September 24, 2001
CISR launches study on religion, family
By Elaine Justice
Emorys Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion (CISR)
is embarking on a two-year project on Sex, Marriage and Family Life
that is bringing together scholars from across the University to examine
issues ranging from interfaith marriage to American divorce laws, from
same-sex unions to the roots of monogamy.
Joining CISR Director John Witte to lead the project is Don Browning,
Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences at the University
of Chicago. Browning, who has been named the Woodruff Visiting Professor
of Interdisciplinary Religious Studies, is heading a team of 14 Emory
and two visiting scholars focusing on marriage, sex and family issues
as they relate to religions of the book, namely Christianity,
Judaism and Islam.
The projects first phase this fall features an intensive seminar
among the scholars, or fellowswho represent a variety of academic
disciplines and expertiseas they examine not only conventional issues
of marriage and divorce, child custody, sexual identity and intergenerational
relations, but also controversial topics such as abortion, euthanasia,
natural bases of sexuality, cloning, kinship and more.
Out of these discussions will come a series of public forums, new papers
and books, public lectures, workshops and individual research projects
throughout 2002. The final phase will be an international conference in
spring 2003, featuring research projects of the participants, along with
three dozen additional speakers.
Browning, who most recently headed a decade-long project at Chicago on
religion, culture and family, sees the Emory effort as breaking new ground
in understanding how religion impacts family life.
Theres not a lot of debate on these issues in which religion
or theology is well-represented, he said. I feel theres
a strong relationship between what happens to families and what happens
to religion. If families go down, then religion will, too.
Witte, also director of Emorys well-known Law and Religion Program,
said some 300 faculty across campus have a stated scholarly interest in
religion, and only a third of that number are religion or theology faculty.
There is widespread recognition here that religion is a central
feature of life and that it suffuses all of society, Witte said.
There are three things for which people will die: their faith, their
family and their freedom. This ... project studies all three.
Browningthe author, co-author or editor of several publications growing out of the Chicago project, including From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debatewill collaborate with Witte on an even broader look at religion and family. The two plan to compile a set of primary sources on family issues that goes beyond Christian-ity, Judaism and Islam to include Hinduism, Buddhism and other non-Western traditions represented in the United States.
They will then edit a companion volume of interpretive essays contributed
by project fellows and others.
Other collaborative research projects during the two-year cycle include:
Also anticipated are projects dealing with marriage and divorce law, and a project on extended families in African American and new immigrant communities.