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1. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Christine Gudorf, Paul Lauritzen Preface
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selected essays
2. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
William F. May The Shift in Political Anxieties in the West: From "The Russians Are Coming" to "The Coming Anarchy"
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Partly diagnostic, this essay explores the religious background to the shift in the dominant political anxieties of our time: from injustice (or tyranny) to anarchy. The primordial elements of water, fire, earth, and air supply us with powerful images for the dissolution of institutional forms and structures into chaos. In its response to the threat of chaos, the United States runs the danger currently of shifting in its sense of itself: from leading citizen among the nations to imperial power ruling over all nations. On the domestic scene, the country also shows signs of reconfiguring its life after the pattern of imperial Rome. While both order and justice are fundamental social goods—neither of which can be ignored—the essay argues, in closing, for the priority of justice in God's charitable ordering of all things. This article was the Presidential Address at the 2003 SCE annual meeting in Pittsburgh.
3. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Jennifer A. Herdt Locke, Martyrdom, and the Disciplinary Power of the Church
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While refraining from merely reinscribing liberal hagiographies of Locke, this essay questions recent accounts of Locke as facilitator of an insidious subordination of church to state in the early modern period. Locke's defense of toleration and the claims of conscience represent the recovery of key aspects of Christian charity, not the subordination of church to state, and his conception of church membership as voluntary serves as a salutary reminder that loyalty cannot ultimately be coerced, but resides in a bond of trust. While Locke's account of the church is inadequate and his attempt to separate civil and religious realms flounders, these flaws rested in part on problematic assumptions about the fundamentally otherworldly orientation of Christianity and thus the purely instrumental character of the church. These are assumptions shared with earlier Christian thinkers and hardly distinctively modern or liberal.
4. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Joel James Shuman Ethics, Liberalism, and the Law: Toward a Christian Consideration of the Morality of Civil Law in Liberal Policies
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This paper compares the accounts of agency, morality, and law presumed by liberal political theory to the account offered by Thomas Aquinas. In Aquinas, law is among the several "principles of human acts" and is presumed always to have a constructive effect on the moral formation of those living under its aegis. One of its purposes, in other words, is to make women and men good. The liberal account, on the other hand, is relatively less attentive to the constructive effects of law. This difference raises a question concerning the viability of the liberal assumption of a distinction between a morally neutral public law (based in reason) and a private morality (based in personal belief).
5. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
E. Harold Breitenberg, Jr. To Tell the Truth: Will the Real Public Theology Please Stand Up?
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Public theology has been praised for being in keeping with the best of the Christian theological tradition and denounced as a distortion of the church's true calling. However, it is not clear that public theology's advocates and critics always refer to the same thing. In this paper I seek to clarify and refine the conversation by comparing and contrasting descriptions of public theology with other related terms, describing three main types of public theology literature and two main areas of concern they address, proposing a definition of public theology based on a consensus within the field, outlining four basic critiques, and suggesting some implications for the continuing discussion of public theology.
6. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Thomas Massaro United States Welfare Policy in the New Millennium: Catholic Perspectives on What American Society Has Learned about Low-Income Families
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The welfare reform law of 1996 completely overhauled the nation's system of assistance to low-income families. The reauthorization of that law, now several months overdue because of congressional delays, presents an opportunity for religious social ethicists to evaluate the adequacy of our nation's anti-poverty efforts. This paper surveys policy developments from 1996 to 2003 and analyzes five key issues in the reauthorization debate: (1) the size and structure of welfare block grants; (2) work requirements; (3) welfare time limits, sanctions, and exemptions; (4) marriage promotion and the family cap; and (5) ancillary programs providing work supports such as food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies. A variety of ethical critiques of policy proposals is offered, some of them from the perspective of Catholic social teaching. The trail of missed opportunities in welfare reform will probably continue, as American social policy fails to act upon an accurate portrayal of the challenges facing poor families today.
7. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Dov Nelkin "A Threefold Cord Is Not Quickly Broken": Virtue, Law, and Ethics in the Talmud
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Jewish ethics has more in common with the burgeoning field of virtue ethics than generally has been acknowledged within the discourse of contemporary religious ethics. This paper describes the virtue ethics present in the Talmud and other rabbinic texts. Missing from many of the arguments in support of virtue ethics is space for other approaches to ethics, including act-evaluation and the codification of at least some ethical decisions into (moral) law. The approach to virtue ethics found in the Talmud overcomes this dichotomy. Therefore, it is advantageous to bring these Talmudic texts concerned with character and virtue into dialogue with contemporary virtue ethics.
8. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
William Johnson Everett Journey Images and the Search for Reconciliation
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Journey images deeply inform the way people understand processes of alienation and reconciliation, both with other peoples and with the earth. This essay explores classic journey stories from Cherokee life ("The Trail of Tears"), South Africa ("The Great Trek"), and China ("The Journey to the West" and "The Long March") in order to develop an understanding of the different types of journey myths and the way they shape understandings of alienation and reconciliation. People can conflict because they are oriented by very different journey stories or because one party is fundamentally oriented by stories of place. Constructive refashioning of journey myths must appropriate both personal and collective uses of the story and find imaginative ways of reweaving conflicting stories into a new journey myth.
9. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Janet R. Nelson Bioethics and the Marginalization of Mental Illness
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This paper explores why ethical issues associated with mental illness have been generally neglected in the literature and texts of the discipline of bioethics. I argue that the reasons for this are both philosophical and structural, involving the philosophical framework of principlism in bioethics, in particular the privileging of the principle of autonomy, and the institutional location and disciplinary boundaries of bioethics as a profession. Other contributing factors include developments outside of bioethics, in medicine and law and in the delivery patterns and funding sources of mental health services, and above all the pervasive stigma that attaches to mental illness. My goal is to show both how the attention bioethics could bring would benefit this neglected area of health care, and why attending to the issues surrounding mental illness would benefit bioethics in meeting its professional obligations as the public voice on matters of ethical significance in health care.
10. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Audrey R. Chapman Should We Design Our Descendants?
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Rapid breakthroughs in genetic research spurred by the Human Genome Project, advances in molecular biology, and new reproductive technologies are raising the prospect that we may eventually have the technical capacity to modify genes that are transmitted to future generations not only to treat or eliminate diseases but also to "enhance" normal human characteristics beyond what is necessary to sustain or restore good health. This paper explores the ethical and justice implications of such genetic modifications. It argues against developing these technologies primarily because it will not be possible to counter the deleterious justice impacts. It recommends the need for public education and public discussion, preferably with the religious community taking an active role, to shape decisions about future genetic research and applications, and for better regulation of genetic technologies with the potential for inheritable genetic alterations.