall into addiction or alcoholism. Compassionate conservatism does offer an alternative, which Daniel and I saw in operation at Rebuild Resources, a suburban Minneapolis home and workplace for people recovering from alcoholism and addiction.

Fred Myers, age sixty-five, returned to sobriety two decades ago through an Alcoholics Anonymous program and then used his background to start Rebuild as an alternative to government antiaddiction programs. He delightedly showed Daniel and me Rebuild's new residential building with its freshly painted white walls, industrial carpet, and rooms for thirty-six people (along with chapel, computer, and exercise spaces.) As we walked, he kept up a running critique of governmental competitors: "They run a program for a few weeks and then dump a guy on the street with no community or family support. The government types say treatment, treatment, treatment. But treatment is a bridge to a support system. AND THESE GUYS HAVE NO SUPPORT SYSTEM."
[End of quote.]

(2) Inside American Education. Who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation? According to Thomas Sowell, who wrote this book in 1993, one-third of America's 17-year-olds cannot answer that question. His book discusses the impact of incompetent teachers, teachers' unions, the teaching of non-academic subjects, classroom brainwashing methods, the undermining of parental authority and choice, and athletic scholarships. Sowell is a firm conservative, and some of his arguments could be intelligently challenged.


It is hard to imagine how a small child, first learning the alphabet, can appreciate the full implications of learning these particular 26 abstract symbols in an arbitrarily fixed order. Yet this lifelong access to the intellectual treasures of centuries depend on his mastery of these symbols. His ability to organize and retrieve innumerable kinds of information, from sources ranging from encyclopedias to computers, depends on his memorizing that purely arbitrary order. There is not the slightest reason in the world why a small child should be expected to grasp the significance of all this. Instead, he learns these symbols and this order because his parents and teachers want him to learn it--not because he sees its "relevance."

Experience would be virtually worthless if it were possible to know a priori what will and will not be needed in the future. If an economist who has done 20 years of research and analysis has no better idea how much statistical analysis a beginner should master than that beginner himself has, then one can only marvel that 20 years of experience have been such a complete waste. If a new recruit beginning basic training in the army knows just as much as a battle-scarred veteran as to what one should do to prepare for battle, then there is no justification for putting experienced officers in charge of troops and no excuse for differences in rank. In no other field of endeavor besides education would such reasoning even be taken seriously, much less be made the basis of institutional policy.

The "relevance" argument becomes especially dangerous when it is used to justify teaching different things to students from different racial or ethnic groups, on the basis of those students' immediate emotional responses, or their uninformed sense of plausibility as to what might, for example, be "relevant to the black experience" know whether such statistical concepts as multicollinearity or such economic concepts as dynamic equilibrium will turn out to be among those things which provide a whole new perspective on racial issues? To say that such questions can be answered a priori is to assume at the outset the very competence which education is supposed to produce as an end result.
[End of quotes.]

(3) The Death of Feminism. This is the first of three post-9/11 books on my list. It was written by Phyllis Chesler in 2006. She expands the concept of feminism to include conservatives, and she questions why current liberal/radical feminists do not address the mistreatment of women in Islamic cultures. In addition, she explores why some women mistreat other women.

Her book is enhanced by references to people, places, and events which she personally experienced, as well as by references to activists and thinkers who continue to influence feminism in our post-9/11 world.


I am disheartened by what has happened to feminism and by what I see as the new powerlessness of women. I did not foresee the extent to which feminists---who, philosophically, are universalists and therefore interventionists--would, paradoxically, become both multiculturalists and isolationists. Such cultural relativism (in the presumed service of antiracism) is perhaps the greatest failing of the feminist establishment. Despite our opponents' considerable fears that feminism would radicalize the campuses and the world, most feminists refuse to take risky, real-world positions. By choosing that path, they have lost their individualism, radicalism, and, in a sense, some of their own freedom.

I recant none of the visionary ideals of Second Wave feminism. Rather, it is as a feminist--not as an antifeminist--that I have felt the need to write a book to show that something has gone terribly wrong among our thinking classes. The multicultural feminist canon has not led to independent, tolerant, diverse. or objective ways of thinking. On the contrary: It has led to conformity, totalitarian thinking, and political passivity. Although feminists indulge in considerable nostalgia for the activist 1960s and 1970s, in some ways they are no different from the rest of the left-leaning academy, which also suffers from the disease of politically correct passivity.
[End of quote.]

