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21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
James P. Bailey Asset Development for the Poor
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This essay examines asset development for the poor as an approach to reducing poverty. Because there has been very little discussion of this approach by Christian ethicists, my primary purpose is to introduce and defend the rationale for developing assets for the poor. I begin with a discussion of conservative and liberal approaches to poverty reduction, arguing that the favored policies of both are founded upon the belief that poverty is best understood as a state of consumption deprivation brought on by deficient levels of income. I suggest that the focus on consumption and income, while obviously important in light of the material deprivations of the poor, is not in itself a sufficient response to the needs of the poor. This leads to a discussion of past and present public policies that have stimulated asset development. A characteristic feature of many of these policies is that they have provided both material and institutional support for asset development, but only for the nonpoor. If public policies have helped the nonpoor to save, why should we not develop policies that help the poor do the same? Some suggested approaches to developing assets for the poor are then reviewed. Finally, I briefly discuss points of convergence between Catholic social thought and asset-development approaches to poverty reduction.
32. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Traci C. West Constructing Ethics: Reinhold Niebuhr and Harlem Women Activists
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The ideas of Reinhold Niebuhr about public ethics that were generated in his essays and books during the 1930s and early 1940s coexisted in the same Harlem neighborhood with ideas about public ethics generated by black women activists working for social change during this historical period. This essay explores an approach to constructing Christian ethics by placing these perspectives, by Niebuhr and the Harlem women activists, in "conversation." Highlighting their common quest for ideas that help to bring radical social change to alleviate subjugating conditions, I specifically analyze the differing understandings of Marxist communism by Niebuhr and Harlem women Communist Party activists. I suggest that a dialogue such as this can fruitfully inform considerations of self-interest, political struggle, and the role of religion in building public ethics for a pluralistic society.
33. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Patrick T. McCormick The Good Sojourner: Third World Tourism and the Call of Hospitality
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International tourism has grown twenty-eight-fold since 1950, bringing one-fifth of its 698 million annual arrivals to developing nations. The industry is the second largest source of foreign exchange for the world's poorest forty-nine nations, and developing nations account for 65 percent of the 200 million jobs created annually by tourism. But half of tourist dollars leak back to the developed world, and tourism workers earn 20 percent less than employees in other sectors. Meanwhile, a flood of First World tourists threatens to exhaust local resources, and sex tourism enslaves millions of women and children. Before hospitality was a $4 trillion industry, it was a biblical mandate to aid the needy. Yahweh commanded Israel to extend hospitality to the alien (Lev. 19). Jesus demanded a radical hospitality to outcasts (Luke 14). And the early church saw hospitality as basic to discipleship (1 Tim. 3:2). In a setting where contemporary travelers have much more wealth and power than their hosts, the "good sojourner" is called to practice a hospitality that preserves and sustains the environment while protecting the rights, culture, and heritage of indigenous peoples.
34. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Rebecca Todd Peters The Future of Globalization: Seeking Pathways of Transformation
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The phenomenon of globalization is widely recognized as the dominant rubric for describing life in the twenty-first century, yet fierce debates are currently being waged over its definition and beneficence to society. This essay offers a typology of four competing globalization theories— neoliberal, development, earthist, and postcolonial—that currently dominate globalization discourses and briefly sketches the constituencies, ideological underpinnings, and moral vision of each as background. It then critiques these theories using a set of normative criteria offered by the author. These criteria are framed to answer the question "What constitutes the good life?" and are rooted in a feminist, Christian ethical analysis of globalization. They delineate a democratized understanding of power as the context of moral agency, define humanity's purpose as caring for the planet, and establish that human flourishing is evidenced by the social well-being of people. The paper concludes by suggesting some pathways of transformation that build on these criteria.
35. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Larry Rasmussen Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice: Moral Theory in the Making?
