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August 7, 1996 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Researchers say conservatives, liberals deny key aspects of family values

While politicians and religious groups battle over “family values," scholars working on the Religion, Culture and the Family Project based at the University of Chicago Divinity School say that a resolution to the American family crisis must combine the best of both conservative cultural approaches and liberal economic ones.

“Conservatives are right to raise moral issues, but do so without a deep enough understanding of the larger historical and economic contexts of the modern family. Liberals are right to stand up for social justice, but do not appreciate the profound impact of changing cultural values on family life," said Don Browning, the Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the principal investigator of the project.

Claiming that both the Religious Right and Left are too narrow, project scholars have organized a fall conference and are writing 12 books on family issues from a mediating religious perspective–covering everything from the family and genetic technology to the family and the Bible. “Evidence indicates that mainline churches are declining because they don’t address family issues, while churches that do, such as evangelical churches, are thriving,” Browning said.

Some key findings are surprising. One scholar found that Christianity and Judaism at various times have been major contributors to the equal dignity of women. Another reveals that “traditional” family views, thought to be shaped solely by Christianity, are complex syntheses of Greek, Jewish, Christian, Roman and German legal, philosophical and religious traditions. And a third notes that feminism can be formulated so that it is supportive of a religious approach to families.

A conference summarizing the project’s findings and is titled “Religion and the American Family Debate: Deeper Understandings, New Directions,” will be held Tuesday, Sept. 10 and Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Dr. The keynote speakers are Daniel Yankelovich, public-opinion pollster and founder of the New York Times/CBS poll, and Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune columnist and regular contributor to “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer,” “The McLaughlin Group,” National Public Radio and Black Entertainment Television. The conference is by registration only, but the media is welcome. The Religion, Culture and the Family Project is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.

Authors of the books to be published are available to comment on their research and the Project. A list of their books is on the reverse.

Religion, Culture and the Family Project Books

All books are published by Westminster/John Knox Press unless otherwise indicated.


Religion, Feminism, and the Family, Anne Carr and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, eds. (1996) Law, Religion, and Family in the West, John Witte Jr. (1997) Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics, Lisa Sowle Cahill (Cambridge University Press, 1996) For Richer, For Poorer; For Better, For Worse: Social Teachings of the Churches on Family and Economic Life, Max Stackhouse (1996) For the Love of Children: Genetic Technology and the Future of the Family, Ted Peters (1996) American Religion and the Family Debate, Don Browning, Pamela Couture, Robert Franklin,
K. Brynolf Lyon and Bonnie Miller-McLemore (1997) Historical

The Family in Hebrew Scriptures, Leo Perdue, Joseph Blenhinsopp, John Collins,
Carol Myers (1996) The Family in Early Christianity, David Balch, Carolyn Osiek (1996) Religion and Family in American History, David Harrington Watt (Oxford University Press, 1997) For Congregations

Faith Traditions and the Family: North American Voices in Dialogue, Phyllis Airhart, Margaret Bendroth, eds. (1996) Models of Congregational Family Ministries, K. Brynolf Lyon, Archie Smith Jr., eds. (1997) Religion and Family: A Practical Theology Handbook, Herbert Anderson, Don Browning, Ian Evison, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, eds. (1997)
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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