Academic Programs 
      

Theological Ethics and Public Life*   (ET-546)
January Interession and Winter/Spring 2009

This course will examine issues of public morality from a Christian perspective. We begin with a brief introduction to theological ethics, and to the more specific question of how Christian faith can address politics and political issues. We then turn to practical issues in public morality. The course will address issues such as economic justice, poverty and wealth; criminal justice and capital punishment; war and pacifism; environmentalism; and food consumption and animal rights. Attention will be given to how one’s theological commitments transform secular moral problems and their solutions, and to how issues of sexism and racism play into the issues of public moral concern.

 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays, 7 p.m. – 9:20 p.m., beginning Jan. 27

Heidi Gehman
Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:
phone: 

email:

 

Course Syllabus



Course Description: This course will examine issues of public morality from a Christian perspective. We begin with a brief introduction to theological ethics, and to the more specific question of how Christian faith can address politics and political issues. We then turn to practical issues in public morality. The course will address issues such as economic justice, poverty and wealth; criminal justice and capital punishment; war and pacifism; environmentalism; and food consumption and animal rights. Attention will be given to how one’s theological commitments transform secular moral problems and their solutions, and to how issues of sexism and racism play into the issues of public moral concern.

Aims of the Course:

  1. To understand how the discourse of faith can apply to issues of public morality
  2. To learn the key approaches to Christian perspectives on politics and ethics
  3. To apply those approaches to specific moral dilemmas
  4. To learn how to dissect the central ethical issues of a given situation, including social and scientific analyses, feminist perspectives, and the view from the margins of society.

Course Requirements:

  1. Five 3-4 page double-spaced reflection papers on moral issue 12 points each or two 3-4 page reflection papers and a 10-12 page research paper 24 points/36 points
    *Note: Students choosing the second option must write the first assigned 3-4 page paper, and one other, which may also be on the topic of their final paper.
  2. Periodic reading questionnaires 20 points
    Reading questions will be distributed the week before they are due, and should help guide your reading and reflection for that week, as well as provide a basis for class discussion. This should not be onerous; 20-30 minutes of reflection and writing should be enough.
  3. Attendance and Class participation 20 points
    Attendance is expected at each class. Please arrive on time for the 4:30 start of class. Students are expected to have read the assigned reading, and to be prepared to discuss the reading in class, either in small groups or with the entire class. If you are unable to attend class, please send me an email, so that I can forward any assignments or handouts to you.

Further instruction on requirements will be given in class as the due dates approach. The final paper, if undertaken, should conform to the Seminary’s “General Guidelines for a Research Paper.”

Grading Scale:
90-100% A
75-89% B
60-74% C
Below 60% F

*Extra Credit: Students may bring in news clippings on issues discussed in the course, particularly news items that attend to how religion is brought to bear on public moral issues, for extra credit.

A Note About Plagiarism
In all assignments it is assumed that what is submitted is the student’s own original work. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden. As described in the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper, plagiarism occurs when students “submit another person’s work, lift paragraphs, sentences, or even a choice phrase from another writer, or make use of another person’s ideas (even if the student puts these ideas in his/her own words) without acknowledging the source.” A related kind of dishonesty is to resubmit a paper which was done for a different course, even if it is the student’s own work. These practices are not permitted at Hartford Seminary. They will be reported to the Dean’s Office and may result in disciplinary action.” If a paper is found to contain plagiarism, the minimum penalty will be failing that assignment, with no opportunity to rewrite. If you are unsure of the line between plagiarism and legitimate uses of sources (e.g., quotation, paraphrase), see one of the Seminary’s Writing Consultants.

Hartford Seminary Writing Consultant
Hartford Seminary offers all students the services of a Writing Consultant. The Writing Consultant is to help students improve their command of written English, and to help organize essays and research papers.

Writing Consultant:
Jean Blanning. Jean prefers to be contacted by telephone: (860) 233-0376. If you send an email, please allow 24 hours for a response: jmblanning@earthlink.net

PLEASE NOTE: There is a required amount of lead time that is required for the Writing Consultants to be able to review your work. The lead time is as follows:

  • Reflection paper (1-3 pages)
    - Submit to WC at least 5 days before paper is due.
  • Book review (5-7 pages)
    - Submit to WC at least 8 days before paper is due.
  • Research paper (10-12 pages)
    - Submit to WC at least 14 days before paper is due.
    For more information, see http://www.hartsem.edu/student/writingassistance.htm

Course Texts:
Note: These texts are available for purchase at the Seminary Bookstore.

Cahill, Lisa Sowle. Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

De La Torre, Miguel A. Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004.

Linzey, Andrew. Animal Theology. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

Lovin, Robin. Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Wogaman, J. Philip. Christian Perspectives on Politics: Revised and Expanded. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Course Essays:
Note: Please look ahead and be sure to procure articles for the coming weeks’ readings! There will be instruction in class how to get all but one of these essays via the Seminary’s library webpage. They will also be on reserve.

Grizzle, Raymond E. and Christopher B. Barrett. “The One Body of Christian Environmentalism,” Zygon 33, no. 2, June 1998: 233-253 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Harrison, Beverly Wildung. “Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice” (on reserve only).

