Editor’s Introduction May 2021: Lutheran Ethicists’ Gathering Part II

[1] Last May, JLE published a special issue to address the ethical concerns raised due to Covid-19.  A year later, we are still in the pandemic.  Although Americans are being vaccinated quickly, (at the time of this publishing over 50% of adults over 18 have had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine), cases are still rising in several areas and deaths are continuing.

[2] Going into this second year of the pandemic, we are all, globally, experiencing the effects of a long term experience of feeling unmoored.  Easter services in parking lots, graduations by zoom, pilgrimages postponed; we keep thinking “just a few more months.” As those months drag on, the arc of the future keeps changing shape.  The world feels uncanny; we can’t quite find the order in the chaos. As a result, we cannot go back to our old routines, but nor can we create new routines.  Things are still too unpredictable to plan for what will come next.  Yet still we are called to plan and to strive to serve our neighbors—honoring the needs of human being’s social animal nature with the need to protect physical human bodies from exposure to the virus.

[3] This special May issue presents three more papers from the Lutheran Ethicist Gathering held in January, 2021. These three essays all speak to the importance of deeply critical and constructive thinking in order to address issues raised by the pandemic.  First, Per Anderson’s reflective essay, “Responsible Lutheran Liberal Education after the COVID-19 Catastrophe,” discusses the responsibility of ELCA institutions of higher learning to guide their students to an ethic of service for the common good.  Second, William Rodriguez’s essay, “Covid-19 and Conspiracy Theories: Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness” speaks to the danger of conspiracy theories for undermining community dialogue and collective action for the social good. Finally, Chris Suehr’s piece, “Presence, Piety, and Belonging: Intentional Digital Experiences during and after COVID-19” speaks of the need for intentional thoughtful discussion as we re-examine when to use digital technology to substitute for physically present experiences.

[4] These three essays remind readers of JLE of the benefits of liberal arts education and the importance of developing skills in science, logic, and dialogue even in–especially in–times when we feel unmoored.  These essays point us to remember the command of Jesus to love and serve our neighbor, the ability to use reason and empiricism to make pragmatic decisions that best serve our neighbor, and the necessity of having intentional dialogues on the use and abuse of technology as we strive to care for others.

[5] Finally, it must be noted, that even as JLE, alongside of the global community, continues to grapple with the ethical issues raised by this virus, we also continue to search for ethical responses to the continued reality of police brutality and rampant gun violence.  We must pay serious attention to the significant number of mass shootings in April as well as the police shootings of two African American children (13 year old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 16 year old Ma’Khia  Bryant in Columbus, Ohio) and the killings of Daunte Wright and Andrew Brown.  To address these issues, we point readers to look again at the October 2020 Issue on the trauma children experience due to gun violence, including Elisha Branch’s essay on the difficulty of talking to children about police gun violence against children of color.

Jennifer Hockenbery

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.