Water Is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness

Water Is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness

Water Is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness

Water Is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness

Synopsis

This book considers how homes, households, and domestic life are related to the Church. Early theologies glorified the monastic lifestyle as a way to transcend earthly attachments in favor of supernatural goods. Later thinkers have seen that functioning marriages and families themselves can lead us toward a more righteous society. Issues of gender quickly come into play. Are households the "woman's sphere"? Does this bar women from full participation in the Church? And what of the many people today who are neither married nor consecrated in a holy life? How do we think about the Christian "households" of such singles? Jana Bennett addresses these questions. She insists that both marriage and singleness must be placed in the context of the Christian story of redemption if the questions and problems at stake are to be fully understood. Surprisingly, she finds that Augustine of Hippo, much maligned by modern theologians, is the source of very fruitful reflection on these topics, showing us that both marriage and singleness are most properly set in the context of the salvation story. Most scholars today would agree that Augustine's works have exerted great influence on Western views of marriage, family, and sex. But they would also argue that this influence has been detrimental to a healthy understanding of these topics. However, through the lens of Augustine's work, Bennett shows that marriage and singleness cannot be considered separately, that gender issues areimportant to considering these states correctly and, most important, that the marriage between Christ and the Church is the first mediator in these states of life.

Excerpt

I first began thinking about this book while on retreat at a Carmelite monastery, before I ever decided to study theology. I found myself gripped by twin conflicting societal ideals: one was the thought, gleaned from a few years of educational formation, that I could not be a complete person (especially as a woman in this patriarchal culture) unless I was an individual, free to do whatever seemed right and good to me within the bounds of state laws and common decency; the second was the conviction, based on enticing magazines at the grocery checkout stand, that I could not be complete (especially with that ever-present female biological clock) unless I was dating, falling madly and passionately in love, planning the wedding of my dreams (never mind that I had never dreamed of weddings), and starting to work on building my family.

Carmelites are traditionally hermits and spend part of their time in solitude and contemplation, but also part of their time in community. While watching the monks, both men and women, go about their days, living lives that acknowledged the individual but also the dependence that each had on the other, I began to think that perhaps there was another way to conceive of the world and my place in it, and also to rethink what it means to be married or single, male or female, citizen or homebody. Those first thoughts eventually led me to take up these questions in an academic way. I became suspicious of these two ideals: the overidealization of marriage and the vapid individualism that appeared over and over again, each competing for . . .

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