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61. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Diana Fritz Cates The Religious Dimension of Ordinary Human Emotions
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UNDERSTANDING HOW EMOTIONS ARE COMPOSED AS MENTAL STATES can help us understand the access many people have to their own emotions. It also can help us understand how people might increase this access and make more effective use of it in their efforts to become more free and responsible in their emotional lives. This essay focuses on some forms of cognition that enter into the composition of at least some emotional states. It shows how thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, intuitions, and questions that are arguably religious can condition the ways in which people construe objects and events in their lives and thus the ways in which they form emotional responses to those objects and events. The essay takes its bearings from the work of James Gustafson and Martha Nussbaum.
62. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Douglas A. Hicks Self-Interest, Deprivation, and Agency: Expanding the Capabilities Approach
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IN THIS ESSAY I ENGAGE THE DEBATE AMONG THEOLOGIANS, PHILOSOphers, and economists on the proper role of self-interest in the pursuit of economic well-being. Often, neither economists' use of self-interest nor critics' rejection of it is carefully specified. I consider conditions under which acting in one's self-interest is theologically and morally proper. Specifically, I argue that for socioeconomically disadvantaged persons, increased exercise of self-interest should not be regarded as sinful but as a fitting expansion of agency and well-being. Contextual factors of distribution and the quality of social relations must inform any analysis of self-interest. I introduce a theological perspective on self-interest within an egalitarian Christian framework and suggest ways in which this approach enables further theological and ethical reflection on the proper role of self-interest.
63. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Joe Pettit The Persistence of Injustice: Challenging Some Dominant Explanations
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IN THIS ESSAY I CONSIDER THE PROBLEM OF THE PERSISTENCE OF MASsive injustice in the United States and challenge some of the dominant explanations for this injustice. I argue that most explanations of injustice, such as appeals to corruption in human nature or the political order, only explain the injustice away by making it seem unreasonable to believe that anything could be done about it. Injustice, then, becomes only a state of affairs that is unfortunate for many but about which little can be done, beyond perhaps individual charity. Seeking to avoid this outcome, I argue that the persistence of injustice is best explained by lack of education on the part of citizens. This education involves knowledge of sociological and political realities as well as of ethical expectations requiring response to massive injustice. I conclude with suggestions for how ethicists might do a better of job of teaching about injustice.
64. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Jonathan K. Crane Because . . .: Justifying Law/Rationalizing Ethics
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ONE LINK WITHIN JUDAISM BETWEEN ETHICS AND LAW MAY BE FOUND IN the deployment of rationales in halakhah, Jewish law. Although rationales exist in biblical as well as rabbinic legal sources, in this essay I explore two rabbinic examples that are frequently cited, considered closely related, and applied to interactions between Jews and gentiles: mipnei darkhei shalom ("for the sake of peace") and mipnei eivah ("because of concern to prevent enmity"). I survey the broad range of issues to which these rationales are attached, evaluate current theories interpreting these rationales and their relationship to each other, and conclude with reflections on the dynamic tension between and historical development of halakhah and ethical concerns.
65. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Gloria H. Albrecht Ideals and Injuries: The Denial of Difference in the Construction of Christian Family Ideals
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CONCERN ABOUT THE WELL-BEING OF FAMILIES HAS BEEN A CONSTANT refrain in the history of the United States. Change in family forms often has been regarded as a breakdown of the family and a harbinger of social decay. In each historical period, a family form has been identified as an ideal in contrast to which other forms of family have been found deficient, even dysfunctional. Social policies have been designed to reward "good" families and discourage "bad" ones. Today, the increase in single-mother families, the high divorce rate, and the percentage of children living in poverty often are cited as evidence of the breakdown of the family and abandonment of family values because of a culture of "inordinate individualism." The Marriage Movement particularly represents this view. In this essay I first describe this approach to family values, its use of social science to support its claims, and the influence of this perspective on certain liberal Christian proposals for family ideals. I argue that family ideals assume race, gender, and economic privileges that are not available to all. By ignoring socioeconomic realities for many people, these ideals may mask and reinforce unjust inequalities. In fact, the themes and policies of the defense-of-marriage movement fit nicely with the neoliberal political economy that developed in the second half of the twentieth century. I argue that church and social policies that value families must connect the well-being of all families with a commitment to gender equality and economic justice.
66. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Sumner B. Twiss Humanities and Atrocities: Some Reflections
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FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE causes and mechanisms involved in human rights atrocities, as well as strategies for preventing or interdicting their occurrence. Although I have focused my attention on social scientific and psychological investigations in an effort to develop an integrated schema or framework that could be applied to particular cases, I launched a faculty seminar at Florida State University (FSU) and taught correlated courses on crimes against humanity that specifically used humanistic materials in examining such criminal activity. The underlying rationale for this effort stemmed from the charge to the FSU human rights center to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizing the international, comparative, and interdisciplinary aspects of human rights education and drawing on faculty resources throughout the university's schools and departments. In this essay I report on the theme that emerged in the FSU initiative that human rights education could be especially enhanced by engagement with humanistic materials ranging across history, literature, philosophy, and the arts. These materials can raise profound questions, appeal to the imagination and moral sensibilities, and engender critical and creative thinking.
67. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Paul Lauritzen Humanities and Atrocities: A Response
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SUMNER TWISS HAS ARGUED THAT HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION NEEDS TO be expanded to include work that traditionally is beyond the horizon of human rights literature. Specifically, human rights education could benefit from inclusion of humanistic genres such as novels, poetry, film, drama, and music, which engage our critical and emotional capacities. Examination of humanistic literature in relation to human rights atrocities might provide important and new insights into the causes of human rights abuses. In this essay I suggest that although Twiss identifies an important area for further reflection, there are some reasons to worry about the possibility of blurring genres that his proposal entails. I also suggest that we need to develop criteria for evaluating the kinds of experiential arguments that are frequently embedded in the literature Twiss highlights.
68. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
P. Travis Kroeker Whither Messianic Ethics?: Paul as Political Theorist
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IN RECENT YEARS SEVERAL IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES ON THE ethical and political character of Pauline messianism have been published by continental philosophers such as Alain Badiou, Stanislaus Breton, Jacob Taubes, and Giorgio Agamben. In contrast to the Weberian "secularization thesis," which interprets Paul's eschatological messianism as one of indifference to worldly conditions, these authors—more in keeping with Walter Benjamin and Karl Barth—interpret it as radically political: a challenge to conventional modern politics of human and especially national sovereignty. In this essay I bring these studies of Paul into conversation with recent critical discussions of Christian political theology to consider how messianic ethics may or may not be relevant to contemporary political theory, particularly in reformulating a "secularity" that neither excludes nor privileges particular religious voices and traditions.
69. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Scott Bader-Saye Thomas Aquinas and the Culture of Fear
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FROM POLITICS TO THE MARKETPLACE, FEAR PLAYS AN INCREASINGLY important role in American culture. It shapes decisions as well as character, while it feeds an "ethic of security" that raises personal and national safety to the status of highest good. How might Christians respond faithfully to a culture of fear? This essay draws on Thomas Aquinas' account of fear in the Summa Theologica to provide a set of analytical categories and diagnostic questions in hopes of helping us become more reflective about fear. At the very least, this discussion seeks to reintroduce the premodern categories of ordered and disordered fear to challenge the modern presumption that fear is a pre-political "given" in its twin forms of anxiety and terror.
70. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Stanley Hauerwas, Linda Hogan, Enda McDonagh The Case for Abolition of War in the Twenty-First Century
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IN THIS ESSAY WE ASK WHETHER CHRISTIANS HAVE THE RESOURCES AND the commitment to make the theological-ethical case for ending war as an instrument of international and national policy in an authentically Christian, intellectually coherent, and practically feasible way. Historical precedent for such shifts in mindsets and practices, as occurred with the abolition of slavery, give grounds for hope, as do witness pacifists. In this essay, we argue for a shift in the center of gravity of theological debate by reorienting our vision of the future to the continuing in-breaking of the Reign of God.
71. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
William McDonough Etty Hillesum's Learning to Live and Preparing to Die: "Complacentia Boni" as the Beginning of Acquired and Infused Virtue
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NOT ALL READERS APPROACH DUTCH JEWISH DIARIST AND HOLOCAUST victim Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) appreciatively. Some find her too passive in the face of the Nazi terror. Literary scholar Rachel Brenner, however, praises Hillesum as embodying a "stubborn conviction that love is an inclusive force" for overcoming hatred. In this essay I accept Brenner's reading of Hillesum and attempt to theologize it. That is, I see in Hillesum's writing a deeply theological understanding of what love is and how it works in a human life. After defending Hillesum against her critics, I read her writings through the Thomistic categories of acquired and infused virtues and claim that Hillesum's writing could help Christian ethics recover a voice with which to speak helpfully about love in our day.
72. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Wyndy Corbin Reuschling "Trust and Obey": The Danger of Obedience as Duty in Evangelical Ethics
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IN THIS ESSAY I EXPLORE THE WAYS IN WHICH OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY functions as a moral norm in evangelical ethics, with the potential of constraining and even endangering the multifaceted nature of Christian morality. I consider two particular sources of moral authority in evangelicalism: the Bible and leaders. I discuss the reasons and ways in which obedience to these two sources of moral authority functions in evangelical ethics and provide an ethical critique to these two moral norms and ethical practices. My primary aim is to expand an understanding of Christian morality that takes seriously the narrative dimensions of Christian ethics, conscience formation, moral agency, and skills in moral discernment.
73. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Jan Jans The Belgian "Act on Euthanasia": Clarifying Context, Legislation, and Practice from an Ethical Point of View
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AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF VARIOUS EUROPEAN LEGISLATIVE INITIAtlves dealing with medical-ethical decisions at the end of life and an introduction on the Belgian "Act on Euthanasia," in the first part of this essay I present a concise comparison between the Belgian law and the provisions of Dutch legislation. In the second part of the essay I aim at a better understanding of the Belgian legislation by documenting two (missed) opportunities that might have enhanced the outcome by addressing the complexity of end-of-life decisions and the proper position of palliative care. I offer some preliminary conclusions in light of the implementation of the law in Catholic institutions as well as its first official evaluation.
74. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
David A. Clairmont Bonaventure on Moral Motivation: Trajectories of Exemplification in His Treatment of Voluntary Poverty
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IN THIS ESSAY I EXPLORE THE THEME OF MORAL MOTIVATION IN BONAventure's writings on evangelical poverty. By searching for an implied account of moral motivation in these more directly practical writings, I chart three trajectories of exemplification: meditation on the life of the exemplar as student and teacher (personal motivation), meditation on the exemplar as one who responds in a mediating way to social changes (social motivation), and meditation on the exemplar with respect to future control of one's own environment (temporal motivation). By examining each of these trajectories in Bonaventure's thought with reference to the case of voluntary poverty, I offer an account of moral motivation that embraces individual and psychological, as well as historical and institutional, aspects of moral exemplarity.
75. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
John Langan Hope in and for the United States of America
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IN A CONTEXT IN WHICH THE COUNTRY IS SHARPLY POLARIZED AND ISSUES of public policy are deeply divisive, reflecting on the theological virtue of hope is instructive. The language of hope helps us see that ultimately our hope must be in God, not in a political entity. Nevertheless, we can have hope for the United States that is both generous and critical in spirit. Such hope allows us to chart a course between presumption and despair, and embracing such a hope would go a long way to healing the divisions that currently exist in the country.
76. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Jennifer A. Herdt Virtue's Semblance: Erasmus and Luther on Pagan Virtue and the Christian Life
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BOTH ERASMUS AND LUTHER WRESTLE WITH THE PROBLEM OF APPARENT virtue, although in divergent ways. Luther excludes the possibility of any habituation in true virtue that is not grounded in prior recognition of utter dependency on divine activity. Because social formation may simply conceal the absence of this essential starting point, it is always suspect. By contrast, Erasmus regards grace as working through human activity and by way of natural processes of social formation. He leaves room for gradual habituation in virtue that culminates rather than begins in recognition of true virtue as gift-grace. Thus, Erasmus is able both to countenance true pagan virtue and to offer a differentiated critique of particular social practices of the day that warped formation in Christian virtue. Retrieving an Erasmian critique of apparent virtue will allow a Christian ethics of virtue to avoid communal chauvinism while cultivating charity toward pagan virtue.
77. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
C. Melissa Snarr A New Discipline?: Beverly Harrison and "Malestream" Christian Ethics
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FOR MANY INTERPRETERS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS, BEVERLY HARRISON'S work signals a break from mainstream, or "malestream," ethicists. Although Harrison certainly originated an important shift in Christian ethics, scholars need to recognize not only her breaks but also her continuity with the history of Christian ethics (e.g., her critical appropriation of H. Richard Niebuhr's theological anthropology and social-historical method). I contend that dominant male academic discourse can more easily exclude Harrison—and other feminists—from the conversation if her "themes do not comport" (see Hauerwas 1998) than if we see the connections with traditional "theological and ethical frames."
78. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1
Jeffrey H. Burack Jewish Reflections on Genetic Enhancement
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WHAT COULD BE WRONG WITH SEEKING TO RESHAPE OURSELVES IN WAYS that we genuinely value? Jewish textual and cultural perspectives may add clarity and substance to the wider secular discussion of using genetic technologies for human enhancement. Judaism does not share the naturalism of Anglo-American bioethics; instead, it emphasizes covenantal responsibility for co-creation and stewardship of the body. Judaism tends to be more permissive about social uses of technology but more restrictive about personal aspirations and behavior. Enhancement technologies threaten the moral universals of humility, personal responsibility, and social solidarity, which are embodied in Jewish tradition as duties to God, self, and others. The tradition demands that we seek self-perfection while humbly and cautiously acknowledging that we can never arrive at it nor even know exactly what we seek.
79. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1
Helmut David Baer, Joseph E. Capizzi Just War Theory and the Problem of International Politics: On the Central Role of Just Intention
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IN THIS ESSAY WE ARGUE FOR A RECONFIGURATION OF JUST WAR THEORY around the principle of just intention. A just intention—based just war theory can overcome problems inherent in two alternative "ideal-typical" accounts of just war theory. The "internationalist" account argues for the promotion of justice, by analogy to its pursuit in domestic politics. The "realist" account, on the other hand, favors the particular manifestations of justice within states. Taken together, these two accounts complement each other and emphasize genuine goods. The possibility of taken them together, however, arises only out of consideration of just war theory as a peacemaking activity, ordered to the end, or intention, of this political act. If just war theory is not so understood, there is no possibility of drawing together these two complementary accounts.
80. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1
Brett T. Wilmot Defending Democracy against Its "Cultured Despisers": A Critical Consideration of Some Recent Approaches
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J. JUDD OWEN AND JEFFREY STOUT SUGGEST THE NEED TO RETHINK OUR understanding of the normative commitments of liberal democracy in response to recent challenges from its "cultured despisers" (e.g., Stanley Fish, Alaisdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Milbank). In this essay I argue that Owen and Stout fail to redeem liberal democracy against these critics because they reject the possibility of constitutional neutrality with respect to an indeterminate plurality of religions. As a result, a religious test on citizenship is inevitable under any democratic constitution expressed in their terms, and this test lays liberal democracy open to the despisers' main line of attack. As an alternative, I offer a defense of constitutional neutrality that is based on the work of Franklin I. Gamwell, who has developed a compound conception of justice for this purpose. Gamwell systematically distinguishes between formative and substantive conceptions of justice and the role they play in a theory of constitutional democracy. On Gamwell's account, a democratic constitution expressed as a formative conception of justice will be neutral with respect to all substantive moral disagreement. As such, it can be consistently affirmed by the adherents of an indeterminate plurality of religions. This account of liberal democracy avoids a religious test on citizenship and therefore can overcome the core objection raised against it by its contemporary critics.