The Church and the Family Crisis: A New Love Ethic

Browning, Don S. and Carol Browning. “The Church and the Family Crisis: A New Love Ethic.” Christian Century 108(23):746-749. August 7-14, 1991.

“The Church and the Family Crisis: A New Love Ethic,” by Don and Carol Browning, acknowledges the decline of the family—traditional, nuclear or otherwise—and defends the principle of neighbor love as an appropriate ethic the church should teach to confront the family crisis. The writers distinguish between nuclear and traditional families: the latter recalls the “modern family” of the father who works outside the home and the mother who works domestically and rears the children, while the former speaks of a bonded mother and father raising one or more children. The decline of the family refers specifically to the difficulty families have in raising their children to be productive and responsible adults. This crisis produces family poverty and emotional instability on the part of children and parents. <p> The Brownings call on the church to rededicate itself to the central task of supporting the intact, first marriage mother-father team dedicated to raising children in an atmosphere of stability and nurture. They suggest churches should transition from the modern to the postmodern family—in which both parents are employed outside the home—by adopting the ethic of neighbor love, interpreted as “equal regard” meaning both parents mutually support and love the other in performing the tasks of the family. Churches can teach this ethic through their youth ministries and by discussing legislation in support of the postmodern family.