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1. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
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selected essays
2. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
David Cloutier The Problem of Luxury in the Christian Life
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DESPITE ITS PROMINENCE IN BOTH BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL LITERATURE, the moral category of luxury has been lost in contemporary Christian ethics. To address the spending of one's money as a moral act, I propose recovering the category. A survey of the history of the term illustrates its particular place in a set of economic virtues and vices, and suggests that its "defenders" in the eighteenth century rely on arguments that are antithetical to a virtue ethics perspective and are called into question by contemporary science and experience. But what counts as luxury? I conclude with a beginning casuistry in the context of the contemporary economy, suggesting that "cheap" goods may be luxuries but shared public goods are not.
3. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
L. Shannon Jung The Reeducation of Desire in a Consumer Culture
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IN THIS ESSAY I ASSERT THAT AFFLUENT CONSUMER CULTURES INCULCATE in their residents certain forms of desiring. One of those forms tends to silence the complicity that the affluent enjoy through appropriating the material benefits that come to them through the labor and poor living conditions of people in domestic and global poverty. A prime example is the cheap food that political policy and economic structures promote. The affluent are themselves spiritually stunted through the dynamics of complicity. The essay suggests that contrition is a gift of grace in the face of complicity. Consumerism blocks contrition; that is the operative dynamic here. The failure to be contrite blocks the work of grace in people's lives. However, contrition can slingshot those who experience the Christian vision of desire into a budding transformation which reeducates their desires. Some of those consequences involve a redirection of our sensory experience and an increase in community and compassion.
4. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
William McDonough Sin and Addiction: Alcoholics Anonymous and the Soul of Christian Sin-Talk
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THE ESSAY DEMONSTRATES THE SUBTLETY OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA) on sin and addiction. It suggests a parallel between Aquinas's understanding of acedia and invidia as the two vitia capitalia most directly undermining of God's caritas and AA founder Bill Wilson's understanding of two contemporary deadly sins, self-pity and resentment, as the "root" of alcoholics' troubles. I argue that AA's understanding of sin and addiction is relevant far beyond the lives of alcoholics. Indeed, its understanding could help the Christian tradition rediscover the "soul" of its sin-talk, aiding all of us in discerning our sin and in recovering from sin in our lives.
5. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Erin Dufault-Hunter The Downside of Getting It Up: How Viagra Reveals the Persistence of Patriarchy and the Need for Sexual Character
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I BEGIN THIS ESSAY BY EXAMINING HOW OUR "VIAGRA CULTURE"—ATAN-gled web of biotechnology, consumerism, and medicalization—creates an opening for patriarchy in our era. The second section examines how such large sociocultural forces invade women's bedrooms, impacting their intimate relationships. We then consider men who adopt a counternarrative to that of patriarchy and anxiety, whose sexuality is distinguished by tenderness and mutual regard. The essay closes with reflections on how the Viagra culture reminds us of the need to nurture the virtue of generosity, a virtue that marks good sex and characterizes the lovers who practice it.
6. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Karen V. Guth Reconstructing Nonviolence: The Political Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. after Feminism and Womanism
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SCHOLARS OFTEN VIEW MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO political theology in the context of his philosophy of nonviolence. Drawing on feminist and womanist thought, I reconstruct King's theopolitical practice to construe nonviolence more broadly as including any "agapic activity" that forms and sustains community. In doing so, I uncover in King's thought a conception of agape that resonates with feminist emphasis on the relational and community-oriented nature of love, and I draw on womanist thought to highlight the role of creativity, not solely love or justice, to King's ethical thinking. Both emphases suggest a vision of churches as communities of creativity with community-creating practices at the heart of their political roles.
7. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
K. Christine Pae, James W. McCarty III The Hybridized Public Sphere: Asian American Christian Ethics, Social Justice, and Public Discourse
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IN CRITICALLY ANALYZING THE DEADLY VIPER CONTROVERSY AND MARY Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church's social activism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we consider questions concerning the (in)ability of Asian Americans to participate in public discourse in meaningful ways that spur social change while fostering solidarity with other marginalized ethnic groups in the United States. Drawing on Christian theo-ethical reflection on the racial or social identity of Jesus as a hybridized concept, we argue for a robust public discourse that recognizes Asian Americans as a social group without succumbing to the ghettoization of Asian American identity or a withdrawal from engagement with other justice-seeking social groups. In doing so, we look toward constructive modes of public discourse carried out by multiple counterpublics that both give voice to the Asian American community and open the space for collaboration across ethnic, racial, class, religious, and national boundaries.
8. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
John Senior Cruciform Pilgrims: Politics between the Penultimate and the Ultimate
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IN THIS ESSAY I CONSIDER WHETHER POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT MAKES good persons. I first examine how the self is formed as a moral agent in and through the exercise of moral agency in political life, which I call "political agency." Politics is a morally ambiguous context of formation. On the one hand, political engagement trains the skills and virtues conducive to good citizenship in particular and the good life in general. But it also entails the instrumental and even coercive uses of power to countervail the interests of others. This often leaves the self disintegrated. Drawing on John Calvin's moral theology, I argue that God transfigures this fractured, political self in the cruciform shape that lives dedicated to politics take. The political self becomes a site of God's redeeming work in the world.
9. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Vic McCracken In Defense of Restraint: Democratic Respect, Public Justification, and Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics
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WHAT DOES RESPECT REQUIRE OF RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED CITIZENS AS they support coercive public policies? In his recent work, Christopher Eberle argues against the doctrine of restraint, a norm that requires citizens to refrain from supporting laws for which public reasons are unavailable. Against Eberle, I defend the doctrine of restraint as a necessary corollary to liberal democratic respect. For this defense, I draw from one imaginary case, Robert Audi's example of "sacred dandelions" and laws banning lawn maintenance, and one real-world dispute, current debates about same-sex marriage policies. I argue that the doctrine of restraint when coupled with an inclusive definition of public reason better accords with our intuitive sense of what respect requires in both cases.
10. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Kevin J. O'Brien "La Causa" and Environmental Justice: César Chávez as a Resource for Christian Ecological Ethics
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CHRISTIAN ECOLOGICAL ETHICISTS INCREASINGLY RECOGNIZE THAT MORAL response to contemporary problems such as mass extinction and climate change must incorporate and build upon established movements for social justice. This essay contributes to that work by learning from the twentieth-century union organizer César Chávez and his advocacy for justice and environmental health among farm workers. I argue that understanding key themes of Chávez's morality in his context, particularly the universality of human dignity and the importance of personal and collective sacrifice, can contribute to a Christian ecological ethics with a program for social change and justice.