Ethics

We Want Justice: Retributive, Distributive, and Restorative Justice

[1] I want to begin with a difficult and inexplicable truth: white racism is alive and well in the institutional and cultural life of the United States of America. Since the death of George Floyd, there have been multiple calls for racial reckoning in the United States and around the globe. [1] These calls reveal […]

On Pardon, Reparations, and a Politics of Penitence

[1] In this essay I want to ask how a person who identifies as white and Christian might live in the United States amidst the ongoing legacies of slavery.[i] There are countless other questions before us—questions about the shape of Black lives, not least!—and I do not want to pretend that the questions of this […]

How Do We Start Again?:  Reconsidering Pastoral Ethics in the ELCA from the Vantage Point of Interim Ministry

[1] As a pastor in the LCA ordained in 1981 now serving in the ELCA, I experienced the embodied pastoral ethics of Vison and Expectations as being too weighted in scope and emphasis on sexual ethics so that all other ethical considerations were overwhelmed.  Today, with the demise of Vision and Expectations, there remains a […]

Sacrilege: Side-Hustles and Non-Living-Wage Work

[1] When I was growing up, I remember hearing the theme song to the popular American television show Cheers proclaim: “Making your way in the world today takes everything you got.” For many people across the world, in wildly different contexts, that sentence rings profoundly, and sadly, true. Humans endure unsustainably long workdays at a […]

Agapic Love, Social Media, and Clergy Ethics

[1] Social media platforms have fast become essential, embedded institutions. By the term “social media” I’m referring to web-based platforms that host individuals and communities, these include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, WeChat, WhatsApp, MeWe, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Meetup, Medium, Quora, and Twitch. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005, 5% of […]

Editor’s Introduction, February/March 2022: Pastoral Ethics

[1] In this season of Epiphany, North Americans experience the continued darkness of winter but can see the faint glimmer of light on the Eastern sky a little earlier each morning.  This winter, we are all trying to mitigate the forces that keep us separated from each other: the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 […]

Everyone is In Debt!

[1] In June of 2019, I wrote a letter to the bishop of my synod[1] after I was called into his office to let me know that I had been flagged by the larger denominational structure for “indebtedness.” I was extremely embarrassed by the situation: there I was, explaining why I was in debt, and […]

For Congregational Discussion: Pastoral Ethics

[1] Each issue, the editorial staff at JLE create questions to spark conversation for adult education and to inspire thoughtful contemplation and reflection for individual readers.  Because of the topic of this edition, many of these questions might be especially fruitful for conversation in the congregational setting as members consider constructive approaches to challenges in […]

Review: Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life: A New Conversation by Bruce C. Birch, Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Larry Rasmussen

[1] This book is not simply a third edition of the foundational text used in many college and seminary classrooms over the years (including by this author) to study the use of Scripture as a source for doing Christian Ethics. (Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life, by Birch and Rasmussen, 1978, 1989) Instead, it […]