2003 - 2004
Sallie McFague contends, and most theologians would agree, that there is no direct discourse about God. Therefore, theologians are always engaged in seeking a "lively imaginative picture of the way God and the world as they know it are related" (Dennis Nineham). Directly or sometimes indirectly any belief in God is "related to an imaginative and credible picture." Unfortunately, McFague goes on to say, "What our time lacks is an imaginative construal of the God-world relationship that is credible to us."
In several courses at least you have been exposed to metaphors for God. Either select one of them, or identify one of your own, and show how and why "it works." It will be helpful in the process to explain the nature of metaphors as well. Your essay should attend to the following issues:
Metaphors in a sense solve some issues and leave unattended others. This is why McFague argues for metaphorical pluralism. What is it about the metaphor to which you have given primacy that makes it central for our time? What does it resolve?
Metaphors have an obligation to be more than credible in a given time. They must be legitimate in relation to scripture. How would you defend your metaphor by the biblical tradition?
Metaphors can have ethical consequences; they can be integral to the decision-making process. Connect your metaphor to some moral position you have studied; develop why you think this connection is persuasive.
Alternatively, if you don't find the metaphorical project adequate you can choose to critique it. Your critique should show that you understand the basic concepts discussed in this question and provide convincing arguments why they are not adequate.
Whether you affirm the metaphorical project or critique it, your critical analysis must be based on material from all four common courses.Question #2
Mircea Eliade argues that what is sacred to religious folks is for them manifested in space, in the land, in nature. For example, some space, some land is more sacred than others and thus provides an orientation to their lives.
How has this consciousness of the sacrality (or non-sacrality) of land or nature been expressed theologically, experientially, ritually, and ethically in different traditions. What bearing have these attitudes had on social, economic or political structures at different points in time and in different traditions.
You must bring your understanding of material in your core courses to bear on this question.Question #3
Scholars distinguish between context-free and context-sensitive value systems. In part this applies to ethical systems. Context-free ethical systems place priority on universal moral axioms, whereas context-sensitive ethical systems insist that all ethical judgments need to be evaluated within specific contexts. Scholars expand this distinction beyond ethical systems to characterize systems of value more broadly. These can include values such as purity, auspiciousness, well-being, justice, duty, obedience, group solidarity, and other religious and cultural values that are expressed both explicitly and implicitly.
This question has two parts. For both parts use material from all four core courses.
- To what extent do each of religious traditions studied in the core courses represent context-free and/or context-sensitive systems of value?
- How useful is the context-free / context-sensitive distinction for the comparativestudy and explanation of ethics and values?
This question asks you to evaluate the "Case Study Related to Le Chambon." This case study is included below, at the end of this set of questions.
Judgments about the appropriateness, morality, or justice of the Chambonnais behavior would depend upon the standpoint or perspective an evaluator adopts. Write an essay that evaluates how at least four different perspectives would assess the appropriateness, morality, or justice of the Chambonnais rescue effort. Carefully explain the line of reasoning each perspective or standpoint would present to justify its position. Two of these perspectives should have been discussed in "Christian Ethics" and the other two of should have been studied in your other core courses: "Introduction to the Bible," "Hinduism," and "The Reality of God." (You must include perspectives from at least three different courses: two from "Christian Ethics" and one each from two of your other three core courses.) As you summarize and evaluate each of the perspectives you are presenting, argue for the one perspective that you find most helpful. (If your own position is not related to one of the four core courses, then you will need to explain at least five perspectives.) Justify your own conclusion with convincing reasons.Case Study Related to Le Chambon
The people who lived in the small French village of Le Chambon have been praised for their activities after the Nazis conquered France in the Second World War. The citizens of this village risked their lives in order to provide a safe haven for Jewish people; they also helped transport Jewish people into Switzerland, a neutral country where they would not be executed. The efforts and sacrifices of the Chambonnais saved at least 6000 Jewish children and adults from certain death.
Almost all of the Chambonnais were Huguenots, French Protestants, whose ancestors had also endured religious prosecution in Catholic France. Under the leadership of Pastor Andre Trocme and his wife Magda, these Huguenots came to value all human life as unconditionally precious; thus, they affirmed a deontological ethic of non-violence. They would do everything possible to save the lives of the Jewish immigrants (such as welcoming strangers into their homes, sharing the little food they had with their guests, and breaking the laws of the new pro-Nazi government to help their guests), except they would never physically harm or kill another human being. Even SS officers and other German soldiers were safe in their midst. Moreover, the Chambonnais did not keep their rescue effort a secret; both officials of the new pro-Nazi France government (i.e., Vichy France) and officers of the Nazi army knew about it. The Chambonnais were trying to follow the morals that Jesus had proclaimed in word and deed, and the Chambonnais were not keeping their faith a secret. Evidence suggests that some Nazi officers and Vichy officials actually protected the Chambonnais; perhaps even they recognized and were moved by goodness when they saw it.
Still, the activities of the Chambonnais have been criticized by those who argue that the Chambonnais went too far and, in the process, failed in their duties to their family members and to their country. These critics note that the Huguenot parents in Le Chambon risked not only their lives, but also the lives of their children, including infants who could not possible agree to this risk. Before the war was over, Nazi soldiers completely demolished some French villages and murdered all the inhabitants. Le Chambon could have easily been destroyed for hiding and saving Jews. These critics claim that the obligation of parents to provide for and protect their own children is much more important than any obligation to help the children of strangers. Thus, these critics conclude that the adult Chambonnais failed those who have every reason to depend upon them. The people of Le Chambon also blatantly broke government laws to accomplish their rescue effort, at a time when their whole country was in jeopardy. Some could also criticize their disregard for the governing authorities. For these critics such lawlessness cannot be morally defended, especially at this time when the Nazis might well execute many French citizens for the actions of these few villagers.
On the other hand, there are those who would criticize the Chambonnais for not going far enough to protect those who were being slaughtered. These critics question whether their commitment to non-violence was unrealistic and inappropriate considering the brutality of the war and the Nazi brutality toward Jews and others they judged unworthy. Surely, continue these critics, the Chambonnais should have been willing to kill a few Nazi soldiers to save the 40 Jewish boys who were taken from Le Chambon by force and executed in a death camp. Acting like a Chambonnais, the caretaker of these boys, Daniel Trocme, went with them to provide comfort, but he too was killed in the gas chambers. For these critics, violence would seem justified in such extreme circumstances. If the Chambonnais were not willing to use violence, they could have at least kept their activities secret. These critics argue that telling Vichy officials that they were helping Jews constitutes the height of moral folly.