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An Ethic For Enemies

Donald W. Shriver Jr. (Oxford University Press: Jan 15, 1998), 304 pages.

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. ~ Library Journal

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