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New book says being loved is the first human right
By April L. Bogle | Emory Law | May 23, 2016 2:05:00 PM

Watch an interview with Jackson about the book.

A new book edited by CSLR Senior Fellow Timothy P. Jackson argues not only that being loved is the most fundamental right of children, but also that society should make sure children are taught to love.

“Rather than the first right being to healthcare, food, shelter, and all those essential things, what if the first right is to be loved and in turn to be taught how to love? We wanted to see what public policy, theology, psychology would say if we acknowledge that right and that central responsibility,” says Jackson, professor of Christian Ethics at Candler School of Theology.

The Best Love of the Child: Being Loved and Being Taught to Love as the First Human Right (Eerdmans, 2011) focuses on “the best love” standard rather than the “best interest” standard for children, not to deny the importance of “best interest,” but to “correct it a bit with a different emphasis,” he says.

The book is a product of the CSLR’s Child in Law, Religion, and Society Project.

“You only learn to love by first being loved, by receiving it while you’re still in need and without merit,” says Jackson. “An issue I find most vexing is what about those who don’t sense a love of God or do not receive love even from their parents, what about those who are so abused early on in life that they are rendered incapable of loving? I think that’s a deep question of justice, a deep question around the justification of God and the problem of evil.”

Twenty scholars offer social-psychological, historical, philosophical and theological, and legal perspectives on what is “best” for children. They explore how to bring out the best in a child, facilitating spirituality, the importance of sharing family stories, the duties and vocations of children, historical lessons in raising a loving child, society’s responsibility for orphans, legal responsibilities of parents, and society’s role in shaping loving children.

Don S. Browning†, to whom the book is dedicated, provides the integrative final chapter, ultimately espousing that the best context for children is the traditional two-parent family. Browning served as CSLR’s first Robert W. Woodruff Visiting Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and was Alexander Campbell Professor Emeritus of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.

“Don wrestles with what it means to take seriously the best of love of the child for family structure, and he argues on the basis of social-psychological data that it is still the case that a two-parent male-female household, intact, is the ideal place to raise a child, to school it into both the receipt and the giving of love,” says Jackson. “There are those who would dissent from that but that’s part of the debate, and I’m certainly clear that this book isn’t going to resolve it with finality.”