Ethics

April 28, 2016

At the Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals, Myths, Theologies, Sacraments, and Mission of the Religion Known as the Modern Global Economy, by Scott W. Gustafson. Money has become a kind of god and our relationship to it a kind of worship, replete with liturgical orderings and sacramental offerings. Gustafson incisively lays bare our faith that capitalism will simultaneously make us rich and save us from the moral and material excesses of those riches. Placing our life with money in the larger economy of God, he shows how the smaller economies that dictate our daily lives are either worshipful or idolatrous.

The Cross and Gendercide: A Theo­logical Response to Global Violence against Women and Girls, by Elizabeth Gerhardt. This much-needed work uses research data, individual stories, and short histories to explain how domestic violence, sexual assault, female circumcision, and murder continue to determine the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world. Drawing on Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gerhardt situates this violence in its particularity and locates Christ as present with these women and girls in empowering ways. The book’s Lutheranism grants it both an unflinching look at gendered violence and an uncompromising commitment to its eradication.

Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, by Wesley Hill. Hill examines the conditions necessary for gay and lesbian Christians to live faithfully celibate lives: namely, the church as a community that offers lifelong companionship for married and unmarried people alike. He believes that gay and lesbian Christians are called to celibacy, and that if they are to live into their vocations, the church needs to pony up. While this book will likely be appropriated to one side of the debates around gay marriage, it is most basically a surprisingly powerful portrayal of friendship—with all that it demands and all that it promises.

Change of Heart: Jus­tice, Mercy, and Mak­ing Peace with My Sister’s Killer, by Jeanne Bishop. This book begins with a harrowing account of loss and suffering and ends with an equally harrowing account of Christian discipleship. Along the way Bishop grippingly relates the murder of her sister, brother-in-law, and their unborn child, elaborating her own journey from rage to reconciliation. In the middle stands the outrageous Christian obligation to forgive and an equally impossible hope for justice. Bishop’s story has become a watershed moment in national conversations about gun control and capital punishment.

Creation in Crisis: Sci­ence, Ethics, Theo­logy, by Joshtrom Ku­ree­thadam. In­creasingly so­phis­ticat­ed treatments of “creation care” are cropping up everywhere. Kuree­­thadam turns from environmentalist notions of management toward a more intimate view of the world as our common home, a place where all of life is bound up with God. He presents the science he elegantly lays out within a theological account of God as creatively, incarnationally, and eschatologically related to our common home.

Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics: Alternative Views on Christians and Markets, by Alistair Young. Young analyzes the economic forces that make for domination and devastation and only sometimes development. This book is a primer on what environmental policy can, does, and should look like. At the same time, it advocates for broad-based political engagement on the part of Christians.

A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organiz­ing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy, by Richard L. Wood and Brad R. Fulton. The authors look to exorcise three demons “bedeviling” American society: unparalleled economic inequality, policy paralysis, and racial inequality. Wood and Fulton turn their hopes to faith-based community organizers, who often find themselves at the intersections of economy, politics, and identity. In navigating these issues, faith-based organizers model democratic life. Loaded with firsthand accounts, accessible critical analyses, and spirited conviction, this book exemplifies religious witness and political participation.

Asian American Christian Ethics: Voices, Methods, Issues, edited by Grace Y. Kao and Ilsup Ahn. I include this book not because I contributed a chapter to it but because it fills a gap in the field of ethics. Most theological publications dealing with race and ethnicity divide between black and white or between American and non-American, in the process leaving out Asian American voices. This landmark volume seeks to remedy the situation. Organized by chapters discussing specific moral issues (for example, war, the environment, marriage), the book will serve anyone learning about Asian American Christianity and the everyday ethical thinking of Asian American Christians.

Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought, by Alice Crary. This book is as important as it is difficult. Crary offers a novel approach to the study of Ludwig Wittgenstein, asking how to envision and practice the moral life in a way that avoids robbing us of our humanity. She relies on philosophical and literary modes of argument and is particularly interested in whether our approach to ethical questions helps us better see the world.

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