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This essay provides an analysis of environmental racism and the environmental justice movement with a view to implications for Christian moral theory. Three topics are analyzed: the collective and systemic nature of injustice, the presentation of the ecocrisis, and environmental justice as social transformation. The outcome for Christian ethics turns on the boundaries of moral community—who is in, who is out, on whose terms—and on revisions in theories of justice.
36. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Julia Fleming The Right to Reputation and the Preferential Option for the Poor
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For many centuries, moral theologians devoted significant attention to the significance of honor and fama (reputation), yet this extensive inheritance sparked little sustained analysis in the second half of the twentieth century. One particular challenge for a renewed theology of reputation concerns its consistency with a preferential option for the poor. Marginalized persons are often the victims of traditional offenses against fama, especially rash judgment, slander, and insult. Bad reputation poses a significant barrier to their social participation. The strengths and weaknesses of Catholic approaches to fama become clear when one considers them in light of the circumstances of the disadvantaged. Catholic moral theology should thus revisit and revise its treatments of reputation in light of a commitment to the preferential option for the poor.
37. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Margaret E. Mohrmann Integrity: Integritas, Innocentia, Simplicitas
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THE OBJECT OF THIS ESSAY IS TO EXPLORE PRIOR CHRISTIAN CONCEPTIONS of integrity to clarify and deepen current understanding of the term, by demonstrating its evolution and bringing forward nuances of meaning that may be overlooked or deemphasized. In doing so, I hope to contribute to a broader discussion of the place of integrity in present-day Christian ethics.
38. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Ann E. Mongoven Integrity versus Impartiality: Healing a False Dichotomy
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A FALSE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN INTEGRITY AND IMPARTIALITY HAS become entrenched in contemporary ethical and political theory. Drawing on the work of Bernard Williams and Alasdair MacIntyre, this essay sketches the dichotomy and argues for its ultimate falseness. Eco-theologians' innovative use of the term "integrity" suggests directions for transcending the false dichotomy. Increasingly, the term "integrity of creation" is used to flag religioethical dimensions of ecology. This usage changes the subject of integrity from individuals to systems, implying that personal integrity is a derivative concept that is related to how one responds to the complexity of systems. A structurally parallel change in the subject of integrity would benefit political theory. It would promote an "ecological politics" that integrates alternative definitions of integrity as wholeness, consistency, and balance. It also would suggest new conceptions of civic virtue that avoid dichotomizing between personal integrity and public impartiality.
39. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
June O'Connor Ethics in Popular Culture
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ETHICS IS ABUNDANT IN POPULAR CULTURE—IN RADIO TALK SHOWS, television, films, moral advice columns, books and workshops on popular psychology and spirituality, and other venues. This essay explores the ways in which ethics is presented in three select popular settings; the ethical questions addressed in those settings; the moral theories, perspectives, and values that are privileged in opinions offered; and the judgments that are proffered. Of special interest to professional ethicists are the ways in which ethics in popular culture participates in the ways ethics is done in the academy and the ways in which popular media frame and foster ethics differently from the ways the academy does. This article was the Presidential Address at the 2004 Society of Christian Ethics annual meeting in Chicago.
40. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Timothy A. Beach-Verhey Exemplifying Public Discourse: Christian Faith, American Democracy, and Martin Luther King Jr.
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MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. IS UNIVERSALLY REGARDED AS ONE OF THE most important figures in twentieth-century American public life. Yet his subtle integration of Christian faith and democratic values runs afoul of many current theories concerning faith, liberal democracy, and public discourse. Putting John Rawls's secular liberalism and Stanley Hauerwas's Christian traditionalism in conversation with Martin Luther King's words and deeds reveals the weaknesses inherent in both Rawls's and Hauerwas's approaches. Furthermore, the exemplary model of public discourse that King embodied provides clues to a way out of the impasse between secular liberalism and Christian traditionalism. Ultimately, this examination of Martin Luther King Jr. points toward a theocentric model of public engagement that is appropriate (and necessary) for public discourse in a pluralistic, democratic context.