- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195119169
- ISBN-13: 978-0195119169
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,324,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Ethic For Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics
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"Shriver offer profound insight into the nature of forgiveness, often contributing such time-worn platitudes as forgive and forget. His discussions of German-American and Japanese-American relationships and the race relations in America are both provocative and instructive for those seeking to understand the implications of the Christian faith."--Jennifer L. Rike, University of Detroit Mercy
"A powerful and moving book, highly recommended for anyone willing to apply ethical reasoning to issues as urgent as this morning's headlines."--Choice
"By looking carefully at how post-war America has dealt with Germany, Japan, and racial problems within our own borders, Shriver examines how forgiveness can have profound political consequences."--America
"This sprawling book, which reaches back to Thucydides, the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the Reformation and the Enlightenment before tackling modern times, amply illustrates the consequences of endless cycles of violence and revenge, and the human reluctance to ask and offer forgiveness."--The Washington Post Book World
"Sometimes a book appears at precisely the right time. Shriver's An Ethic for Enemies should be required reading for political leaders, educators, clergy, the media, and so-called ordinary citizens....Shriver brilliantly describes why and how human conflicts can be successfully resolved, and how people of differing races, religions, and backgrounds can live together in mutual respect and understanding."--A. James Rudin, National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee writing in Religion News Service
"This book grapples successfully with a difficult and illusive concept--forgiveness in human history and especially in politics. We learn here that forgiveness is not a quaint notion but a vital process of human interchange. Without it, we fail to understand our current relations with Germany, Japan, and Russia on the international scene or race relations domestically. America has a lot to learn about forgiveness, and this brilliant book gives everyone a powerful head start."--Everette E. Dennis, author of Of Media and People and Executive Director of The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, Columbia University
"It is not always possible or just simply to 'forgive and forget,' but it is a sign of both grace and wisdom to remember, to seek justice and still to seek reconciliation. In this book, one of the leading ecumenical spirits of our day recalls the violent clashes that have besieged our age, places them in the context of timeless insight, and calls us to forgiveness on the brink of a new century. A careful, artful and timely study."--Max L. Stackhouse, author of Public Theology and Political Economy, and Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary
"A wise and timely work in political and religious ethics! In a world where decades and centuries do not so much succeed one another as live dangerously side by side, the politics of forgiveness has an indispensible place in public life. Shriver has rescued forgiveness from religious captivity and confinement to face-to-face relationships. A world as prone as ours is top violence, fueled by festering memories of injustice, has much to gain from working through the wisdom of this book."--Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
"Forgiveness, for individuals or for groups, is a painfully difficult virtue to practice, but the event of forgiveness can be powerfully transformative. By making forgiveness come historically alive, Donald Shriver, in his moving book, shows us what political forgiveness can do. Nothing is more important that forgiveness in our conflict-torn world and Shriver, without hiding the difficulties, gives us practical advice for it's realization. "--Robert N. Bellah, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley and co-author of Habits of the Heart and The Good Society
"Forgiveness and repentence are not simple. They permeate and redefine structures of power in a thousand subtle ways that make new peace and jsutice possible. Often they are expressed in terms of prudent self-interest, for survival or in hope of new alliances for mutual benefit. Shriver traces them among the ancient Greeks, in the Bible, in modern race relations and in the aftermath of World Wwar II. He leaves us with a complex, hopeful picture of interaction of divine grace with human collective identities, reedeming rather than forgetting the troubled histories of human conflict."--Charles C. West, author of Outside the Camp and The Power to Be Human
About the Author
Donald W. Shriver, Jr., is President Emeritus and Professor of Applied Christianity at Union Theological Seminary, and past president of the Society for Christian Ethics.
