Family Ethics

Family Ethics: Practices for Christians

JULIE HANLON RUBIO
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tt794
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  • Book Info
    Family Ethics
    Book Description:

    How can ordinary Christians find moral guidance for the mundane dilemmas they confront in their daily lives? To answer this question, Julie Hanlon Rubio brings together a rich Catholic theology of marriage and a strong commitment to social justice to focus on the place where the ethics of ordinary life are played out: the family. Sex, money, eating, spirituality, and service. According to Rubio, all are areas for practical application of an ethics of the family. In each area, intentional practices can function as acts of resistance to a cultural and middle-class conformity that promotes materialism over relationships. These practices forge deep connections within the family and help families live out their calling to be in solidarity with others and participate in social change from below. It is through these everyday moral choices that most Christians can live out their faith-and contribute to progress in the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-667-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Why Be Concerned with the Ordinary?
    (pp. 1-12)

    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? In his confirmation classes at church and in conversations with friends of different faiths, my son ponders these questions.

    He is not alone in his fascination with big questions. Popular religious discussions often revolve around enduring controversies both theological and moral....

  5. PART I Resources from the Catholic Tradition
    • CHAPTER ONE A Catholic Theological Understanding of Marriage
      (pp. 15-36)

      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. Some who are sympathetic to the social justice part of this book may worry that the ordinary moral dilemmas of families are marginal to social ethics. Catholic theology of the family in particular, it is thought, has been concerned...

    • CHAPTER TWO Between the Personal and the Political: Families as Agents of Social Change
      (pp. 37-65)

      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 ask, “Why not focus on larger social forces that shape daily life? Are not these forces more worthy of rigorous ethical treatment than everyday choices? Does not the tradition of Catholic...

    • CHAPTER THREE Grace, Sin, and Holy Families
      (pp. 66-94)

      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 what may be a stumbling block for many readers: an idealized approach to family prevalent in Catholic theology and devotional life. In Catholic liturgy and popular piety, the dominant image of the family is the holy...

  6. PART II Practices
    • CHAPTER FOUR Practicing Sexual Fidelity
      (pp. 97-127)

      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 to analyzing the ordinary through a set of five practices. I could proceed otherwise, through case studies or personal narratives, for instance; however, I have chosen the concept of practice to orient this ethic of ordinary life. Why? My assumption is that intentional...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Practice of Eating: Love, Justice, and Mercy
      (pp. 128-163)

      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 of the Christian moral life for married persons. Choosing additional family practices was difficult, as there are so many possibilities. However, because I contend that the ordinary daily life deserves...

    • CHAPTER SIX How Much Is Enough? The Practice of Tithing
      (pp. 164-189)

      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 vacations. Like most Americans, they prefer to think of themselves as middle class. Yet the majority of American families have incomes that place them among the...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Serving: Reimagining a Central Practice of Middle-Class Family Life
      (pp. 190-213)

      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; slipping into a hardware store to pick up a forgotten item for a home-repair project; gratefully sinking down in the pews at Mass, hoping this time they will not have to struggle with restless children who...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Family Prayer as Practice of Resistance
      (pp. 214-241)

      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 Hauerwas questions the appropriateness of this aphorism, pointing out how an overemphasis on family stability can displace the fundamental role of the church and misconstrue the point of prayer. He asserts that “if we have not first learned what it means to be faithful to self and other in the church, then...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 242-244)

    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 these sorts of concerns. These mundane choices seem too minor to merit theological analysis.

    However, I have argued that ordinary moral dilemmas are worthy of sustained ethical reflection. Decisions about how to spend...

  8. Index
    (pp. 245-260)