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41. 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.
42. 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.
43. 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.
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Preface
47. 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.
48. 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.
49. 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.
50. 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.