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This ethics paper is structured around William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measurein the context of cooperation with evil and the principle of double-effect as a way of understanding both the principles and the play’s ethical circumstances. The first example of the principal of double-effect was given by St. Thomas Aquinas in his 1485 Summa Theologica. He writes about the lawfulness of killing in self-defense, “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention.” Wellesley College Professor of Philosophy, Alison McIntyre summarizes current understanding of double-effect as, “the distinction between causing a morally grave harm as a side effect of pursuing a good end and causing a morally grave harm as a means of pursuing a good end.” I will analyze five instances of double-effect, considering whether harm is a side effect or a means to the end.
Recently, while reading the part of Angelo in Measure for Measure with my Shakespeare group, I noticed instances of the double-effect morality. I was intrigued that Shakespeare’s last comedy, Measure for Measure, was written in 1603, just 115 years after St. Thomas describes double-effect (although I found no indication that Shakespeare read St. Thomas). The moral principles of cooperation with evil and double-effect do not seem to have been extensively examined in analyses of Measure for Measure. In addition to considering morality, this paper asserts that great storytelling can more effectively support ethical understanding and teaching.
This semester, I am taking a class at the Graduate Theological Union called “Christian Ethics: Radical Love Embodied” from Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics. One of the texts for this class is Dr. Moe-Lobeda’s own 2013 book, Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation. Chapter 4, “Unmasking Evil that Parades as Good,” has caused me to think deeply on how background social and cultural understandings perpetuate and affirm the way things are, even if those understandings are destructive or evil. The author characterizes this as “‘hegemonic vision’… the constellation of socially constructed perceptions and assumptions about ‘what is,’ ‘what could be,’ and ‘what ought to be’ that maintain the power or privilege of some people over others, and ‘blind’ the former to that privilege” (Moe-Lobeda, 88).
Dr. Matthew Clair, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, uses the word hegemony with regard to U.S. law, but does not use the phrase hegemonic vision in his 2020 book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court. He presents similar concepts, writing of how racism and classism intersect, “I found that the working class and poor, especially racial minorities, often sought to learn their legal rights, contest their defense lawyer’s expertise, and advocate for themselves in court. Meanwhile, the middle-class people I got to know found themselves in trusting relationships with lawyers and thus were more likely to defer to their lawyers and the court. Privileged people were rewarded for their deference, whereas the disadvantaged were punished for their resistance and demands for justice” (Clair, xv). That is, Dr. Clair reports that the U.S. justice system has a vision of how people should behave that is based in middle-class assumptions and communication patterns. He finds that those who are poor or working class who do not communicate as expected are disproportionately penalized.
The Prison Policy Initiative affirmed what Dr. Clair has written in their “Mass Incarceration: the Whole Pie 2020” in which Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner write, “People in prison and jail are disproportionately poor compared to the overall U.S. population. The criminal justice system punishes poverty… Poverty is not only a predictor of incarceration; it is also frequently the outcome.”
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“In this paper, I begin the discussion of my Doctor of Ministry project and dissertation for the Berkeley School of Theology. In the first section, I present the problem of creating a theological study program for use in jail and my vision for its solution. The second section considers my theological basis, including three inspiring scriptures that have influenced my thinking. These are followed by a summary and conclusion. My theological basis and the proposed project and dissertation are informed by my experience as a Santa Clara County, California, jail chaplain since 2015.” The three Bible scriptures are Matthew 25:31-46, Genesis 39-41, and Acts 16:22-40. Read the whole paper here.
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ProQuest has just published my Master’s thesis, “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners” – Hooray! I am still waiting for the 158 page document to appear in the Graduate Theological Union Library catalogue, which will be more easily referenced. I have been waiting since my thesis was signed off in February 2021 for the GTU and ProQuest to make my thesis available so I am very happy that this process is (mostly) complete.
Most congregations interested in jail or prison ministry start slowly, with a desire to act righteously, with moral correctness and integrity but without a strategic plan, goals, or structure. The range of chaplain engagement with prisoners reflects aspects of both sociology and theology. This thesis presents data and a novel tool to extend ministry participation and best practices to benefit prisoners and those reentering society after incarceration.
“Are ethnocentrism and racism different or the same, and what difference does this make? I engage these terms regarding American social structures, biology, and power / domination, as well as considering to what extent ethnocentrism and racism are mutually exclusive or overlapping. I will focus on two of our class books that examine these and related concepts, the Rev. Canon Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas’s Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, and Dr. David M. Goldenberg’s The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This paper starts by reviewing definitions of ethnocentrism and racism from a variety of sources, followed by a section on what Douglas and Goldenberg write and seem to mean by those concepts, concluding with a section that considers how these meanings make a difference.”
You can read the whole paper here. Below is the “Social /Cultural Group Evaluation – Ethnocentrism <-> Racism Scale” graphic, discussed on pages 19-20 of the paper.
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If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right on Katysblog home). Images Copyright 2021 by Katy Dickinson, John Plocher, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and Paul D. Goodman.