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Book Review: Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins Dr. David Traverzo Christian Ethics Gregory A. Keels 02/13/2012 Doing Christian Ethics from the margins is all about helping people explore the ethical issues of the marginalized. This book reveals as to how people who live in the margins of society deal with ethics. Also this book reveals how the same marginalized people worldview is different from the dominate culture who is not apart of the marginalized. This book is divided into four sessions, the first section dealing with theory while the last three gives specific case studies to the theory.
The first session titled Ethical Theory deals with how Christian ethical systems are formed. The author Miguel A. De la Torre gives his understanding of ethical theory. The first main and important statement he makes in this section is when he talks about ethics being done in a particular social location. When he stated that it proved that ethics and social welfare comes together.
A person’s upbringing and social surroundings affects his or her ethics. Also in this section the author talks about how white males generally dominated the academic ethics.
This domination has many pitfalls. Some of these pitfalls include spiritual concerns that are excluded from social concerns, individualism, grace in favor of works, thinking more of heaven instead of the here and now, and failure to come up with a transformation praxis. These pitfalls reinforce ideologies of power that are connected to unjust social structures that include racism, classism, and sexism.
The author puts up a challenge to every single reader to come up with a code of ethics that will identify with the example of Christ of standing against the ppressed. In the other three parts of the book the author gives case studies and show how his own hermeneutic circle applied to different ethical situations such as relationships, business, and global relationships. in each section there are four chapters. the first chapter explains the topics and the other three explains the topic with case studies. The hermeneutic circle is made up of five steps. In each of those five steps a person’s worldview ethics is challenged and encourages the person to be more engaged in social transformation.
The steps include observing, reflecting, praying, acting, and releasing. This pattern is a continuous circle repeating itself over and over. The significance of this book to the church is great significance. This model the author has presented could be used greatly in the church. When I was looking at this model I felt this is what the church should be doing. The church is only effective if it is active in the community. The church should be able to see what the need of the community, pray on it, act on it and then move onto the next need.
Part of Christian ethics is doing the right thing when the problem is presented. Two of the case studies that I felt can greatly impact the church was the case studies on global and national poverty. the church has always played a major role in helping the poverty both globally and nationally. However I believe that the church need to realize that poverty is more then just not having any food or being homeless. Poverty is connected to social class. It is connected to those who can afford an education and those who can not.
Poverty is also connected to those who can get hired for the high paying jobs and those who can only get the jobs that pay minimum salary and is not enough to raise a family. The church can do a better job in helping in that area. The main part of a Christian’s ethics is helping those who are in need. This is our primary responsibility. So in order to fulfill that responsibility we must understand the whole issue of poverty. The significance this book has on the society can be great. However I believe the church and society must be connected together.
This helps those who read it understand the problems of the marginalized and how it can be addressed. It would be really helpful if those who were from the groups who hold the most power read this book for a better understanding of how the actions they do affect those who are marginalized. Just like I stated with the church and its response to poverty the society has to have the same response. However since the society is not the church the ethical response would be different. Those who are in high powerful positions have the ethical obligation to assist those who are in the marginalized.
However what we see is those people exploiting the marginalized. When it comes to ethics as a whole this book as revealed to me no matter what position you are connected to rather it is Christian ethics, business ethics, or society ethics you have an obligation to help those who do not have the power to help themselves. It is not just about poverty either. There is an ethical obligation to help the marginalized when it comes to things like affirmative action, war, the environment etc. A strength I found in this is how the author used real life examples in his case studies that included people who were marginalized.
By using real life stories it brought a whole new experience than from a typical text book. This help take the readers from a spectator view to an up close and personal view of what it is like to be in the marginalized. Another strength I felt the author had was the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. These discussion questions help the reader reflect and understand more about the marginalized. Also these discussion questions help the reader form a more solid ethic for the marginalized. The main weakness I saw in this book is how the author did not really go through the whole hermeneutic cycle.
In each case study the first three cycles were used. It would have been better if the author used the whole cycle so that the reader could get a full example of how the cycle is used and the outcome of the cycle. Also it would have been helpful if the author had given some examples where this cycle has not worked. Perhaps it would even be helpful if the author had limited to just once case study in each section and go more in depth as to how the cycle worked in the case study. Overall I strongly recommend this book to those who have a desire to get an action plan that will have an impact on dealing with the marginalized.
De La Torre makes a great case in challenging those who are in the dominate culture to give up the heavy power and special privilege they have so that those who are in the marginalized can live a better life. With making this challenge the author has given great tools for those who are committed to seeing the transformation of the marginalized. While this seem like a no brainer to some it might be still difficult for those in the dominate culture to accept. Some people might just not see how the dominate culture affects the marginalized while others feel they are doing just enough.
Also you might get those who will say they will embrace De La Torre’s model but will fail to actually attempt to do it. It is going to take a lot of work and sacrifice to see true change. Who is willing to actually do that hard work? Who is going feel it is actually worth it? Regardless of where you fit in the spectrum we all have to do our part. If we all do not step in and say we are willing to make the sacrifices need to see a transformational change then regardless of what one group does it will not work. this has to be a group effort. I believe this is the point De La Torre was trying to bring across.
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