Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction

Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction

Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction

Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction

Synopsis

Genetic manipulation. Designer babies. Prenatal screening. The genomic revolution. Cutting-edge issues in reproductive bioethics grab our attention almost daily, prompting strong responses from various sides. As science advances and comes ever closer to "perfect" procreation and "perfectible" babies, controversy has become a constant in bioethical discussion.Amy Laura Hall seeks out the genesis of such issues rather than trying to divine their future. Her disturbing finding is that mainline Protestantism is complicit in the history and development of reproductive biotechnology. Through analysis of nearly 150 images of the family in the mainstream media in the twentieth century, Hall argues that, by downplaying the gratuity of grace, middle-class Protestants, with American culture at large, have implicitly endorsed the idea of justification through responsibly planned procreation. A tradition that should have welcomed all persons equally has instead fostered a culture of "carefully delineated, racially encoded domesticity."The research in Conceiving Parenthood is new, the theory provocative, and the illustrations exceptional. The book is replete with photos and advertisements from popular magazines from the 1930s through the 1950s -- Parents', Ladies' Home Journal, National Geographic, and so on. Hall's analysis of these ads is startling. Her goal, however, is not simply to startle readers but to encourage new conversations within communities of faith -- conversations enabling individuals, couples, congregations, even entire neighborhoods to conceive of parenthood in ways that make room for families and children who are deemed to be outside the proper purview of the right sorts of families.

Excerpt

Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion,
speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent.
Save us, thy people, from consuming passion,
who by our own false hopes and aims are spent
.

Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven,
bringing to hungry souls the bread of life,
still let thy spirit unto us be given,
to heal earth’s wounds and end all bitter strife
.

Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways,
showing to wandering souls the path of light,
walk thou beside us lest the tempting byways
lure us away from thee to endless Night
.

Hope of the world, who by thy cross didst save us
from death and dark despair, from sin and guilt,
we render back the love thy mercy gave us;
take thou our lives, and use them as thou wilt
.

Hope of the world, O Christ o’er death victorious,
who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain,
we would be faithful to thy gospel glorious;
thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign
.

Georgia Harkness, 1954

1. “HOPE of the world,” Words: Georgia Harkness, Words © 1954, ren. 1982 The

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