If your mother is drowning in one location and two strangers in another, should you save your mother or the two strangers?
We live in an era of transition between more stable ages. We face material choices now that will shape and serve our communities for long generations to come. Society is emerging in fits and starts from centuries of essentialism that defined people by race, gender, religion, and class into narrow identities with determined roles.
People appeal to Bonhoeffer to justify a range of moral choices. They tend to ignore his emphasis on context and the need for constant discernment.
Reinhold Niebuhr once broke with the editor of this magazine to argue that moral responsibility requires resisting evil with force. It’s a compelling argument, but it doesn’t justify torture.
How do we move from Jesus' core ethical mandate to the complex issues we face in the modern world?
In the first issue of the magazine named the Christian Century, in January 1900, the editors said that their special interest was in “the application of Christian principles to character and social problems.” They also spoke of their hope to make the kingdom of God “a divine reality in human society.” This, of course, was what we know today as the “social gospel”—the attempt to move beyond individual piety to address broad social problems. What relevance does that social gospel vision have today?