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In "An Ethic For Enemies," Donald Shriver seeks to bring about a shift in the current understanding of how we should treat enemies in the realm of politics. More plainly, Shriver is trying to give us a fresh and satisfactory answer to how we can get along with people who are different from us, and with whom we share a history of evil. The historical necessity for such a discussion is, of course, the "hundred million or so people who in fact have perished in war since 1900" (p.9), not to mention contemporary global conflicts fueled by an increasing ability to destroy one another with sophisticated and powerful weaponry. In contrast to most modern political discussions of ethics, which tend to center around notions of justice, Shriver contends that political theorists and philosophers must begin taking seriously the moral concept of forgiveness. He is aware of the response this word invokes: "The word forgiveness has a religious ring in the ears of the most modern westerners in a way that justice does not" (p.7), and is often charged with being too idealistic for politics. In order to rescue forgiveness from a purely religious connotation, Shriver references history and narrative as evidence for how much power this concept has had in the past, and how much it can have for secular politics today.
Shriver defines forgiveness as a moral concept that is actualized in human transactions. The first transaction occurs by remembering the wrongs conducted, taking a moral assessment. Once consensus is built on what wrongs were committed by both parties involved, the second transaction is to discuss and enact the proper restitution that "should be leveled against the offender" (p.7). Shriver makes clear that whatever restitution means, it must mean "the abandonment of vengeance" or "forbearance" (p.8), effectively stopping the cycle of violence. As these discussions of corporate memory and restitution take place, the third transaction of empathy of the enemy's humanity begins to happen. This mutual humanizing (and thus the end of de-humanizing) brings the possibility of co-existence. Finally, the relationship between former enemies is renewed through the fourth transaction as a "civil relationship between strangers" (p.8), which may or may not grow into something more interdependent over time.
In the first chapter, Shriver draws on ancient historical texts that have defined the nature of justice and forgiveness, including the Greek play by Aeschylus, the history of Thucydides, the story of Cain and Abel, and the story of Joseph. In the second chapter, Shriver turns to the theme of forgiveness in the New Testament, which Jesus affirmed in "the five settings [of] (1) healings, (2) prayer, (3) eating, (4) public enemies, and (5) discipline inside the new community" (p.36). However, as Shriver examines the political ethics from Augustine to Kant, he finds that the emphasis on forgiveness has been set aside in favor of justice. In the third chapter, Shriver begs the question "Can humans in our time agree on any ethical standards?" (p.10). He argues that we can and must agree that "the first `law' of politics is the preservation of human life" (p.66) The second half of the book is devoted to case studies describing the role of forgiveness in our relationship to Germany, Japan, and African-Americans.
For years I have struggled to know exactly how to articulate the kind of political attitude and practice that Shriver has described here. After trying to describe it in my own way recently to a conservative proponent of American foreign policy, he replied that, while my intentions were clearly in the right place, I was an idealist who would one day wake up to the reality of politics. "Unless you can point to some historical evidence that this works, I'm not convinced otherwise." This book equips us with a deeper historical knowledge that will demonstrate that, without a doubt, forgiveness belongs in politics today. It is not only crucial to preventing war, but also in taming the hostile bi-partisan climate of American domestic politics, as evidenced in the seething negative-ad campaigns before the election takes place. Shriver shows he has a wealth of knowledge of a variety of texts which political theorists, religious and secular, are familiar with. He could have elaborated more on what sort of idealism feeds such theories today, such as the conservative idealism of the free-market or liberal democracy. If Shriver wants to examine American politics, the modest interest in preserving life needs to push us to identify our own ideals, which we consider to be right and worthy of protecting from our enemies.
Theologically, while Shriver forgoes any sectarianism in his treatment of Christian literature for the sake of his primary secular audience, a more robust Christology would have helped to crystallize the otherwise shaky relationship between what he calls the "horizontal" and the "vertical" aspects of forgiveness. Unfortunately, his treatment on the "vertical" is relegated to a small section on the Hebrew Bible entitled "Who Can Forgive Sins but God Alone?" (p.29), after which he discusses Jesus in the New Testament as one who redefined social life through the concept of forgiveness, and taught a community how to embody this concept in a way that was wholly foreign to the political structures of his time. While a rereading of the Gospel for its political undertow is important, the figure of Christ remains a completely separate entity from God. Yet at least some treatment of the atoning death of God on the cross as the very definition of forgiveness could have answered the question "What will God do about all this human evil that only God can do?" (p.29)