Professor Joseph W. McKnight and I were colleagues for fifteen years. On one occasion prior to his death, as he passed by me in the hallowed halls of Storey at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University, he asked, “What’s new with you young lady?” With excitement, I informed him that I was finally nearing the end of my theological doctoral work. With a diplomatic pause, raised eyebrows, and a bit of quip in his voice, he asked me why in the world I wanted a theological doctorate.
As is often the case when faced with such an inquiry, I began to share with him my love for the interdisciplinary synergy between law and theology. More importantly, I emphasized that there are shades of theology in almost every subject of law, especially in procedural concepts. Further, I stressed that biblical precepts have often provided a framework for many laws in several cultures. Family law is no exception.
Without doubt, Professor McKnight, a renowned scholar who literally wrote and helped to revise the Family Code, was well aware of the interplay between theology, concepts in The Holy Bible (hereinafter The Bible), and family law. As a prolific and well-respected writer in the area of family law, he undoubtedly knew where disharmonies and similarities between the two disciplines existed, and even which topics and types of family-related proceedings were riddled with sticky theological ideologies. Thus ostensibly, as we conversed, he was allowing his Socratic bait to invite an interesting dialogue, one which we unfortunately never had an opportunity to finish in depth.
I am thus pleased to continue that interdisciplinary conversation now, albeit in an abridged and occasionally anecdotal manner, as a means to honor Professor McKnight and his love for and contributions to family law. Indeed, it is very fitting that the SMU Law Review is paying homage to Professor McKnight with this Symposium Issue. He was part of the foundational and colorful tapestry that helped to frame the reputation of the Dedman School of Law and to place it on the map among family practitioners and scholars of many disciplines for decades to come. I am honored to be a part of this tribute to him.
Dr. Beverly Caro Dureus, Shades of Theology in Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship: A Tribute Honoring the Memory of Professor Joseph W. McKnight, 71 SMU L. Rev. 339 (2018)