Book Review: The Redemption of Love -- By: Christiane Carlson-Thies
Book Review: The Redemption of Love
Carrie A. Miles
(Brazos Press, 2006)
CHRISTIANE CARLSON-THIES has been a CBE member since its founding in 1987. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland, where she is self-employed as a telecommunications consultant. Previous articles in Priscilla Papers include “Hermeneutics in Pink and Blue” (Fall 2002), and “Man and Woman at Creation” (Fall 2004).
Carrie Miles’ well-written book should be read by all who cherish the institution of marriage and wish to understand (and stem) its decline. Miles, who has a PhD from the University of Chicago, is Associate Director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture. Using the tools of socioeconomic analysis, her book explores two large questions: (1) What biblical norms should anchor marriage and family in every time and place? and (2) What material forces either support or undermine people’s ability to live up to those norms?
But how does a socioeconomic perspective advance our understanding of marriage? Is today’s crisis not a simple moral problem? Miles argues that unless we understand the material environments within which marriages take place—both historically and today—we are unable to distinguish between the God-given norms for marriage that we should follow and the (often un-Godly) traditions and practices that inevitably arise as a response to the brokenness and harsh demands of our post-
Miles devotes two chapters to illuminating the material forces that have fundamentally shaped marriage and family. In “The Economics of the Fall and the Subordination of Women,” she provides a detailed analysis of how, having lost the abundance and bounty of Eden and finding themselves in the toilsome world of scarcity, men and women became harnessed in sexually distinctive ways to the harsh work of survival. Scarcity produced large families, the sexual division of labor, and the cluster of institutions and behaviors we have come to know as “patriarchy.” Scarcity also, Miles shows, required strong controls on sexual behavior outside of marriage.
In a chapter entitled “Love in an Age of Wealth,” Miles turns her attention to the sorry state of marriage and family today. Ours is an economy of abundance, and yet marriage remains broken. In fact, abundance has led to a host of new problems, including widespread divorce and the treatment of children as objects of consumption. Furthermore, controls on sexual behavior that were essential to survival in the pre-industrial economy no longer function today. As a consequence, the very necessity of sexual complementarity for marriage and family is increasingly regarded as irrelevant. Together, the...
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