(4) The Purpose of the Past.This is the second of three post-9/11 books on my list. It was written in 2008 by Gordon S. Wood. It is a book about history and the writing of history. Particularly, Gordon discusses the impact of multiculturalism on the study of history. He contrasts objective, authentic, academic history with cultural history and the processes of deconstruction, textuality, and self-reflection. He critiques the works of several prominent historians. Many current social work textbooks seem to parallel with these postmodern views on history.


Postmodernists are attacking the entire Enlightenment project on which the natural and social sciences are based. They hold that there is no truth outside of ideology and, indeed, they suggest that the search for truth is itself the prime Western illusion. Truth, they believe, is invented, not discovered. Strip away the political and cultural coverings that that pass as "truth" in each society and the will to power by hegemonic interests will be revealed. The idea that the historian masters facts and recovers past reality is, in the words of the authors, describing the postmodernist point of view, "simply a figment of the Western, capitalist imagination." History is seen as "a useful fiction for modern industrial society, nothing more." As on postmodernist has put it, "History is the Western myth."

Insofar as postmodernists recognize a "new historicism" at all, it is one practiced mainly by literary critics and involves essentially the unmasking and revealing of "hegemonic" relations of power. Postmodernism, in fact, subverts all conventional history writing. It denies that there is a reality in the past beyond that described by language, and this barrier of language forever prevents historians from telling any truth about the past. Because of the impossibility of historical reconstruction and the postmodern subversion of our conventional sense of time, some postmodern literary critics, such as Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth, have gone so far as to predict "the disappearance of history," which in turn may mean the end of all things bound up in "historical time," including our ideas of human rights, the structure of the human sciences, and the informational functions of language. In fact, in place of the plot and character of traditional history writing, Ermarth offers an "interminable pattern without meaning," a form of writing that resembles modern music or some modern novels.
[End of quote.]

(5) The Nature of Prejudice. Gordon Allport wrote this book in 1954. Although it is a standard on the subject, my guess is that many social workers have never read it. This book offers a complete exposition on the roots and types of prejudice. Allport analyzes how groups of people are separated, excluded, categorized, and denied equality. Such rejection can range from verbal insults to physical force. Allport also includes a brief chapter on scapegoating.

In the second half of the book, Allport discusses some of the psychological dynamics of prejudice: frustration (with a continuation of the discussion on scapegoating), hatred, anxiety, religion, and the prejudiced personality.


Although it is usually true that our perceptions of individual differences do not penetrate beneath the gross impression of skin color or ethnic type, this tendency may be reversed in the case of people who stand near to us in the range of visibility. While Caucasians may not be able to distinguish Chinese from Japanese in appearance, members of these two groups, needless to say, learn all the cues by which such a distinction might be made. Freud speaks of the "narcissism of small differences." We compare ourselves carefully with those who are like us--yet in some way different. According to Freud, small differences are an implied or potential criticism of ourselves. Therefore we note carefully what the difference is (the way two suburban ladies at a bridge party will scrutinize each other's grooming) and evaluate the situation, usually in such a way that it comes out in our favor. We decide that our apparent "twin" is after all not quite so slick as we are. Schisms within religious bodies seem to illustrate the "narcissism of small differences." To an outsider a Lutheran is a Lutheran, but to an insider it makes a difference whether he is a member of one Synod or another.

A Hindu woman traveling in a southern state was denied a hotel room by a clerk who notice her dark skin. The woman thereupon took off her headdress and showed that she had straight hair--and obtained accommodations. To the clerk it was color that cued his first behavior. The Hindu lady, with her keener sense of "small differences," forced the clerk to alter his perception, and reclassify her.
[End of quote.]

(6) Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion. Be prepared: this is a book that will probably require a few readings. It was written by Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1951. Although he was Jewish, Heschel wrote a philosophy of religion that speaks to all faiths. He puts forth that sensitivity, wonder, amazement, and perception precede conceptualization and knowledge.

When reading Heschel, you will find that every sentence is filled with meaning. He provides ample definitions of terms such as wisdom, mercy, faith, piety, life, and mankind. He regards challenges, inquiry, and expression as a part of being human.


