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2024 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Prophetic Social Criticism, Solidarity, and Just War

Author : Courtney S. Campbell

Published in: Religion and Social Criticism

Publisher: Springer Nature Switzerland

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Abstract

Richard B. Miller’s account of liberal social criticism strikingly finds in the prophetic voices of religious traditions moral resources for cultivating a community of political solidarity and for fostering resistance to political power embedded in just war morality. This chapter explores the interrelationship and tensions between liberal social criticism and prophetic moral criticism, assessing whether Miller’s observations about prophetic narratives and voices intimate that prophetic criticism contributes something to the ethics of solidarity and just war that otherwise is neglected by secular or philosophical interpretations. I examine this issue initially by providing an exposition of the ethics of prophetic moral critique, incorporating exemplary narratives in the biblical literature, which focuses on a calling of a community to moral accountability. A prophetic ethics relies on a morally thick narrative of gift, empathy, memory, and community to move communities and social structures from oppression to social justice and care for the vulnerable that contrasts with the morally thin liberal critical narrative of rights and individualism. A prophetic moral voice may thereby provide different reasons or motivations for assuming similar ethical commitments of respect and equality advocated by liberal social criticism.

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Footnotes
1
This is but one construction of the relation of religion and ethics identified in Miller’s typology of relationships (Miller 2016: 25).
 
2
To be sure, Miller and Rorty would not agree normatively either; Rorty’s post-modernist pragmatism is not compatible with a philosophy or anthropology of human rights.
 
3
Jesus answers this question differently on other occasions. See Matthew 19:16–22; Matthew 25:31–46.
 
4
This becomes codified in subsequent rabbinic teaching through the concept of pikuach nefesh.
 
5
In contemporary ethics, the concept of “moral distress” captures the experience of witnessing wrong or injustice in the absence of an ability to prevent or correct it. The prophetic traditions knew moral distress long before moral philosophy invented the concept.
 
6
The attribution of anger and indignation to Deity raises theological questions with which Christian writers particularly struggled. Augustine for example contended that scriptural allusions to divine indignation symbolized passions aroused in the human soul by God: “God’s anger, then, is the emotion which occurs in the mind of someone who knows God’s law, when it sees that same law being transgressed by a sinner” (McCarthy 2009: 24).
 
7
The warning against false prophets occurs over 50 times in the biblical texts, over a dozen times in the Book of Mormon. Some basic references include Deuteronomy 18:20, Isaiah 9:15, Jeremiah 23:16, Matthew 7:15 and Matthew 24:11.
 
8
Miller lays these virtues out more explicitly, writing that “a critic must (1) give reasons to explain and justify [their] disapproval; (2) have (general) moral and epistemic probity; (3) exercise due diligence; (4) aspire to render a judgments that is informed by judicious perspective-taking, and (5) express [themselves] with a style and a grasp of social location that is context-sensitive” (Miller 2016: 91).
 
9
Miller refers to King’s “prophetic” discourse in discussing King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail (Miller 2016: 304; King 1963).
 
10
This is a feature of Jeffrey Blustein’s ethics of memory: “those who bear witness might address their testimony to multiple audience, in particular to future as well as present generations” (Blustein 2008: 321).
 
11
Miller’s reliance on Augustine as an intellectual touchstone in Friends and Other Strangers (esp. 173–197, 201–227) is itself indicative of the moral intertwining of religious ideas and the project of social criticism.
 
12
The civic virtue requirement of public deliberation about war is most closely interrelated to the public reasoning virtue of the social critic, be that a citizen, a public intellectual, a policy-maker or a political leader.
 
Literature
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Metadata
Title
Prophetic Social Criticism, Solidarity, and Just War
Author
Courtney S. Campbell
Copyright Year
2024
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-48659-3_6

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