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The Child Of Mystery
by Sarah Wilkinson
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From Publishers Weekly
Breathtakingly ambitious in scope, written with the author's customary sober and reflective erudition, this wide-ranging exploration of the wonders of the child is both inspirational and slightly elegiac in tone. Although it covers topics such as the tension between nature and nurture in child development, this is no ordinary child guidebook. Professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and a prolific writer on religion, culture, history and theology, Marty's deeply personal and sometimes dauntingly scholarly book urges his readers to abandon seeing a child as a problem to be controlled. Instead, he calls adults not only to nurture wonder in children, but to seek their own "childlikeness," or what, near the end of the book, he terms "childness." While the book is written with a general audience in mind, Marty's understanding of mystery and of childhood is unabashedly rooted in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. A random sampling of sources includes writers as diverse as the late Catholic theologian Karl Rahner and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker. Aimed at all who care for children, this volume is, at least in part, the fruit of Marty's work in Emory University's three-year study of "The Child in Law, Religion and Society." (Apr.)
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Much of today's literature on children treats the child of any age as a problem or a set of problems to be solved, effectively reducing the child to a complex of biological and chemical factors, explainable in scientific terms, or to someone who is the object of control by adults. In contrast, Martin Marty here presents the child as a mystery who invokes wonder and elicits creative responses that affect the care provided him or her.
Drawing on literature as new as contemporary poetry and as old as the Bible, The Mystery of the Child encourages the thoughtful enjoyment of children instead of the imposition of adult will and control. Indeed, Marty treats the impulse to control as a problem and highlights qualities associated with children -- responsiveness, receptivity, openness to wonder -- that can become sources of renewal for adults.
The Mystery of the Child represents a new tack for Martin Marty -- universally respected as a historian, theologian, and interpreter of religion and culture -- but displays the same incisive, erudite quality marking the fifty-plus books and thousands of articles that Marty has previously written. His broad, thoughtful perspective will inspire readers to think afresh about what it means to be a child and what it means to be a caregiver.
This book is sure to claim a wide readership -- parents, grandparents, teachers, humanists, theologians, historians -- engaging anyone wanting to explore more fully the profound realm of the child.
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