The essence of a moral value is neither in its being valid independent of our will nor in its claim that it ought to be done for its own sake. These characteristics refer only to our attitude to such values rather than to their essence. They, furthermore, express an aspect that applies to logical or esthetic values as well.

Seen from God, the good is identical with life and organic to the world; wickedness is a disease, and evil identical with death. For evil is divergence, confusion, that which alienates man from man, man from God, while good is convergence, togetherness, union. Good and evil are not qualities of the mind but relations with reality. Evil is division, contest, lack of unity, and as the unity of all being is prior to the plurality of things, so is the good prior to evil.

Good and evil persist regardless of whether or not we pay attention to them. We are not born into a vacuum, but stand, nolens volens, in relations to all men and to one God. Just as we do not create the dimensions of space in order to construct spiritual relations; they are given with existence. All we do is try to find our way in them. The good does not begin in the consciousness of man. It is being realized in the natural co-operation of all beings, in what they are for each other.
[End of quote.]

(7) Slouching Towards Gomorrah. There are a lot of popular books which discuss the decay of American culture, morality, and values. I chose Robert H. Bork's book, written in 1996, because it is a recent yet pre-9/11 book--which seems to affirm its message when related to the increasing political correctness of the post-9/11 Democratic Party. Bork is a staunch conservative, and there is room for intelligent disagreement regarding his views. (Bork lost a Supreme Court confirmation in 1987, probably because of his honest outspokeness on his judicial philosophy and because of the late Senator Ted Kennedy's demagoguery of him.)

His book is thematically constructed around American history, politics, the Constitution, religion, education, and civility. Bork presents a focused yet comprehensive picture of post-1960's America. He discusses how the teaching of history became a form of propaganda for the purpose of extinguishing Western Civilization, how radical feminism created hostility toward all men (including the male priesthood and God the Father), how the middle class was unfairly viewed as oppressive and mainstream success was regarded as contemptuous, how the entertainment industry attacks mainstream values, and how multiculturalism has the hidden agenda to obstruct immigrant children from assimilating into mainstream America.

Bork puts forth that the unrest of the 1960's did not solely originate in objection to the Vietnam War, but arose from that generation's having reaped the benefits of a financial wealth which they did not earn. Politics became the meaning of life.


The desire for equality of incomes or wealth is, of course, but one aspect of a more general desire for equality in such matters as social and cultural status. "The essence of the moral idea of socialism," historian Martin Malia wrote, "is that human equality is the supreme value in life." Socialism is thus merely the manifestation in the field of economic organization of a more general yearning that operates across the entire culture.

The usual strategy for coping with the discomfort of knowing that others are superior in some way is to try to reduce the inequalities by bringing the more fortunate down or by preventing him from being more fortunate. This is the strategy of envy.

The apparent difficulty of requiring equality of wisdom and intelligence was solved in a satirical story by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961, even before the plethora of civil rights laws seeking equality by race, ethnicity, sex, age, disability, and so on and on. Americans would achieve perfect equality by forcing persons of superior intelligence to wear mental handicap radios that emit unsettling noises every twenty seconds to keep them from taking unfair advantage of their brains, persons of superior strength or grace were to be burdened with weights, and those on uncommon beauty must wear masks. Thus, social reality can be made to conform with the envious man's and the law's wishes.
[End of quotes.]

(8) The Courage to Create. Although Rollo May wrote this book for a very different political generation (1975), its message can be interpreted for today's world. In fact, the courage to create is defined, neatly, as the courage to live in a changing world. That is to say, to live with sensitivity. To be human means to live fully: physically, morally, socially, authentically, creatively, and to find meaning.

Creativity, therefore, is felt as a threat to dictatorship governments. Art and literature attempt to bring something into focused and harmonious being--which is the opposite of the disintegration of the individual under a political dictatorship. Rollo describes creativity as involving encounter, engagement, dedication, commitment, joy, and illumination.


