The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership

The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership

The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership

The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership


As the federal system of entitlements and social services long provided by New Deal--era programs is dismantled and shifted to the states, the religious community finds itself relied upon more than ever to assist with social services for the needy.

The Newer Deal calls upon religious-based organizations and the social work--social service community to put aside their differences and forge a "limited partnership" to provide the social and welfare services that millions depend on. The proposed partnership focuses on joint care for those in need -- with attention to services for people of color, gays and lesbians, women, and programs for community empowerment and economic development -- while maintaining the values and other interests each partner traditionally holds.

The authors discuss different types of religious-based social services and draw on case examples and research findings to show how the religious community's role in providing social services is stronger than ever. They examine the relationship between the religious and the social work--social service communities, as well as the issues that have divided the two, and explain the ways in which concern for the poor is integral to the major faith groups.


Times change. Especially our times. Within the last half of the twentieth century, we have seen the advent of the computer age, space exploration, and other technological breakthroughs. We have seen the world map reconfigure itself in the rise and fall of nations. We have seen dramatic advances in civil rights on a scale undreamed of by previous generations. Prosperity, peace, and progress made it seem as though we finally had all the answers.

As times changed, so did the thinking about social ills and poverty. Governments around the world began to invest in countless programs to combat these problems. Optimism ruled. The key to eradicating social needs had at last been found: continued investment by national governments in social services for their people. Social welfare became a right of citizens rather than an act of charity. It was a vision shared by the majority of the world’s great democracies.

We, too, shared this vision. Like many of our generation, we believed the responsibility assumed by governments for the welfare of their citizens to be irrevocable. Because we believed, we wholeheartedly supported the expansion of government responsibility for social welfare, whether through a national health insurance program or initiatives to improve quality of life in the inner cities. Our convictions led each of us to choose social work as a vocation.

Our interest in and advocacy of social policies, however, have not met with universal approval from our colleagues. At times we have been labeled “softhearted liberals,” even “Commies.” We mention this because it is likely that some who hear that we have written a book on religion and social work will label us “religious fanatics.” Nothing is farther from the truth. We are not . . .

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