An Ethic For Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics / Edition 1

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Our century has witnessed violence on an unprecedented scale, in wars that have torn deep into the fabric of national and international life. And as we can see in the recent strife in Bosnia, genocide in Rwanda, and the ongoing struggle to control nuclear weaponry, ancient enmities continue to threaten the lives of masses of human beings. As never before, the question is urgent and practical: How can nations—or ethnic groups, or races—after long, bitter struggles, learn to live side by side in peace?
In An Ethic for Enemies, Donald W. Shriver, Jr., President Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, argues that the solution lies in our capacity to forgive. Taking forgiveness out of its traditional exclusive association with personal religion and morality, Shriver urges us to recognize its importance in the secular political arena. The heart of the book examines three powerful and moving cases from recent American history—our postwar dealings with Germany, with Japan, and our continuing domestic problem with race relations—cases in which acts of forgiveness have had important political consequences. Shriver traces how postwar Germany, in its struggle to break with its political past, progressed from denial of a Nazi past, to a formal acknowledgement of the crimes of Nazi Germany, to providing material compensation for survivors of the Holocaust. He also examines the efforts of Japan and the United States, over time and across boundaries of race and culture, to forgive the wrongs committed by both peoples during the Pacific War. And finally he offers a fascinating discussion of the role of forgiveness in the American civil rights movement. He shows, for instance, that even Malcolm X recognized the need to move from contempt for the integrationist ideal to a more conciliatory, repentant stance toward Civil Rights leaders. Malcolm came to see that only through forgiveness could the separate voices of the African-American movement work together to achieve their goals.
If mutual forgiveness was a radical thought in 1964, Shriver reminds us that it has yet to be realized in 1994. "We are a long way from ceasing to hold the sins of the ancestors against their living children," he writes. Yet in this poignant volume, we discover how, by forgiving, enemies can progress and have progressed toward peace. A timely antidote to today's political conflicts, An Ethic for Enemies challenges to us to confront the hatreds that cripple society and threaten to destroy the global village.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Library Journal
The author, president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, has produced a work that deserves close scrutiny. The casual reader is likely to conclude that Shriver is addressing, in some flight of fancy, the oxymoronic. After all, political forgiveness seems patently absurd, especially given the history of the 20th century-not to mention our contemporary culture of violence. However, while recognizing that forgiveness is a morally complex concept, Shriver argues that it reaches beyond the realm of the personal to the arena of political ethics. He contends that forgiveness is (or at least should be seen as) an indispensable element in politics and that it is an essential ingredient in our attempt to construct a proper political ethics. Not everyone will be persuaded by Shriver's attempt to make forgiveness the cornerstone of a political ethic; nonetheless, his argument should not be ignored. Recommended for most libraries.-Stephen Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195119169
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/15/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
A Complex and Multi-Dimensional Concept: Some Definitions 6
The Plan of the Book 9
1 Revenge, the End of Politics; and Justice, the Beginning 12
Aeschylus: The Taming of Revenge by Institutions of Justice 13
Thucydides: The Triumph Fury in War 18
Cain, Joseph and Their Kin: A Saga of Restorative Justice 22
"Who Can Forgive Sins but God Alone?" 29
Interlude: Reflections on Revenge, Justice, and Forgiveness 30
2 Forgiveness in Politics in Christian Tradition 33
Jesus - The Discoverer" of Social Forgiveness? 34
The Political Context of Jesus' Ministry 36
Forgiveness as Community Building in the New Testament 38
Did Christians Believe that Forgiveness Belonged in the Public Sphere? 45
Appearances and Disappearances of Forgiveness in the "Christian" Political Order 46
The Crisis for All Formulations of Forgiveness: The Enlightenment Perspective 58
3 Political Ethics as Moral Memory 63
The Politics of Death and Life 64
Remembering History Morally 68
Can Nations Remember, Repent, and Forgive? 71
4 Vengeance and Forbearance: Germans and Americans 73
Germans and Americans: 1914-45 74
Democracy at War: A Note on "Just War" Ethics, 1941-45 76
Vengeance versus Truth, Reparation versus Restoration, 1945-60 78
The United States and Germany: Forty Years after World War II 92
Postscript: 1995 and Beyond 116
5 Enmity and Empathy: Japan and the United States 119
Remembering the Pacific War 121
Remembering Japanese Americans 155
6 Justice and Forgiveness: The Long Road to Equal Citizenship for African Americans 170
The Oldest American Civic Injustice 171
An Early Civil Rights Movement: 1865 174
Wholly Belonging: The Civil Rights Movement, 1955-68 179
Black Power and Political Forgiveness? 204
"That Old and Still Unpaid Debt," 210
7 Whither Forgiveness in American Politics? 218
The Place of Apology 220
Restitution and Domestic Tranquillity 224
Forgiveness Too Soon, Too Late 225
Pluralism: Our Coming National Trial by Diversity 227
Notes 235
Bibliography 271
Name Index 277
Subject Index 281
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