Are You My Mother: Redefining Christian Ethics of Adoption Through the Neo-Confucian Concept of Qi

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Florida Southern College
According to Adoption Network, a U.S. adoption agency, nearly 1.5 million Americans are adopted, and 100 million Americans have an immediate family member who is adopted. Despite the prominent presence of adoption in society, Christian theology and jurisprudence has preserved the assumption that adoptive relationships are inherently inferior to biological relationships. Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth, for example, legitimize adoption on the basis of economics or spiritual need, while suggesting that biological relationships are “natural” and need no justification. Contemporary research on Christian conceptions of adoption continues these trends. To redefine Western Christian perspectives of adoptive relationships, my research looks to the neo-Confucian philosopher Zhang Zai and his concept of qi, the vital energy or life force that permeates the universe. I argue that Zhang Zai’s philosophy of qi promotes a more holistic understanding of the relationships between things. Applied to adoptive relationships in particular, qi recognizes the economic and spiritual characteristics of adoptive relationships while also affirming their intrinsic value. Modern families have diverse compositions, and a Christian ethics grounded in God’s all-encompassing love must recognize the inherent value of adoptive relationships in theory and practice.
Honors Thesis Spring 2022
Adoption, Qi (Chinese philosophy), Christian ethics