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Children and Childhood in American Religions

Edited by Don S. Browning and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Publication Year: 2009

Religious traditions play a central role in the lives of many American children. In this collection of essays, leading scholars reveal for the first time how various religions interpret, reconstruct, and mediate their traditions to help guide children and their parents in navigating the opportunities and challenges of American life. The book examines ten religions, among other topics. Only by discussing the unique challenges faced by all religions, and their followers, can we take the first step toward a greater understanding for all of us.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Series in Childhood Studies


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is the result of efforts by many individuals and organizations. First, every book must be preceded by a vision. This came from the fertile mind of John Witte, the Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, School of Law, Emory University. He conceived and ably directed the two-phase research project that stimulated and supported the development of this book. These were the Sex, Marriage, and Family ...

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Introduction: Children and Childhood in American Religions

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pp. 1-24

How do religious traditions in the United States understand children today? Religion and children have proved to be challenging subjects to study. Many people consider religion primarily a matter of personal belief, leaving little to be learned about it beyond proclamation and confession. Social scientists have included religion as part of their work on children in the past several decades, but generally speaking have not studied religious texts or history ...

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Chapter 1: Mainline Protestants and Children

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pp. 25-41

One day, when William Ellery Channing was a little boy, his father took him to hear a famous preacher. That in itself was not unusual: in the early nineteenth century, many New England Congregationalists considered a rousing sermon a good day’s entertainment. But this was no ordinary diversion. The afternoon fare was a full-tilt fire-and-brimstone sermon, laying out in lurid detail the lost state of humanity, its abandonment to evil, and its ...

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Chapter 2: Conservative Protestants on Children and Parenting

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pp. 42-55

For nearly fifteen years now, scholars have expended a great deal of energy studying the contours of conservative Protestant (or Evangelical) parenting. Given the distinctive aspects of conservative Protestant child discipline, much of this scholarly attention has explored how and why Evangelical parents discipline their children. This chapter provides a review of this body of scholarship, thereby distilling the key insights that have surfaced from ...

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Chapter 3: The Status of Children within the Roman Catholic Church

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pp. 56-70

In Roman Catholicism, we find a view of children that simultaneously celebrates them as gifts from God, made in the image of God, endowed early in life with rationality, capable of initiative and deliberation, carriers of obligations to parents and society, and themselves sources of grace. But they are also human creatures in need of the sacraments, grace, and strong parental and institutional guidance. These views are sometimes in conflict, especially as the Catholic Church confronts the challenges of American ...

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Chapter 4: Judaism and Children in the United States

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pp. 71-84

To understand Judaism’s views of children and childhood within the context of American society and culture, one needs to know some basic things about the kind of religion Judaism is and at least the outlines of its diverse expressions. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism is based on its holy scriptures, the Bible, but it has been significantly shaped by the ongoing tradition created by its leaders and adherents. It was the classical rabbis who decided ...

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Chapter 5: The Black Church and Children

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pp. 85-101

There is a vision living at the core of African American Christianity.1 In that vision, articulated by John on the Isle of Patmos, there is a tree of life whose leaves are for “the healing of the nations” and a promise that God “shall wipe away all tears.” Over the centuries, the preaching and music traditions have evoked and firmly implanted an image of God as loving parent through songs and prayers that celebrate God as mother to the motherless and father to ...

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Chapter 6: Latter-day Saint Children and Youth in America

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pp. 102-118

Some of the concepts of the view of childhood held by the Latter-day Saints can be found in stories told about the early life of their founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith. Brother Joseph, as he was known to the Saints, often took time to play games with children and youth. Some Mormons, with their early American sense of propriety about religious leaders, were troubled by Joseph’s playful nature. One day a Brother Wakefield came to the Prophet’s ...

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Chapter 7: Native American Children and Religion

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pp. 119-132

The place of children within the Native American religions presents a unique situation historically and culturally. There was and is no single Native American religion just as there is no single Native American culture, or a single way in which Native children are considered across a wide span of religious practices. Today there are 561 federally recognized tribes, while other groups continue to seek recognition.1 At the time of European ...

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Chapter 8: Children in American Islam

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pp. 133-147

To better understand the views of childhood in Islam, it is important to understand the diversity of this world religion, even in the United States. As the religion of Islam, and thereby Muslims, come increasingly into the American public eye, people want to know who “they” are, what “they” believe, and why “they” do certain things in the name of their faith. It is very difficult to explain that there really is no “they,” that American Muslims represent the most heterogeneous Islamic community in the history of the world. ...

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Chapter 9: Hindu Children in the United States

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pp. 148-164

Hindu children were absent from American neighborhoods and schools prior to 1965 because of restrictive immigration laws. Then doors to America reopened to welcome immigrants from every country, a welcome extended to those in two preference categories: first, professionals in medicine, science, and other fields needed to fuel the American economy in the second half of the twentieth century and, second, family members to be reunited with immigrants who had obtained a green card for legal residence or U.S. ...

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Chapter 10: Buddhism and Children in North America

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pp. 165-179

To speak of North American Buddhist views about childhood and the institutions specifically set up to nurture children by North American Buddhists in a single short book chapter is difficult because North American Buddhism is so diverse. It is also difficult because, though Buddhism is now quite popular among North Americans, it is not very well understood and is quite different from the dominant religions in many ways, including its various understandings of childhood. For one thing, though North ...

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Chapter 11: Asian American Confucianism and Children

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pp. 180-193

Although it is a pervasive social and cultural influence, Confucianism is not considered an official religion in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, or anywhere else in Asia. It is an ancient tradition that has shaped the ethical and social mores of the Chinese people for at least two thousand years and one that during the past millennium became firmly entrenched in the cultures of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam and other areas of significant Chinese ...

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Chapter 12: Immigrant Parochial Schools: Religion, Morality, Citizenship

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pp. 194-209

Established in 1974, the Islamic Foundation is one of metropolitan Chicago’s largest and most successful immigrant mosques. Located in affluent DuPage County, the tenth-wealthiest U.S. county in terms of median household income, the Islamic Foundation opened an elementary school in 1988, moving eventually to a full K–12 program. The Islamic Foundation School is ...

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Chapter 13: The Law’s Influence over Children’s Religious Development

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pp. 210-222

Our nation was founded, almost exclusively, by mainline Protestants who could not have anticipated how religiously diverse the United States would become. There was enough diversity among them, however, to make the protection of religious liberty an important aim when they drafted the Constitution. How far the right to religious liberty should reach has been ...


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pp. 223-225


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pp. 227-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546957
E-ISBN-10: 0813546958
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544809
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544807

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Series in Childhood Studies