How artists encounter their world is illustrated in the work of every genuinely creative painter. Out of the many possible examples of this, I shall choose the superb exhibition of the paintings of Mondrian shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1957-58. From his first realistic works in 1904 and 1905, all the way to his later geometrical rectangles and squares in the 1930s, one can see him struggling to find the underlying forms of the objects, particularly trees, that he was painting. He seems to have loved trees. The paintings around 1910, beginning somewhat like C&eacut;zanne, move further and further into the underlying meaning of tree--the trunk rises organically from the ground into which the roots have penetrated; the branches curve and bend into the trees and hills of the background in cubistic form, beautifully illustrative of what the underlying essence of tree is to most of us. Then we see Mondrian struggling more and more deeply to find the "ground forms" of nature, now it is less tree and more the eternal geometric forms underlying reality. Finally we see him pushing inexorably toward the squares and rectangles that are the ultimate form of purely abstract art. Impersonal? To be sure. The individual self is lost. But is this not precisely a reflection of Mondrian's world--the world of the twenties and thirties, the world in the period of emerging fascism, communism, conformism, military power, in which the individual not only feels lost, but is lost, alienated from nature and others as well as himself? Mondrian's paintings express creative strength in such a world, an affirmation in spite of the "lostness" of the individual. In this sense his work is a search for the foundation of individuality that can withstand these antihuman political developments.
[End of quote.]

9) People of the Lie. Scott Peck wrote this book in 1983 and it remains a significant study of the concept of evil: the psychology of evil and the experience of evil in daily living. Peck especially relates evil to lies, confusion, and murder (including the killing of the spirit in others and the controlling of others). He also discusses malignant narcissism.

Peck proposes that people can become evil through the choices they make: by exercising free will to the point of disregard for morality and the wellbeing of others. Evil people, ironically, like to appear as though they are good. However, they are filled with pretense and self-deceit.


If evil people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent. This is because those who have "crossed over the line" are characterized by their absolute refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness.

A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection. Take a simple example of a six-year-old boy who asks his father, "Daddy, why did you call Grand-mommy a bitch?" "I told you to stop bothering me," the father roars. "Now your're going to get it. I'm going to teach you not to use such filthy language. I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap. Maybe that will teach you to clean up what you say and keep your mouth shut when you're told." Dragging the boy upstairs to the soap dish, the father inflicts this punishment on him. In the name of "proper discipline" evil has been committed.

Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection. Since the evil, deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world's fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil, on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others. The father perceived the profanity and uncleanliness as existing in his son and took action to cleans his son's "filthiness." Yet we know it was the father who was profane and unclean. The father projected his own filth onto his son and then assaulted his son in the name of good parenting.

We come now to a sort of paradox. I have said that evil people feel themselves to be perfect. At the same time, however, I think they have an unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the psychopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness.
[End of quotes.]

(10) The Road to Serfdom. F.A. Hayek wrote the original text of this book in 1944. It was written for British readers, but includes references to America. The focus is on socialism: how it can develop gradually and subtly in a free-market democratic nation, and how it differs from true liberalism and from the welfare state. Hayek also contrasts constitutional government with coercive legislation. He states that collectivism is inclined toward the use of coercive legislation which, in turn, is often disguised as social justice but is actually intended to benefit special interest groups.

My suggestion is that you read the 2007 edition which includes introductions. This might help you to acquire a better understanding of Hayek's times and ideas, and how his observations relate to current conditions in England, America, and the world.


The crucial point of which our people are still so little aware is, however, not merely the magnitude of the changes which have taken place during the last generation but the fact that they mean a complete change in the direction of the evolution of our ideas and social order. For at least twenty-five years before the specter of totalitarianism became a real threat, we had progressively been moving away from the basic ideas on which Western civilization has been built. That this movement on which we have entered with such high hopes and ambitions should have brought us face to face with the totalitarian horror has come as a profound shock to this generation, which still refuses to connect the two facts. Yet this development merely confirms the warnings of the fathers of the liberal philosophy which we still profess. We have progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past. Although we had been warned by some of the greatest political thinkers of the nineteenth century, by Tocqueville and Lord Acton, that socialism means slavery, we have steadily moved in the direction of socialism. And now that we have seen a new form of slavery arise before our eyes, we have so completely forgotten the warning that it scarcely occurs to us that the two things may be connected.

How sharp a break not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization the modern trend toward socialism means becomes clear if we consider it not merely against the background of the nineteenth century but in a longer historical perspective. We are rapidly abandoning not the views merely of Cobden and Bright, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke and Milton, but one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization as it has grown from the foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and the Romans. Not merely nineteenth- and eighteenth-century liberalism, but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides, is progressively relinquished.
[End of quote.]

