Prompted by an inquiry from Rick Garnett, I took a look again at Jeffrie Murphy’s wonderful book, Getting Even: Forgiveness and Its Limits (2003), about which I’ve written a little before. Chapter Nine, entitled “Christianity and Criminal Punishment,” contains the following interesting passage about the relationship of Christianity and retribution. But I think it also says something useful about rehabilitation.
But what about retribution? Is it a legitimate objective on a Christian view of punishment? . . . . This depends, I think, on just what one means by “retribution.” In the philosophical literature on punishment, retributive punishment is usually understood as giving the criminal what he, in justice, deserves. There are, however, at least six different accounts of what might be meant by “desert” and thus at least six different versions of retributivism: desert as legal guilt; desert as involving mens rea (e.g., intention, knowledge); desert as involving responsibility (capacity to conform one’s conduct to the rules); desert as a debt owed to annul wrongful gains from unfair free riding (a view developed by Herbert Morris); desert as what the wrongdoer owes to vindicate the social worth of the victim (a view developed by Jean Hampton); and, finally, desert as involving ultimate character — evil or wickedness in some deep sense (a view that Kant calls “inner viciousness”) . . . .
It seems to me that there is no inconsistency between the essentials of Christianity and the first five forms of retribution noted. With respect to the sixth, however — what I will call “deep character retributivism” — there does seem to me to be an inconsistency . . . .
This December, The John Hopkins University Press will publish Religion and Politics in Europe and the United States: Transnational Historical Approaches edited by Volker Depkat (University of Regensburg) and Jurgen Martschukat (University of Erfurt). The publisher’s description follows.
Religion and Politics in Europe and the United States compares the dynamic relationships between religion and public life in the U.S. and Europe from the early modern era to today by examining a series of public issues for which religious arguments have often been crucial. Recognizing the discrete roles religion plays in American and European politics, the project presents a portrait of its historical influences on the development of law, technology, ethnicity, war, and perceptions of democracy.
Religion and Politics in Europe and the United States explores how discourses on both side of the Atlantic have diverged due to the varying roles of religion. The book traces the influences of religion and politics from early modern religiously based legitimization of European monarchy and American democracy, to today’s historical perspectives on the problem of religion and terrorism. The contributors—political scientists, historians, and sociologists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria—shed a uniquely transnational light on the debates that have shaped the world we currently live in, from capital punishment to concepts of ethnicity to religions in conflict.
“The essays in this volume present the results of excellent scholarship and offer new insights on the basis of original research. Furthermore, the authors contributing to this volume come from both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, the readers receive a comprehensive account both of recent American as well as European research.”—Harmut Lehmann, Director Emeritus, Max Planck Institute of History, Göttingen.
This October, Columbia University Press will publish The Inevitable Caliphate?: A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present by Reza Pankhurst. The publisher’s description follows.
Throughout Islamic history, the term Caliphate has evoked an ideal Islamic polity that mainstream Islamic scholars unilaterally support. Though the recent “Arab Spring” has toppled long-standing dictators across the Middle East, the region’s dominant discussions continue to support the compatibility of Islam and democracy, reviving the issue of the Caliphate with opponents and advocates alike.
The Inevitable Caliphate? is a unique analysis of Islam and the Muslim polity that refuses to use liberal democracy as a universal yardstick to measure the modern state. It also avoids categorizing Muslims as “Islamists” or other reductive groups, instead encouraging a normative understanding of the politics influencing today’s Muslims. Instead of artificial paradigms that shed little light on Islamic movements, this book situates the Caliphate’s proponents within the political context they address while also considering their political positions and religious understanding. Beginning with the period of the Caliphate’s formal abolition, the volume examines the ideas and discourse of Rashid Reda, Ali Abdul Raziq, Hasan al Banna, Taqiudeen an-Nabahani, Syed Qutb, Abul Ala Maududi, Osama bin Laden, and Abdullah Azzam, among other intellectuals, and includes the position of such groups as Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and al-Murabitun. The study highlights the Caliphate’s core commonalities and differences, its status in Islamic theology, and its application to contemporary reality, and it follows how, as groups struggle to reestablish a polity embodying the unity of the umma (global Islamic community), the Caliphate has been either ignored, minimized, reclaimed, or promoted as theory, symbol, and political ideal.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate has thrust Catholic Social Thought into the American presidential campaign. A practicing Catholic, Ryan argues that Tea Party economics are compatible with the Church’s social teaching. This pleases many on the Catholic Right, but greatly displeases many on the Catholic Left; when Ryan gave a speech at Georgetown last April, 90 faculty members and priests signed a letter in protest. The disagreement was evident in the media this week. In the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn defended Ryan’s free-market views as consistent with Catholicism. In the New York Times, by contrast, Maureen Dowd cited Catholic bishops who have termed Ryan’s proposed federal budget “immoral.”
As an outsider, I’m not in the best position to comment on an internal Catholic debate. The best analysis I’ve seen so far, though, is this very powerful essay by Fr. Robert Barron, which Marc noted yesterday. Barron writes that Catholic Social Thought equally embraces two conflicting principles, solidarity and subsidiarity. Solidarity emphasizes the collective. It teaches that people have responsibility for one another, that society’s rich have a moral obligation to share their wealth with society’s poor. (“We are all members of one another,” St. Paul wrote). Subsidiarity, by contrast, emphasizes the local and individual. It allows private property and suspects concentrated, centralized power. Somehow, Barron writes, Catholic Social Thought must affirm both these principles, without compromise.
Barron’s essay seems to pose an an impossible intellectual task. The reason the essay seems so compelling to me, though, is that it embraces what I understand to be the essentially paradoxical nature of Christianity. As Ross Douthat recently has written, Christianity always asks the believer to accept seemingly incompatible assertions: Christ is at once God and Man; the world is at once good and evil; the Christian must at once care for the world and focus on eternity. For non-Christians, these are nonsensical pairings; but for Christians, they help define the mystery of faith. If there is to be a Catholic — or, more broadly, Christian –social theory, it must somehow endorse community and individuality, in Barron’s words, “with equal vigor.” It must embrace the paradox that Christians are called to be in the world but not of it — an undoable something that somehow must be done.