The faith-based initiative asks religious organizations to carry a heavy load. Providing a social safety net is the relatively easy part. Religious groups are also being asked—and are asking themselves—to build the social bridges that strengthen America’s civil society.
Elusive Togetherness explores several bridge-building attempts in the pseudonymous mid-sized city of Lakeburg. The faith-based groups that Paul Lichterman observed all hoped to provide a social service and to do so with a difference. They very self-consciously pictured themselves as religious pioneers in the context of President Clinton’s then-new welfare reforms. “We need to look for new solutions,” they said, ”to find new ways to link the public and private sector . . . to reconnect the caring community.”