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21. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Glen H. Stassen It Is Time to Take Jesus Back: In Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of H. Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture"
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In The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr argued that three dimensions are crucial for transformative faith: the sovereignty of God over all; the independence of the living God from captivity to human ideologies or institutions; and a revolutionary strategy with particular normative content from God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Without the historically particular content of the way of Jesus, Christian faith has a vacuum only too eagerly filled by alien ideologies. Hence Niebuhr begins Christ and Culture with a historically particular and concrete understanding of the way of Jesus Christ, and evaluates the five types with this three-dimensional standard. The puzzle is that the farther the book goes, the thinner Jesus becomes, until the concluding chapter backs off from evaluation. Niebuhr moved back to his more Christocentric ethics before he died, and thus recovered his prophetic edge. To learn from Niebuhr's history and teach a transformative faith not accommodated to ideologies of injustice, ethics needs to recover a thicker Jesus. Helpful resources are emerging from which Christian ethicists can draw rich help: the third quest of the historical Jesus, new exegetical and canonical approaches, the new emphasis on normative practices, historically situated narrative ethics, and some models by Christian ethicists, all of which point to a thicker, richer, historically particular way of Jesus in the prophetic tradition of Israel.
22. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Martin L. Cook Just Peacemaking: Challenges of Humanitarian Intervention
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Just peacemaking proposes that it is a creative "third way" between just war and pacifism for Christian engagement with international affairs. It claims that its proposals result from the convergence of a number of important characteristics of the contemporary international scene that cumulatively make this a "kairos" for novel and creative modes of reflection and action. Further, it claims to offer workable and realistic counsel for action in the contemporary world of international relations. This paper critically assesses both claims. It reviews various interpretations of the direction of contemporary international affairs and raises some cautions about too enthusiastic an embrace of just peacemaking's vision of cooperative internationalism. It then focuses specifically on situations that invite intervention in the name of humanitarian concerns. There, the author finds some elements of just peacemaking to be an important supplement to the capabilities of military forces to intervene effectively and to transition successfully to nation-building activities that are necessary if intervention is to have a lasting positive effect.
23. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Ronald H. Stone Realist Criticism of Just Peacemaking Theory
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Many of the ten practices to abolish war of just peacemaking theory can be appropriated by classical realist thinkers to illumine possibilities of more peace for the post-cold war situation. The optimism of just peacemaking theory about abolishing war, however, does not need to be appropriated. Realist participation in the just peacemaking project can proceed but only with reservations about what seems to be a mixture of optimism and Kantian idealism about the future peacefulness of a capitalist world, and the illusion that war will disappear from the world. Realism, grounded more in the prophets than the just peacemaking project and more in the prophets' moral critique than in Thucydides' cynicism, provides a stronger foundation for policy advice than the Sermon on the Mount which did not focus on international relations. The striking lack of attention by Jesus to questions of the management of the Roman Empire and the ethics of war and peace permits Christians to consult books of the Bible where international relations and foreign policy are prominent for moral wisdom on the subject.
24. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Glen H. Stassen The Unity, Realism, and Obligatoriness of Just Peacemaking Theory
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Just peacemaking theory is a new paradigm for Christian ethics alongside just war theory and pacifism. It answers a different question than just war theory and pacifism seek to answer: not the question of justification, but prevention. The ethical norms of just peacemaking are not ideals or principles, but realistic, historically situated practices that are empirically demonstrating their effectiveness in preventing war. They are interactive, community practices that inherently engage in dialogue with diverse others, as befits a postmodern or pluralistic age. By no means does just peacemaking theory predict that there will be no more wars, or that the state is withering away, but it focuses on realistic, empirical evidence that ten historically effective practices are in fact preventing wars, and therefore, they have similar obligatoriness as do the principles of just war theory and pacifism.
25. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Julie Hanlon Rubio Three-in-One Flesh: A Christian Reappraisal of Divorce in Light of Recent Studies
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The author argues that Christian theologians must consider the suffering of children in their moral evaluation of divorce. A review of recent social science literature shows the negative consequences of divorce, especially in low-conflict cases, and suggests the need to return to the tradition for retrieval of theologies of marriage that include children. In St. John Chrysostom, the author finds a three-in-one flesh metaphor that she claims is a more adequate description of marriage with children as lived reality. With the addition of parallel material from Vatican II and John Paul II, the author argues, it is possible to construct a new theology of marriage that moves beyond relationship to include commitments to spouses, children, and society.
26. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Simeon O. Ilesanmi So that Peace May Reign: A Study of Just Peacemaking Experiments in Africa
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Post-colonial Africa's political stability, economic growth, and human development have been impeded by a vicious circle of ethnic rivalry and civil wars. This article examines the various attempts in Africa to move beyond the traditional lens of pacifism and just war theory in curtailing the deleterious effects of war. These attempts, which are also consistent with the theoretical proposal of just peacemaking, have had mixed results on the continent. The article focuses on Liberia and Rwanda to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of just peacemaking theory, and concludes with a few suggestions on how its vision might be better pursued in Africa.
27. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Lisa Sowle Cahill Just Peacemaking: Theory, Practice, and Prospects
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The just peacemaking project is a commendable effort to derive proactive initiatives from the teachings of Jesus and a strong sense of Christian discipleship, and to make these effective in volatile political situations. The project could be strengthened by a more explicit doctrine of sin, and an ethical justification of coercion. Recent debates among political scientists about effective social action in the era of globalization can also offer insights to enhance the political plausibility of the just peacemaking theory.
28. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Cynthia S. W. Crysdale Playing God?: Moral Agency in an Emergent World
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Arguments against intervening in nature's ways have been used against many new technologies in the last century. Many of these arguments have employed the metaphor of "playing God." In this essay I briefly review the use of the term "playing God" in recent decades. I then examine the cosmology that lies implicit in this language. My thesis is that the language of "playing God" (or not) overlooks the dynamic, evolutionary nature of world process—the role played by the indeterminacy of statistical probabilities. I review the notion of "emergent probability" (Lonergan) in order, in the end, to advocate an ethic of risk that both recognizes the dangers of hubris and includes an open and emergent view of creation.
29. 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.
30. 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).
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Theo A. Boer After the Slippery Slope: Dutch Experiences on Regulating Active Euthanasia
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"When a country legalizes active euthanasia, it puts itself on a slippery slope from where it may well go further downward." If true, this is a forceful argument in the battle of those who try to prevent euthanasia from becoming legal. The force of any slippery slope argument, however, is by definition limited by its reference to future developments which cannot empirically be sustained. Experience in the Netherlands—where a law regulating active euthanasia was accepted in April 2001—may shed light on the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the slippery slope argument in the context of the euthanasia debate. This paper consists of three parts. First, it clarifies the Dutch legislation on euthanasia and explains the cultural context in which it originated. Second, it looks at the argument of the slippery slope. A logical and an empirical version are distinguished, and the latter, though philosophically less interesting, proves to be most relevant in the discussion on euthanasia. Thirdly, it addresses the question whether Dutch experiences in the process of legalizing euthanasia justify the fear of a slippery slope. The conclusion is that Dutch experiences justify some caution.
38. 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.
39. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Christopher P. Vogt Practicing Patience, Compassion, and Hope at the End of Life: Mining the Passion of Jesus in Luke for a Christian Model of Dying Well
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Four centuries ago, Christian moral theologians addressed the issue of dying by turning to scripture and the virtues. This work revives that tradition by showing that careful theological reflection upon the nature of Christian patience, compassion, and hope illuminates the shape of the Good Death. The author draws upon Luke's passion narrative to develop a better understanding of these virtues. He also takes up the question of whether Jesus' death can be a model of dying well for contemporary Christians. Christians are often advised to look to Jesus in his dying as a model for themselves, but this recommendation typically leaves unanswered what exactly it is about Jesus' dying that is to be imitated. The understanding of patience, compassion, and hope developed here provides a means of sorting through this issue.
40. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
William Mattison Virtuous Anger?: From Questions of "Vindicatio" to the Habituation of Emotion
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Can a Christian experience virtuous anger? Anger is most commonly understood as a desire for vindicatio, which is the rectification of injustice. Recent discussions of anger in theological ethics have focused nearly exclusively on the possibility and parameters of Christian vindicatio. While this issue is crucial, attending to it alone neglects equally important questions concerning the moral evaluation of an emotion. Does it make sense to label an emotion such as anger praiseworthy or blameworthy? If so, how does one develop virtuous anger? In this essay, I rely on Thomistic moral theology and contemporary neuropsychology not only to argue that anger is a moral phenomenon, but also to explore how one might progressively develop a disposition to experience good anger.