Practices for Christians
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Georgetown University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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I started out to write a history of American Catholic thinking on marriage and family, but it slowly became clear to me that I really wanted to write a book on family ethics to answer questions that refused to go away. I changed course and began the work I think I have been meaning to write since I first began to study theology. Along the way, many people have helped me think through and prepare this book. Series editor Jim Keenan and...
Introduction: Why Be Concerned with the Ordinary?
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My thirteen-year-old son tells me he does not understand why I spend my time writing, teaching, and talking about ordinary things. For him, the more important questions are the extraordinary ones: What does it mean to have faith? What happens when you die? Is the Bible true? Is there human life on other planets? How did the world begin?...
PART I: Resources from the Catholic Tradition
Chapter One: A Catholic Theological Understanding of Marriage
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This book aims to develop a Christian ethic of the family that is both personally and socially conscious. It offers ethical analysis of moral issues that arise in the lives of ordinary Christians, most of whom live in some sort of family, and suggests ways that some everyday choices may promote or impede social goods such as justice, participation, and equality...
Chapter Two: Between the Personal and the Political: Families as Agents of Social Change
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In chapter 1, I furthered my case that the moral dilemmas of ordinary family life deserve more sustained analysis in social ethics by arguing that, in scripture, the liturgy, and sacramental theology, marriage is viewed as socially significant and families are charged with social responsibilities. However, many readers may be skeptical that a concentrated approach to family life is a viable way to approach social justice. One might justifiably...
Chapter Three: Grace, Sin, and Holy Families
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Having established in chapters 1 and 2 that both Catholic sacramental theology and Catholic social teaching point to a need for a social ethic attentive to family concerns, it may seem appropriate to begin analyzing everyday moral issues faced by families, with the hope of sketching what an ideal Christian life might look like. However, before beginning ethical analysis, it is important to address...
PART II: Practices
Chapter Four: Practicing Sexual Fidelity
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The first three chapters of this book argue for attention to ordinary life (especially the lives of families), emphasize the union of the personal and the social in Christian theology of marriage and Catholic social teaching, and point to the grace found in human finitude rather than perfection. Having laid the groundwork, in this chapter I turn...
Chapter Five: The Practice of Eating: Love, Justice, and Mercy
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In this chapter I continue to consider specific practices that mark family life and ask how families might shape those practices in accord with the theological framework outlined in the first three chapters of this book. The first choice of a practice was somewhat easy, for sex is probably the practice that most distinguishes Christian marriage, even if it is rarely examined and virtually never advocated as a crucial part...
Chapter Six: How Much Is Enough? The Practice of Tithing
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Most American Christian families think of themselves as somewhere in the broad middle on the scale of financial wellness. They know that they are not poor, for they do not struggle to pay for basics like food, clothing, or housing and enjoy certain luxuries. Yet they are also keenly aware that they are not as rich as some people they know, see, or read about, who drive fancy new cars or go on extravagant...
Chapter Seven: Serving: Reimagining a Central Practice of Middle-Class Family Life
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Very few Catholic parents are in need of something more to do. When they meet each other, it is on the sidelines of soccer games, dance classes, and baseball diamonds; working booths at parish festivals; helping with school parties; buying birthday treats for a child’s class; borrowing chairs for an extended family gathering in their home; chaperoning a field trip; rushing to parent-teacher conferences;...
Chapter Eight: Family Prayer as Practice of Resistance
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Praying is perhaps the most important practice for Christian families. Yet addressing family prayer adequately is more difficult than it may first appear. One does not have to read far into any Christian text on prayer to find the affirmation, “The family that prays together stays together.” Stanley Hauer was questions the appropriateness...
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I began this book by talking about the marginalization of ordinary life in Christian ethics. The gap between issues taken up in theology journals and those discussed at dinner tables, coffeehouses, and parish socials is overly wide. When families struggle to decide how to allocate their time, where to buy a house, or what job to take, they are on their own, because few theologians have addressed...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010