Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts

Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts

Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts

Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts

Synopsis

While children figure prominently in religious traditions, few books have directly explored the complex relationships between children and religion. This is the first book to examine the theme of children in major religions of the world.

Each of six chapters, edited by world-class scholars, focuses on one religious tradition and includes an introduction and a selection of primary texts ranging from legal to liturgical and from the ancient to the contemporary. Through both the scholarly introductions and the primary sources, this comprehensive volume addresses a range of topics, from the sanctity of birth to a child's relationship to evil, showing that issues regarding children are central to understanding world religions and raising significant questions about our own conceptions of children today.

Excerpt

Marcia J. bunge and don S. browning

Since every person on earth once was or is a child, children and childhood are bound to be central themes in the world’s religions. Indeed, references to children are often found in the authoritative texts, symbols, doctrines, and moral teachings of various religious traditions. Many religious rituals revolve around the birth, naming, coming of age, and education of children. Children often play a role in other rituals and celebrations of religious communities. These communities also have protected and disciplined children in distinctive ways, often affecting not only the family but also the religious and nonreligious institutions beyond the domestic realm.

Although religious traditions have addressed children and childhood, scholars of the world’s religions have generally neglected these themes. What adults have done and said within a religious tradition has received far more attention within the academy. Certainly, scholars have studied issues related to children, such as abortion, sexuality, or the family, but they have not directly focused their attention on attitudes, practices, and teachings concerning childhood in various world religions. This has been a peculiar and regrettable oversight by scholars presenting the world religions to the reading public. To overlook how religions shape and are shaped by children and youth is to misunderstand both children and religion.

Recently, scholars of religion are realizing the importance and value of reflecting on children and childhood. Since the 1990s, a new and rich field of childhood studies is emerging not only in religious studies but also in a range of academic disciplines, challenging many assumptions about children and opening new lines of intellectual inquiry. Important studies on children and childhood are now undertaken not only in those fields typically devoted to children, such as education and child psychology, but also in history, law, literature, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology. Furthermore, scholars in a number of areas in religious studies outside religious education (the field . . .

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