Religion, Culture, and Family Project

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 04/01/1991
End Date: 
Tue, 12/31/1996

The Religion, Culture and Family Project, under the direction of Professor Don S. Browning of the University of Chicago Divinity School, addressed the decline of American families and the general neglect of the mainline denominations to the plight of the family. The animating hypothesis of the project was the conviction that the established Christian and Jewish groups in the United States possessed important theological, historical, ethical and institutional resources capable of contributing to the revitalization of families in modern society. The project goal was to determine what these resources were and how they could mitigate family decline and crisis. <p> Browning and his associates based the project on three premises: (1) that family decline in the United States was a documentable phenomenon; (2) that mainline Protestantism (and to some extent moderate Jewish and Catholic traditions) had been inarticulate in addressing this matter; and (3) that the inability of these groups to address adequately this need partially accounted for their own decline. The first two premises received the project’s primary attention. <p> The project scheduled the completion of twelve books and monographs to look at several major family themes, such as the purpose of the family, the meaning of gender and gender roles, the question of a normative family form, the role of children in families, intergenerational care responsibilities of families, and the role of church-state and state-church relations in family concerns. The books fell within three broad categories—these being major constructive projects, historical projects, and church-related projects—and were addressed to a broad scholarly audience. Besides the books, project dissemination occurred through mailings, small-scale meetings with target groups of church leaders, academics and the media, and a September 1996 conference in Chicago on “Religion and the American Family Debate: Deeper Understandings, New Directions.”