Ethics in the Christian Community (7849)                                                         Religion 340
Fall Semester, 1998             TuesdayThursday 10:30-12:10                         Bishop Whipple 49
Stewart W. Herman                                                         Office: Library 459

Office hours: MWF, 2:30-4:30 or by appointment 299-4175

Course Focus

        Who are we to be, and how are we to live? The aim of this course is to explore what the Christian faith in its many voices has offered in response to these perennial questions. First we will explore the very ordinary issue of work and its relation to Christian notions of vocation. Next, we will look at what it means to do ethics in extraordinary times—the Nazi period as experienced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when the very meaning and significance of life is fundamentally challenged—and bring that forward to the issue of assisted suicide. In the second half of the course, we will consider the very foundation of Christian ethics in the person of Jesus the Christ. Who was this man, and what image of him should shape our lives? Finally, we will ask whether the deepening environmental crisis requires us to reconceive fundamentally what it means to be good stewards of creation.

Course Objectives

1. To introduce you to some characteristic claims and methods of Christian ethical reflection.

2. To exercise you in the skills of critical inquiry: reading, discussion, analysis, and imaginative synthesis.

3. To provide pathways by which you can develop a constructive critical understanding of the links between your tradition and your beliefs.

Required Texts

The Bible (NRSV preferred; any non-paraphrased version will do)

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995 [1949]

Borg, Marcus. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. San Francico: Harper Collins, 1994

Hardy, Lee. The Fabric of this World. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990

Hallie, Philip. Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. New York: Harper & Row, 1979

Luther, Martin. Christian Liberty. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1957 [1520]

Stivers, Robert L. et al. Christian Ethics: A Case Method Approach. Maryknoll, NY:              Orbis,1994

Nash, James A. Loving Nature. Nashville:Abingdon, 1991

Other required texts, marked with an asterisk (*) below, will be on reserve in the library. (Pick up at circulation desk.)   Reserve # is given after the text.

1.  one three-page paper
2. two five-page papers
3. email analyses
4. quizzes
5. midterm exam
6. final exam
7. participation
Participation and Attendance. All students are encouraged to contribute to the ongoing discussion, by voice as well as e-mail, papers and exams. I expect to hear from each student at least once per week. (My criteria for evaluating your participation will be distributed and on the home page.) Please come and see me if you find classroom participation difficult or impeded; I will do what I can to help. Since ideas will be developed principally in class discussion, your attendance is vital. Two absences--excused or unexcused--are permitted without penalty. Hoard these for emergencies! 1% of your grade will be removed for each subsequent session missed, even for "excusable" reasons. Exceptions to this policy are possible but rare.

Academic integrity. The design of the class calls for intensive conversation between students and texts, and among students, and I encourage you to form study groups. But such collaboration has boundaries. Any unacknowledged borrowing of material in papers or cheating on a quiz or exam will be rewarded with a zero grade for that piece of work and—depending upon the egregiousness of the dishonesty—a further reduction in grade for the entire course. A second instance will result in an F for the course.

***Note: all course assignments, schedules and other handouts will be posted to the class home page. I encourage you to check the site regularly, particularly as I will be adding links to relevant material as I find them. I also encourage you to make your own discoveries on the internet and call them to the attention of myself or the class.

Class Schedule

I. Christian Ethics in Ordinary Times: Finding Vocation Through Work

September 3 Introduction

September 8, 10 Work as curse, blessing, or fulfillment?

        Read Hardy, chapter 1 (Reserve # 266)
        Genesis 1-3
        1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
        *Soelle, To Work and To Love, chapter 6
        *Terkel, Working: "Mike Lefevre", "Ward Quaal", "Terry Mason", "Anne Bogan", "Nora Watson"
        (Hallie, chapters 1-2)

        Case "Rigor and responsibility" (15-28)

September 15, 17 Work as vocation—Reformed and Catholic views

        Read Hardy, chapter 2
        Luther, Christian Liberty, entire
        Conroy, "Downward Mobility" (handout)
        Ephesians 5:21-6:9 
        Philemon; 1 Timothy 6:1-2

        (Hallie, chapters 3-4)

        Case "Big Business and the Boy’s Club", 165-181

                    Three-page essay assigned

September 22, 24 Work as vocation—contemporary ideals and efforts to adjust work to workers

        Read Hardy, chapters 3, 4
        *Ellul, "Work and Calling" (Reserve # 269)
        *Sayer, "Why Work?"
        *Soelle, To Work and To Love, chapter 9
        (Hallie, chapters 5-6)

        View "Lincoln Electric"


September 27-29 Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium: sessions to be selected

II. Christian Ethics in Extraordinary Times: Affirming Life in the Midst of Death

October 1 Resisting the destruction of life in a small, remote French village

        Read Hallie, chapters 1-7 (Reserve #267)

                    Three-page essay due


October 6, 8 Resisting destruction in a large, cosmopolitan German city

        Read Bonhoeffer, "The Church and the World" (57-65); see also 21-56
        "Ethics as Formation" (66-89, 110-119)


                    [Optional Where and how is God’s kingdom present?
                    Read *Luther, "On Temporal Authority" (excerpt)
                    Bonhoeffer, "Christ, Reality and Good" (186-210 passim)]

October 13, 15 To tell the truth? Always? To everyone?

        Read Hallie, chapter 9
        Bonhoeffer, "What is meant by ‘Telling the Truth’?" (358-367)

        Case Liz Hetland, Eric Weathermon, Eric Patenaude

                    Five-page essay assigned

October 20, 22, 29 Preserving Life: the issue of assisted suicide

          Read Hallie, chapters 11, 12
          Bonhoeffer, "The Right to Life" and "Suicide" (154-171)
        *Verhey, "Integrity, Humility and Heroism: May Patients Refuse Medical         Treatment?"   Reserve # 271)

                    Five -page paper due

        View "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?"

        Case (October 22) "A Good Death for Gleason?" (276-287), Sarah Tollerson, Megan         Kiser, Heather Felsch

        Case (October 29)  Shar Harding, Anderston St. Germain, Eva Ladenburger

III. Jesus as a Basepoint for Contemporary Christian Ethics

November 3, 5 Our stories of his story and the images we construct

        Read Borg, chapters 1, 2 (Reserve #267)
        The Gospel of Matthew

                    Five-page paper assigned

        Case  Sara Al-Bassam, Christy Hudson, Cathy Grothe

November 10, 12 Jesus’ politics of compassion—or of (moral) purity?

        Read Borg, chapter 3
        The Gospel of Luke
        *Henry, "Jesus as the Ideal of Christian Ethics"

        Case "Agenda: Preference for the Poorest?" (70-85)  Katie Gardner, Rachel Hanson, Jenny Iverson

November 17, 19, 24 Jesus as the source and incarnation of wisdom?

        Read Borg, chapters 4, 5
        Proverbs 8, 10-13
        Job 4-9

        Case  Lindsay Swenson, Amy Peterson, John Kipp

                    Five -page paper due

IV. Expanding the Boundaries: Christian Ethics and the Biosphere

December 1, 3 Foundations for a Christian ethic of the environment

        Read Nash, chapters 4, 5
        *McKibben, "The Case for Single-Child Families" (Reserve # 270)

        Case "Snake in the Grass" (129-161) or "The Healthy Christian Life" (182-196)
                Carl Knudson, Brian Hammers, Ben Kadow

December 8, 10 Love as the foundational environmental image?

        Read Nash, chapters 6, 7 and/or 8

 Case "Oil and the Caribou People" (144-162)  Melanie Grothe, Micah Lamb

December 14 Review day

Final exam
December 17, 11-1 pm