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Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2008 / Hardcover
$24.99 (CBD Price)
Save: $9.01 (26%)
CBD Stock No: WW839367
In this thought-provoking book, through analysis of images of the family in the mainstream media in the twentieth century, Amy Laura Hall considers the possibility that, by downplaying the gratuity of grace, middle-class Protestants have implicitly endorsed a precept of justification through responsibly planned procreation.
Conceiving Parenthood challenges the form of medical ethics in the West, prompting readers to ask probing questions about old patterns. While Hall critically considers particular changes in Western reproductive and pediatric practices, her aim is less to judge specific technologies as licit or illicit than to encourage congregations to contend with the shape of the family in mainline Protestant culture.
The range of sources introduced in the book is considerable. Hall suggests that the default way of conceiving parenthood in the last century was shaped by advertised products promising a scientifically clean home, the "Century of Progress" Fair in Chicago (held during the Great Depression), social hygiene posters, and National Geographic (bringing families "the world and all that is in it"). In contrast, Hall seeks to prompt hope in one holy child, and she suggests that participation in this hope may clash with the responsibility to plan, conceive, and cultivate children who will participate in national progress.
The research in Conceiving Parenthood is new, the illustrations exceptional, and the theory provocative. Hall's goal is to encourage new conversations within communities of faith, conversations that will enable individuals, couples, congregations, even entire neighborhoods to conceive of parenthood in ways that make room (temporal and geographic) for families and children who are deemed to be outside the proper purview of the right sorts of families.
Genetic manipulation. Designer babies. Prenatal screening. The genomic revolution. Cutting-edge issues in reproductive bioethics grab our attention almost daily, prompting strong responses from various sides. As science advances and comes ever closer to ?perfect? procreation and ?perfectible? babies, controversy has become a constant in bioethical discussion.
Amy Laura Hall, a self-described pro-life feminist, seeks out the genesis of such issues rather than trying to divine their future. Her disturbing finding is that mainline Protestantism is complicit in the history and development of reproductive biotechnology. Through analysis of nearly 150 images of the family in the mainstream media in the twentieth century, Hall argues that, by downplaying the gratuity of grace, middle-class Protestants, with American culture at large, have implicitly endorsed the idea of justification through responsibly planned procreation. A tradition that should have welcomed all persons equally has instead fostered a culture of ?carefully delineated, racially encoded domesticity.?
The research in Conceiving Parenthood is new, the theory provocative, and the illustrations exceptional. The book is replete with photos and advertisements from popular magazines from the 1930s through the 1950s ? Parents?, Ladies? Home Journal, National Geographic, and so on. Hall's analysis of these ads is startling. Her goal, however, is not simply to startle readers but to encourage new conversations within communities of faith ? conversations enabling individuals, couples, congregations, even entire neighborhoods to conceive of parenthood in ways that make room for families and children who are deemed to be outsidethe proper purview of the right sorts of families.
Hall, who teaches theological ethics at Duke, combines perceptive reading with stirring criticism of the corporate-inspired family ideals that have come to pervade the American Christian mainstream. Focusing on the Methodist experience, Hall's narrative potentially resonates across the theological spectrum. How did a denomination with roots in gospel activism come to be so captivated by images of material and technological progress delivered by corporate marketing? Hall mines church publications and popular media to reveal several dynamics at work. Partly because of its attempts to market itself as part of the American dream, the mid-century church became infatuated with an image of the ideal family that inevitably, if unintentionally, encouraged middle-class Protestants to insulate their families from their troubled neighbors. At the same time, corporate and scientific messages undermined the confidence of parentsand particularly mothersin natural or traditional ways of providing for their children without commercial products and expert advice. Aspiration and anxiety combined to create families that were more focused on themselves, less secure in their Christian identity and less engaged in mission to others. Contrasting these trends with the example of Christ and the unifying message of the sacraments, Hall invites her readers to wage a "resistance" and reconsider "the least of these." (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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