(11) On Liberty. John Stuart Mill was born in London in 1806. He spent his later life in France and wrote this book in 1859. Mill seemed to have a live-and-let-live attitude toward liberty in civil societies. He felt that people should be permitted to live as they please, so long as they do not harm themselves or others. This view is referred to as the "harm principle" with regard to individual liberty and the limits of government intervention into personal behavior. Mill discusses the impact of opinions, diversity, truth, authority, despotism, persecution, and independence on individuals, society, and government.

In American schools, Mill seems to receive less attention than other thinkers such as Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776) in our history classes or Ralph Waldo Emerson ("Self-Reliance", 1830's) in our literature classes, even though Mill advocated for the rights of blacks and women. Mill was a liberal thinker. For those who still believe that true liberalism can be a good thing, that the L-word is a bad word only because it has become associated with the intolerance from the radical-left, the reading of Mill's book might be felt as re-affirming. This book might seem out of place compared to the others on my list. But, as mentioned in my introductory remarks, it appears that some Democrats would restrict the liberties of moderates and conservatives. It is no longer the dissenters, minorities, non-conformists or free thinkers who risk condemnation, but mainstream Americans (some of whom are becoming the new dissenters).

On Liberty is actually an essay, although very long for an essay and quite short for a book--just under 100 pages. However, Mill wrote extremely long paragraphs--up to two pages in length--so this little book might require a steady eye and a determined mind.


Such being the reasons which make it imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve; and such the baneful consequences to the intellectual, and through that to the moral nature of man, unless this liberty is either conceded, or asserted in spite of prohibition; let us next examine whether the same reasons do not require that men should be free to act upon their opinions--to carry these out in their lives, without hindrance, either physical or moral, from their fellow-men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril. This last proviso is of course indispensable. No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions. On the contrary, even opinions lose their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an exited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Acts of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavorable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concerns himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost. That mankind are not infallible; that their truths, for the most part, are only half-truths; that unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity not an evil, but a good, until mankind are much more capable than at present of recognizing all sides of the truth, are principles applicable to men's modes of action, not less than to their opinions. As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself. Where, not the person's own character, but the traditions or customs of other people are the rule of conduct, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness, and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.
[End of quote.]

(12) Lifting Up the Poor: A Dialogue on Religion, Poverty, and Welfare Reform. This is the third of three post-9/11 books on my list. It was written in 2003 by Mary Jo Bane and Lawrence M. Mead. This book should be of interest to social workers who not only care about the poor, but who were inspired by spirituality to become professional caregivers. Bane works from biblical conviction as well as from the social justice tradition of the Catholic Church. Mead, a Protestant, works from scripture only and believes in its universal application. The following is taken from the book's introduction.


That two brilliant social policy analysts operating out of a shared religious tradition could engage in the argument contained in these pages tells us several important things. What they agree on--the urgency of assisting the poor, the importance of community, the value of work, the centrality of citizenship and responsibility--suggests grounds for potential consensus. What they disagree on or, more precisely, where their emphases differ--notably on the extent to which the causes of poverty are primarily individual or social--points to why consensus is so difficult to achieve.

But the very fact that a dialogue rooted in faith has so much to say to a secular audience points to the importance of broadening our community of deliberation by making our most deeply held commitments, beliefs, and assumptions--and, yes, biases--explicit. For the believer and the nonbeliever alike, moral reasoning is informed by emotions (for example, gratitude, trust, hope), by affections (love, friendship), and by dispositions (responsibility, generosity, accountability). In wrestling with each other's positions and commitments, Bane and Mead allow all who enter into their conversation the chance to sort out for themselves why they believe what they believe about poverty and its alleviation. Thus does the religious imagination offer a gift to secular discourse.

One last point. Mead cites Ron Sider, the thoughtful and forceful evangelical thinker who has declared that if the affluent "do not fee the hungry and clothe the naked, they go to hell." Mead's view is more nuanced, but he notes that "it is a chilling prospect that few in government have dared to question." At the least, to use the language of social science, Sider's view certainly broadens the range of incentive to which politicians and policymakers might respond.
[End of quote.]

My list could go on and on (many good books were not included), but I think the above titles are enough to pin onto my personal signpost. Each book offers references to other authors and works for further reading. And, a stroll through any bookstore could enable you to begin designing your own list. (Written 09/11/09: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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