Lee, Patrick. “A Christian Philosopher’s View of Recent Directions in the Abortion Debate,” Christian Bioethics 10:7-31 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Nelson, Julie A. “Breaking the Dynamic of Control: A Feminist Approach to Economic Ethics,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 19, no. 1, Spring 2003: 27-45 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Ogletree, Thomas W. “Corporate Capitalism and the Common Good: A Framework for Addressing the Challneges of a Global Economy,” Journal of Religious Ethics 30 no. 1, Spring 2002: 79-106 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Perry, Joshua E. “Caring About Restorative Justice: A Reflection Upon the Ethics that Inform Criminal Justice Approaches in America,” Encounter 61, no. 1, Winter 2000: 59-79 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Williams, Alexander, Jr. “Christian Ethics and Capital Punishment: A Reflection,” Journal of Religious Thought Summer/Fall 1992: 59-77 (on reserve and available through library journal search engine).

Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings
Note: All readings should be complete, and reading sheets filled out, for date listed.

Part I: Theory

Section 1: Faith and Ethics
Jan. 27: Introduction to course; The Difference Faith Makes; Theories of Moral Deliberation: Teleology, Deontology, Virtue
Suggested Reading: Robin Lovin, Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide, Chapters 1-4 (pp. 9-79).

Section 2: Faith, Community and Politics
Feb. 3:
Sources for Moral Deliberation (Reason, Tradition, Scripture, Experience); Faith and Community
Read: Robin Lovin, Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide Chapters 5, 6 and Conclusion (pp. 81-125); Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapters 1-3 (pp. 5-47).

Feb. 10: Christian Political Thought
Read:
Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapters 4-8 (pp. 51-153).
Assignment Due: 3-4 page, double-spaced, reflection paper on which of the five views Wogaman presents is most representative of your view. Be sure to clearly present the view (3 pages), and briefly why you favor it over the others (1 page).

Feb. 17: Two Views on the Political Relevance of Christian Faith
Read:
Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapters 9-12 (pp. 159-243); Miguel A. De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapters 1-3 (pp. 3-69).

Part II: Practice

Section 1: Life and Death
Feb. 24: Abortion and Euthanasia
Read: Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapter 15 (pp. 303-323); Beverly Wildung Harrison, “Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice” (on reserve); Patrick Lee, “A Christian Philosopher’s View of Recent Directions in the Abortion Debate,” Christian Bioethics 10:7-31 (on reserve).

March 3: Capital Punishment and the Criminal Justice System
Read: Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapter 16 (pp.325-342); Miguel A. De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapter 11 (pp. 183-199); Alexander Williams, Jr. “Christian Ethics and Capital Punishment: A Reflection,” Journal of Religious Thought Summer/Fall 1992: 59-77; Joshua E. Perry, “Caring About Restorative Justice: A Reflection Upon the Ethics that Inform Criminal Justice Approaches in America,” Encounter 61, no. 1, Winter 2000: 59-79.

Assignment Due: 3-4 page paper on either abortion, capital punishment, or the criminal justice system. Describe the perspective of at least one author read for class, and compare it to you own perspective on this issue. Please identify the author’s and your own views of how faith and politics should inter-relate on issues of public morality.

Section 2: War and Pacifism
March 10: Just War Theory

Read: Lisa Sowle Cahill, Love Your Enemies, Chapters 1, 2, 4-6 (pp. 1-38, 55-118); Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapter 17 (pp. 343-359); Miguel A. De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapter 6 (pp. 101-121).

March 17: Christian Pacifism
Read: Lisa Sowle Cahill, Love Your Enemies, Chapters 8-11 (pp. 149-246).
Assignment Due: 3-4 page paper on either “just war” or pacifism. Describe a Christian view of just war or pacifism, and explain why you do or don’t agree with the view described.

Section 3: Economic Justice, Poverty, and Wealth
March 24: The Role of Government in the Economy
Read: Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics, Chapter 14 (pp. 275-301); De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapters 8, 9, 12-15 (pp. 143-168, 203-261).

March 31: Global Perspectives on Economic Justice
Read: De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapters 4 & 5 (pp. 73-100); Thomas W. Ogletree, “Corporate Capitalism and the Common Good: A Framework for Addressing the Challneges of a Global Economy,” Journal of Religious Ethics 30 no. 1, Spring 2002: 79-106; Julie A. Nelson, “Breaking the Dynamic of Control: A Feminist Approach to Economic Ethics,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 19, no. 1, Spring 2003: 27-45.

Assignment Due: 3-4 page paper on one of the readings from March 24 or 31, describing the argument, with particular attention to the theological views presented, and concluding with your own view on the topic.

April 7: NO CLASS—Reading Week/Easter Break

Section 4: Animals and the Environment
April 14: Christian Environmentalism

Read: De La Torre, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Chapter 7 (pp. 122-139); Raymond E. Grizzle and Christopher B. Barrett, “The One Body of Christian Environmentalism,” Zygon 33, no. 2, June 1998: 233-253.

April 21: Theology for Animals
Read: Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology, Chapters 1-5.

April 29: Moral Dilemmas on the Use of Animals
Read: Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology, Chapters 6-9.
Assignment Due: 3-4 page paper on either Christian Environmentalism or Animal Theology, describing the theological viewpoint of the text, and your own view.

Final Paper: If you are writing a final paper, it is due on May 29, 2009.

 

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