Last weekend, many of us here at catholicmoraltheology.com gathered in Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics. One of the wonderful things about SCE meetings is that it is a chance for many different. Each January, Christian ethicists gather alongside their colleagues in the Society of Jewish Ethics and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics creating a unique and rewarding weekend of papers, plenaries, and rewarding conversation. The SCE theme is chosen by that year’s president – Stanley Hauerwas of Duke, who chose
War and Peace, and in particular the difference theological reflection makes for considerations on the ethics of war.
In addition to Prof. Hauerwas’s Presidential Address, there were plenaries by Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, Professor Stephen Carter of the Yale School of Law, and eminent political philosopher Michael Walzer as Society of Jewish Ethics. The overarching theme was the ethics of war; however, throughout the conference there were diverse papers such as:
Karen Lebacqz, Graduate Theological Union “Quilts, Wars, and Feminist Ethics”
Gerard Magill, Center for Healthcare Ethics, Duquesne University “Using Traditional Catholic Ethical Teaching to Justify Termination of Pregnancy when There is Imminent Threat of Death to the Mother: a Study of the Phoenix Case”
Irene Oh, George Washington University “An Islamic Ethic of Eating for the 21st Century: Balancing Food Choice, Piety, and Sustainability”
David True, Wilson College “The Niebuhrian President? Barack Obama and Reinhold Niebuhr on Power”
Alexander Green: “Between Maimonides and Spinoza: Constructing an Ethics of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition”
In this roundtable, those of us who attended the SCE will offer our reflections and insights on the conference. I invite you to come back as new comments get added and I invite others who were at the conference to offer their own comments and reflections in the comment section.
My own thoughts:
This was my second SCE and once again, I found a welcoming and supportive mix of generations and colleagues. For now, I would just like to start with Stephen Carter’s plenary on “Targeted Kiling.” Professor Carter argued that the single greatest risk in the widening use of drones for targeted killing in warfare is that the it will become part of the background we barely notice. The greatest danger in this type of warfare is that it is “invisible to those one whose behalf it is being used.” I cannot help but be reminded of the sustained bombing program between the First and Second Gulf War – bombings that were commonplace and yet absent from most, if not all, American media. We must be constantly vigilant about the use of violence and weapons on “our behalf” by “our Government,” as well as, vigilant in seeking out the unintended victims of such warfare. Many aspects of the “ethics of targeted killing,” were addressed and need to be addressed further but found Carter’s point about the danger of weaponry that is easy to use and easy to make invisible (both in its use, its risk, and its unintended victims) insightful within the context of Christian ethics – which urges us make visible those which others would keep invisible.
Check back more to come…