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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Symposium recap

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The fifth annual Boisi Center Symposium on Religion and Politics is examining the future of marriage and the family this year. A group of graduate students and professors from the theology and political science departments meet each month to discuss the nature of marriage and the family, and their state in America today. Discussions center around each session’s readings, which examine marriage and the family philosophically, theologically and from the point of view of social science.

Among the topics the group is discussing are the growing socio-economic divide regarding marriage rates and the related rate of births within marriage; the rising age of marriage among college-educated Americans; and the plummeting birth rates in the United States and the West in general.

These topics invite deeper examination of what marriage means, what the place of children is within a meaningful life, and the downsides or costs of the traditional family arrangement for both men and women.

A recurrent theme is the individualism of modern liberalism. In writing about America in the nineteenth century, Alex- is de Tocqueville hoped that marriage would counteract the individualizing tendencies of liberalism. It looks like instead that individualism is working to weaken the traditional institution. We are trying to understand what is gained and lost by this.

Our discussions have similarly raised questions about the relationship be- tween law, norms and culture. It seems doubtful whether public policy can affect current trends. The question then, as citizens and academics, is whether there is any way to affect our surrounding culture.

We are looking forward to continuing the conversation next semester.