As many readers know, the first issue of a volume year includes those essays that have been developed from the “call for proposals” to papers presented, reviewed, and then accepted by the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics from the previous year’s annual meetings of the Society of Christian Ethics (SCE) and our sister societies, the Society of Jewish Ethics (SJE) and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics (SSME). As noted in the first issue from the January 2012 meetings in Washington, DC (JSCE 32, no. 2), the nation’s capitol city provided a splendid backdrop for the gathering and drew 656 scholars. The theme of that issue was the ethical implications and ramifications of war; this issue turns to subjects that demonstrate the breadth of interests that characterize our membership—from the banking industry to health care, from scriptural ethics to faith-based initiatives, and from church and state relations to professional ethics.
This issue opens and closes with essays that touch the heart of our guild. The first essay, a meditation by 2012 SCE president Stanley Hauerwas, engages the work of J. M. Coetzee and his character, Elizabeth Costello, along with a few philosopher interlocutors to tease out John Howard Yoder’s assertion on the “difficulty of reality” that is the Christian ethicists’ burden to bear in the face of hope amidst despair. Inspired by Yoder, Hauerwas understands that history as doxology is the challenge and the responsibility of Christian witness in public and political life as well as personally. Hauerwas here describes his own body of work as on a trajectory of faithfulness to that witness while remaining mindful of the dangers of self-deception, justification, and aggrandizement. He concludes with the challenge to “be a society whose members strive to tell one another the truth about the difficulties of bearing reality.”
Next you will find three essays that uncover ethical reflection from early theological treatises on political engagement to contemporary Christian theology that bear on the research and provide insight into the foundations of those reflections. Aaron Conley considers how master narratives à la Constantinianism serve those who are privileged to the neglect of those who occupy the underside of history. Conley argues that collaborative and self-reflexive approaches to [End Page vii] the narratives will reconcile power, privilege, and marginalization to produce a more robust, accurate, and inclusive story. Bradley Burroughs explores what he identifies as two contrasting conceptions of politics in the United States: state-craft and soul-craft. Rather than allowing their opposition to be set in stone, Burroughs commends their integration in political ethics and demonstrates that the work and life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose ethical pragmatism offers a just social order that informs a just people, exemplified their integration. Keri Day critiques the present state of faith-based initiatives as a remedy for poverty in black communities; she uses a womanist critique to expose those shortcomings. Day is particularly concerned with how these initiatives relieve a symptom here or there in this or that community while they sidestep or ignore the underlying systemic injustices rooted in capitalist economies that exacerbate poverty in the poorest communities and fail the most vulnerable members among them.
Mindful that the United States is not exceptional in either its failures or successes, the next group of essays explores questions of global concern. Jonathan Rothchild examines the ethics of childhood as he raises important questions about the rights and agency of children. While not romanticizing the innocence of children, he recognizes that youthful wrongdoing of even heinous crimes remains crime done by children whose development is yet unfinished. Here Rothchild analyzes recent trends in the US juvenile justice system and uses as a test case the counterintuitive life sentence without parole imposed upon juvenile offenders. Katherine Attanasi reminds readers of the persistent difficulties of preventing transmission of HIV and of the ongoing vulnerability of African women to risk. Attanasi presents what many will recognize as an effective public policy prevention program in Africa, the A-B-C (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) strategy and adds a surprising D for Divorce for the Pentecostal women in her study, a difficult choice...