Academic Programs 
      

  Theological Ethics and the Public Life (ET-546) * 
Fall 2004

Ethics involves examining life in an attempt to interpret what is going on.  Theological ethics undertakes this examination with the conviction that all things exist in relation to God.  In this course we will survey models of our common life that have prevailed in western Christianity in the modern period, reflect on the religious symbols, stories, practices and habits by which we make sense of what is going on in public life, and consider what possibilities exist for fostering a civil society.  Issues to be considered include religion and politics, human rights, war and revolution, and the treatment of animals. 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m.  

Kelton Cobb
Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:
phone: 
(860) 509-9500
email:  

Worth Loomis
Professor of Faith and Public Life

Contact Information:
phone: 
(860) 509-9500
email: 


Dear TH-546 students,

Welcome to the course "Theological Ethics and the Public Life."  Worth Loomis and I look forward to meeting those of you we haven't met before, and seeing again those of you we have had in previous courses.  Be aware that we have a heavy reading schedule planned for the course--there are so many important things going on in our public life at the moment, and there just happen to be some marvelous books available to explore these things. 

Because a paper will be due on it at our third class meeting, we strongly recommend that before the semester starts you begin reading the novel, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat, by Steven Lukes.  It is fiction, and therefore qualifies as good summer reading--even worth taking to the beach or wherever you may be planning your final summer outing.

Happy reading, and we will see you on September 16th!

Kelton Cobb
Professor of Theology and Ethics


PURPOSE OF COURSE:  Ethics involves examining life in an attempt to interpret what is going on.  Theological ethics undertakes this examination with the conviction that all things exist in relation to God.  In this course we will survey models of our common life that have prevailed in western Christianity in the modern period, reflect on the religious symbols, stories, practices and habits by which we make sense of what is going on in public life, and consider what possibilities exist for fostering a civil society.  Issues to be considered include religion and politics, war and revolution, terrorism, and human rights.

 

AIMS OF COURSE:

  • to surface and reflect on some metaphysical presuppositions that underlie ethics

  • to examine several concrete proposals for doing Christian ethics

  • to gain a basic working knowledge of political theory

  • to investigate Christian & other sources from which our society draws its political commitments

  • to consider the look and feel of democracy from outside of the U.S.

  • to understand the development of the just war doctrine and pacifism in Christianity

  • to better understand the complexity of connections between religion and terrorism

  • to gain a working knowledge of the history and concept of human rights

  • to engage in ethical reflection on genocide
  • to assist the student in developing a theologically-informed approach to moral deliberation
  • to practice ethical reflection on specific and current issues in our public life

 

COURSE TEXTS:

Steven Lukes, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat

J. Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics

Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad

Lisa Sowle Cahill, Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory

Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

Michael J. Perry, The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries

Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics
*Because this book is out of print, you will have to order a used copy.  Many are available through www.amazon.com and www.abebooks.com.  Plan ahead and order it soon.
 

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

         1) 3 page reflection paper               20 points
      
   2) 3 page reflection paper               20
      
   3) Ethics portfolio and briefing         50
      
   4) Research paper (12-15 pages)   100
      
   5) Attendance and participation       60
                        
                                  250 points

 

EXPLANATION OF REQUIREMENTS:

1) The first 3-page reflection paper is due on September 30.  It is to be typed and double-spaced, 1” margins all around, 12 point font.  Propose a blending of two of the countries visited by Professor Caritat that would result, in your judgment, in the best of all possible worlds--given the limitations of the five countries you have to work with (Militaria, Utilitaria, Communitaria, Proletaria, and Libertaria).  Identify the best features of each of the two that you select, and suggest what it is about the distinct way of life found in each that balances out the weaknesses in the other you’ve selected.   

2) For the second 3-page paper (due December 2), you are to reflect on the account of Rwanda found in Philip Gourevitch’s book in light of Michael Perry’s arguments regarding human rights.  Using the Rwanda case as evidence, argue for or against one of Perry’s arguments--e.g., human rights are a) ineliminably religious, b) universal, or c) not morally absolute.  Note: concentrate on only one of these arguments, not all three.  Paper is to be typed and double-spaced, 1” margins all around, 12 point font. 

