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North American culture bombards girls and women with negative and demeaning images of their gender. It trains girls and women to "give themselves away" by overemphasizing their caring for others and underdeveloping their sense of voice and personal authority. Carol Lakey Hess asks in this book whether caring families and the church can make a difference in the outcome of our daughters' development. Weaving together theological, psychological, and biblical sources, Hess examines how theologians of self-sacrifice thwart both the spiritual and the psychological development of women by subverting their necessary self-assertion. The importance of self-differentiation and cognitive autonomy and of caring and connection are discussed, using as illustrations biblical stories, excerpts from novels, and an in-depth look at eating disorders.
Recent studies in the area of theology and gender have made some groundbreaking insights into the ways in which traditional theology influences--in sometimes harmful ways--the cognitive, emotional, and spiritual development of women. As a result of such studies, efforts are being made to incorporate women's experiences into theological construction. This is being done on two fronts: women's experience of caring and connecting is being recovered as a voice in theology; and patterns of faith socialization overemphasizing caring and connection (to the exclusion of self-care and self-assertion) are being challenged for their role in thwarting female development.
Both of these efforts have important implications for practice in communities of faith. Specifically, Carol Lakey Hess argues the importance of the integration in communities of faith of women's need for separation and connection through what she calls "hard dialogue and deep connections." In Caretakers of Our Common House, she envisions and advocates the significance of an educational process for girls and women in communities of faith which will nurture them towards being caretakers of their "own house" (self) and at the same time of our "common house" (the community of faith).
"This highly readable study asks whether the Church can make a difference in the development of young women in a culture that destroys the self-esteem of girls. Caretakers of Our Common House should be required reading for all those involved in theological education and ministry. A truly engaging book." --Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Krister Stendahl Professor of Scripture and Interpretation, Harvard Divinity School
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