Issue 32: Family

In the earliest biblical description of human beings, we are told to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), yet two chapters later we read of the harsh reality of barrenness, a recurring theme in the Scriptures. We sometimes speak of salvation as an entrance into a new family—the church—and  God’s people are thus said to be God’s children, but Christ himself spoke of the need to hate one’s father, mother, and partner in order to enter into discipleship. Christians baptize their infants and train their young into their faith, the Catholic Church calls family the “domestic church,” and the Protestant philosopher G. W. F. Hegel argued that the family is the base unit of society, but through these very units, Christianity has helped to produce and maintain patriarchy, with the notion of family often functioning as a sort of Christianized fetish. The boundaries, values, and status of the modern nuclear family and the role of faith in family formation are continually up for debate as we ponder, what, in fact, constitutes a family.

In this issue of The Other Journal, we take up some of the most pressing, family-related questions of our time: What is the nature of family? What are the ways the Christian theological tradition has understood or misunderstood family? What is the family of God, and who do we erroneously leave out or mischaracterize when we think of faith in this way? What role has our understanding of the modern family played in shaping and determining our understanding of the family of God? What are the ways in which Christian thought and practices maintain traditional family logics? Or how do Christianity’s varied conceptions about family name antifamily practices and influence our present moment?

In this issue’s essays, creative writing, art, and reviews, our contributors tackle this theme eclectically as they explore everything from familial responsibility and the formation of alternative family structures to the interrogation of patriarchy’s place in the theological tradition. We hope it proves to be a timely and helpful resource.