3) You are to compile an “ethics portfolio” over the course of the semester.  The contents of this portfolio will be clippings (articles, stories, editorials, book reviews, cartoons, ads, film reviews, etc.) from the New York Times (Sunday edition) or The Wall Street Journal and at least one religious periodical (e.g., America, Christian Century, Christianity Today, Commentary, Commonweal, First Things, Islamic Horizons, National Catholic Reporter, The Other Side, Sojourners, Tikkun), related to the social issue of your choice.  The intention is to select an issue you have a particular interest in and track it over the course of three months.  It is recommended that your final research paper be on the same issue.  You will be asked to brief the class on its contents one time during the term.  Possible issues include: immigration, party politics, the environment, the media, women’s rights, human rights, treatment of animals, economic justice, urban poverty, welfare reform, affluence, the civil society, race relations, public schools, medicine,  managed care, war and revolution, the developing world, the “new world order,” a particular business or industry, politics and religion, global trade, etc.  The portfolio is to be organized according to key words, and submitted with an index when you turn in your final research paper.

4) For your research paper (12-15 pages) you are to work out, with the help of models you have been exposed to in class, your own approach to ethical deliberation and to use this to crack open the moral dimensions of a particular social issue.  In describing your approach you will be asked to include certain key features, such as central metaphors, values, or ideals, the nature of human agency, and sources of authority.  More will be said about this later in the term.  A one page preview (including preliminary bibliography) of your paper is due by November 18.

5) Students are expected to be present at each class, to read the assigned texts by the scheduled dates, and to participate actively in class discussions.


GRADING:

The grading formula used in this class follows an unconventional pattern.  The interval between letter grades is 20%.  This scale allows for more room to move within each grade level, and thus more careful distinctions within each level.  Within letter grades, there will be +’s and -’s.  Every assignment and the course grade will follow this scale:   

 

250pts

100pts

60pts

50pts

20pts

A=

250-200

100-80

60-48

50-40

20-16

B=

199-150

79-60

47-36

39-30

15-12

C=

149-100

59-40

35-24

29-20

11-8

F=

99-0

39-0

23-0

19-0

7-0

 

SCHEDULE OF TOPICS AND READINGS:

Note: The readings indicated for each class date are to be read for that class.

FIRST SEGMENT:  POLITICS AND CHRISTIAN FAITH

September 16:

Theological/Ethics/and Public Life  
Lukes, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat
 

September 23:

Basic Approaches to Moral Deliberation
Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, 1-154 

September 30:

Political Theory 101  
Lukes, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat

Assignment due:  3-page essay: Blend 2 countries visited by Prof. Caritat 

October 7:

Christianity and the Political Order  
Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, 155-245
Zakaria, The Future of Freedom, 29-58

 

October 14:

 

The Meanings of Democracy  
Zakaria, The Future of Freedom, 13-27, 119-198, 239-264
Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, 249-274


SECOND SEGMENT:
 JUST WAR AND PACIFISM  

October 21:

 

Development of the Just War Doctrine 
Cahill, Love Your Enemies, 1-148

October 28:

The Limits of Just War  
Cahill, Love Your Enemies, 149-246

THIRD SEGMENT:  RELIGION AND TERRORISM

November 4:

Religion as a Source of Terror  
Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, 3-83
Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, 4-62
 

November 11:

Religion as an Inhibitor of Terror  
Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, 119-243

FOURTH SEGMENT:  HUMAN RIGHTS

November 18:

A History of Human Rights  
Perry, The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries, 3-42, 57-106

Final paper preview due
 

 

December 2:

The Use of Human Rights in Moral Judgment  
Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, 63-353

Assignment due:  3-page essay on human rights and Rwanda

FIFTH SEGMENT:  THEOLOGICAL ETHICS

December 9:

Christian Realism  
Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics, 1-83

 

December 16:

Theological Ethics as Public Theology  
Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics, 84-146
Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, 361-363
 

January10:

No class, but final paper and clippings file are due

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500  info@hartsem.edu