Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights

Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights

Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights

Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights

Synopsis

What are human rights? Can theology acknowledge human rights discourse? Is theological engagement with human rights justified? What place should this discourse occupy within ethics?

Ethna Regan seeks to answer these questions about human rights, Christian theology, and philosophical ethics. The main purpose of this book is to justify and explore theological engagement with human rights. Regan illustrates how that engagement is both ecumenical and diverse, citing the emerging engagement with human rights discourse by evangelical theologians in response to the War on Terror. The book examines where the themes and concerns of key modern theologians -- Karl Rahner, J. B. Metz, Jon Sobrino, and Ignacio Ellacuréa -- converge with the themes and concerns of those committed to the advancement of human rights. Regan also critically engages with the "disdain" for rights discourse that is found in the postliberal critiques of John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas.

This interdisciplinary volume will be of interest to students and scholars in the fields of systematic theology, theological ethics, human rights, religion and politics, and political theory.

Excerpt

The discourse of human rights has emerged as the dominant moral discourse of our time. Reflecting on this often contentious discourse, with both its enthusiasts and detractors, led me to consider the following questions: What constitutes an intelligible definition of human rights? What place should this discourse occupy within ethics? Can theology acknowledge human rights discourse? How is theological engagement with human rights justified? What are the implications of the convergence of what are two potentially universalizable discourses?

I came to this research with a worldview that has been profoundly enriched by living and working in the Caribbean and in Samoa, learning something of cultural differences and what I will refer to as “situated universalism.” Involvement in the campaign against the death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago raised important questions about justice, punishment, the rights of victims and of perpetrators, and the brutalizing effect of capital punishment on society as a whole. the campaign also pointed to complex religious-secular allegiances leading to intellectual and practical solidarity in the saeculum where Augustine's two cities, the Civitas Dei and the Civitas terrene, overlap. But if there is one experience that has been the touchstone of this book, it is involvement in the work of Credo Centre with children who live and work on the streets of Port of Spain. the “street children” of our world are one of our most vulnerable human groups. Working with them taught me that the denial of basic rights to food, shelter, safety, and education, and the various kinds of exploitation that this denial exposes children to, both undermines their human dignity and damages their capacity to develop their potential. the resulting impoverishment both diminishes their flourishing as human beings and denies the human community the gifts of those who never reach their potential.

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