Synopses & Reviews
Even in our world of redefined life partnerships and living arrangements, most marriages begin through sacred ritual connected to a religious tradition. But if marriage rituals affirm deeply held religious and secular values in the presence of clergy, family, and community, where does divorce, which severs so many of these sacred bonds, fit in? Sociologist Kathleen Jenkins takes up this question in a work that offers both a broad, analytical perspective and a uniquely intimate view of the role of religion in ending marriages.
For more than five years, Jenkins observed religious support groups and workshops for the divorced and interviewed religious practitioners in the midst of divorces, along with clergy members who advised them. Her findings appear here in the form of eloquent and revealing stories about individuals managing emotions in ways that make divorce a meaningful, even sacred process. Clergy from mainline Protestant denominations to Baptist churches, Jewish congregations, Unitarian fellowships, and Catholic parishes talk about the concealed nature of divorce in their congregations. Sacred Divorce describes their cautious attempts to overcome such barriers, and to assemble meaningful symbols and practices for members by becoming compassionate listeners, delivering careful sermons, refitting existing practices like Catholic annulments and Jewish divorce documents (gets), and constructing new rituals.
With attention to religious, ethnic, and class variations, covering age groups from early thirties to mid-sixties and separations of only a few months to up to twenty years, Sacred Divorce offers remarkable insight into individual and cultural responses to divorce and the social emotions and spiritual strategies that the clergy and the faithful employ to find meaning in the breach. At once a sociological document, an ethnographic analysis, and testament of personal experience, Sacred Divorce provides guidance, strategies and answers to readers looking for answers and those looking to heal.
"While there are numerous rituals surrounding significant life transitions such as marriage, birth and death, few comparable resources exist for people undergoing divorce. Jenkins, a sociology professor at William and Mary College, illuminates the myriad ways religious practices and symbols enable divorced people of faith make sense of their loss, guilt, anger, and confusion. From interviews with divorced Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Unitarians, Jewish, and mainline Protestants, she finds that therapeutic ideas about self-healing and religious belief are entwined. Clergy invoke old rituals and create unique ones to accommodate divorced members of their groups. For example, members of a Jewish group assemble at a pier where they toss a representative object from their marriage into the ocean as a release of unwanted emotion, and a Catholic priest compares divorced parishioners to biblical figures. Even though some people feel judged by their congregations, they also discover the solace of music and prayer in their faith homes. The communal nature of church or synagogue becomes a means for individuals to accomplish the private emotional work necessary to heal from divorce. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In a world where marriage remains a largely sacred undertaking, what role does religion play when such bonds are broken? Kathleen Jenkins takes up this question in a work that combines broad sociological analysis with the intimate stories of the clergy and the faithful across the religious spectrum as they talk about experiencing a break in core family and religious bonds. Discussed within are the associated social emotions, the spiritual tools available to them, and the larger cultural strategies and approaches in institutions that assist in restructuring family and religious identity.
Regardless how you interpret the statistics, the divorce rate in the United States is staggering. But, what if the government
could change this? Would families be better off if new public policies made it more difficult for couples to separate?
This book explores a movement that emerged over the past fifteen years, which aims to do just that. Guided by certain politicians and religious leaders who herald marriage as a solution to a range of longstanding social problems, a handful of state governments enacted "covenant marriage" laws, which require couples to choose between a conventional and a covenant marriage. While the familiar type of union requires little effort to enter and can be terminated by either party unilaterally, covenant marriage requires premarital counseling, an agreement bound by fault-based rules or lengthy waiting periods to exit, and a legal stipulation that divorce can be granted only after the couple has received counseling.
Drawing on interviews with over 700 couples-half of whom have chosen covenant unions-this book not only evaluates the viability of public policy in the intimate affairs of marriage, it also explores how growing public discourse is causing men and women to rethink the meaning of marriage.
About the Author
KATHLEEN E. JENKINS is an associate professor and chair of the department of sociology at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of Awesome Families: The Promise of Healing Relationships in the International Churches of Christ (Rutgers).