This book is a serious attempt to reflect on the doctrine of God and the calling of the Church at this time of social change.
Using data obtained from structured interviews and responses to questionnaires concerning clergy responses to real and hypothetical situations involving people who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS, the authors illustrate how clergy and organized religious groups confronted a new and acute fatal illness that was initially associated with stigmatized behavior. They demonstrate that many clergy saw their roles as advocates for these individuals and as providers of pastoral and spiritual care, in spite of the rhetoric of conservative and fundamentalist clergy who condemned the victims as an example of the wrath of God against gay and bisexual men. The study also shows that even those who were less actively engaged in AIDS pastoral care and counseling demonstrated tolerance for those affected by it. Follow-up interviews indicate, finally, that as AIDS became more of a chronic illness, the social movement to provide religious and spiritual care and counseling began to wane.
Once the value of human life has been depreciated, as in Roe v. Wade and the Baby Doe Case, no one is safe. Once "quality of life" is substituted for the absolute value of human life itself, we all are endangered. Already respected scientists are calling for a time period following birth (a week or so) to decide if newborns have "sufficient quality of life" to be allowed to live. Already committees of "medical professionals" would like to decide whether the "quality of life" of the elderly or anyone seriously ill is high enough to allow them to go on living.
In this moving book, the renowned pediatric surgeon and Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, M.D., joins with one of the leading Christian thinkers of our day, Francis A. Schaeffer, to analyze the widespread implications and frightening loss of human rights brought on by today's practices of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. They see the present as a crucial turning point. Choices are being made that undermine human rights at their most basic level. Practices once labeled "unthinkable" are now considered acceptable. The destruction of human life, young and old, is being sanctioned on an ever-increasing scale by the medical profession, by the courts, by parents, and by silent citizens.
"But what can I do?" you ask. "I'm just one person." You can start by reading this book. Yes, it will shock you. And it will make you weep. But it will also help you see how you can actually make a difference.
This ground-breaking study makes a largely unknown religious world accessible to outsiders for the first time. Students and scholars alike will find it a valuable addition to the literature on Japanese religions and society and on the development of Christianity outside the West. By offering an alternative approach to the study and understanding of Christianity as a world religion and the complicated process of cross-cultural diffusion, it represents a landmark that will define future research in the field.
Christopher Marshall first explores the problems involved in applying ethical teachings from the New Testament to mainstream society. He then surveys the extent to which the New Testament addresses criminal justice issues, looking in particular at the concept of the justice of God in the teachings of Paul and Jesus. He also examines the topic of punishment, reviewing the debate in social thinking over the ethics and purpose of punishment -- including capital punishment -- and he advocates a new concept of "restorative punishment." The result of this engaging work is a biblically based challenge to imitate the way of Christ in dealing with both victims and offenders.
Respected Christian ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain finds in the tensions and tragedies of our turn-of-the-century society hope in the recovery of personhood. She explores the internal and external trappings that so easily lead us to forget how to be faithful to something other than ourselves.
This is a work of political analysis, cultural criticism, and theological engagement. Elshtain suggests that much of what we rightly interpret as troubling presents fascinating interpretive occasions for Christians, who, of all people, are called to live in hope. She highlights in particular certain aspects of youth culture, taking up popular films like "Seven and "Titanic and tragedies like the shootings at Columbine High School. What she finds running through all of these are examples of courage and a search for a source of truth and meaning that seems to elude so many.
The great challenge, says Neuhaus, is the reconstruction of a public philosophy that can undergird American life and America's ambiguous place in the world. To be truly democratic and to endure, such a public philosophy must be grounded in values that are based on Judeo-Christian religion. The remedy begins with recognizing that democratic theory and practice, which have in the past often been indifferent or hostile to religion, must now be legitimated in terms compatible with biblical faith.
Neuhaus explores the strengths and weaknesses of various sectors of American religion in pursuing this task of critical legitimation. Arguing that America is now engaged in an historic moment of testing, he draws upon Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish thinkers who have in other moments of testing seen that the stakes are very high--for America, for the promise of democratic freedom elsewhere, and possibly for God's purpose in the world.
An honest analysis of the situation, says Neuhaus, shatters false polarizations between left and right, liberal and conservative. In a democratic culture, the believer's respect for nonbelievers is not a compromise but a requirement of the believer's faith. Similarly, the democratic rights of those outside the communities of religious faith can be assured only by the inclusion of religiously-grounded values in the common life.
The Naked Public Square does not offer yet another partisan program for political of social change. Rather, it offers a deeply disturbing, but finally hopeful, examination of Abraham Lincoln's century-old question--whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.