Research Topic: How should Christians understand the nature of kinship, and reimagine how it might be practiced, in the light of Christian belief?
When it comes to kinship, the following two claims can be made without fear of contradiction: first, kinship is one of the main ways in which human beings organise themselves, and the experience of kinship greatly influences human life and action; second, many accounts of the Christian faith imply a story that runs counter to the narratives of kinship widely told and acted out.
Despite a long tradition of reimagining the family in the light of distinctive Christian convictions, contemporary Christian ethics has shown a tendency to assume that a particular expression of kinship is necessary and therefore beyond reimagining. Karl Barth is one of the most striking representatives of this tendency, not just because of his significance in Christian theology, but because he is so committed to the view that theological insights cannot be drawn from an interpretation of the created world. However, I will argue that in his ethics of parenthood he makes precisely this move, allowing his moral theology to be informed by an uncritically received notion of how kinship 'must' be.
How might core Christian belief shape how Christians think about adoption, new reproductive technologies, inheritance, abortion, marriage and celibacy, the care of the elderly, alternative ways of organising households, and the problem of caring for those who are considered to be non-kin?
Social scientists, and particularly anthropologists, have done a great deal of work interrogating kinship in its different contexts. In the process, social anthropologists have generated useful frameworks in which to make sense of kinship as it is practiced and understood in different contexts. By drawing upon these anthropological insights the theologian is enabled to identify those concepts and practices that give particular expressions of kinship their distinctiveness. In light of this theological insights can be brought to bear on these concepts and practices in order to explore the possibility and character of a distinctively Christian account of kinship. These theological insights will be informed by wider themes in Barth's 'Church Dogmatics,' but also by a range of theologians and disruptive Christian practices from the history of the church.
The project seeks to identify the ways in which Christians might think about and practice kinship differently in light of their faith. In particular, how might core Christian belief shape how Christians think about adoption, new reproductive technologies, inheritance, abortion, marriage and celibacy, the care of the elderly, alternative ways of organising households, and the problem of caring for those who are considered to be non-kin?