Two generations after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is a need to evaluate what has been achieved when it comes to discussions on human dignity and human rights in terms of their foundations and applications. This issue of the Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society addresses this task from the point of view of theological ethics and religious studies. Part One of this collection provides a solid foundation for defining human dignity and promoting human rights. Part Two demonstrates how this foundation can be applied to current and pressing ethical, legal, and theological issues confronting humanity, by addressing four exemplary issues (homosexuality, gender, migrants, and climate change). Combined, these essays point a way forward for the ongoing development of a comprehensive, comprehensible, consistent, and credible definition of human dignity and human rights and their role in addressing ongoing ethical, legal, and theological issues.
An ethics of vulnerability, that develops out of an imago Dei/human dignity presupposition, can provide a foundation for a virtue ethics that orients us toward the right responsiveness to contemporary challenges. It explores a vulnerability rooted in imago Dei language and then further develops a vulnerability foundation that is based not primarily on need but on capacity. It concludes offering particular virtues (humility, vigilance, mercy and hospitality) that help in the practice of recognizing human dignity.
Basic human rights reflected in international rights regimes and presupposed in Catholic social ethics are universal in theory, yet in practice their exercise depends upon legally sanctioned membership in a political community. This gap between the normativity of the dignity of the migrant and the practical denial of their rights is maintained by (1) standard paradigms for analysing migration and (2) a related neglect of structural injustices that facilitate rights violations. The Catholic tradition’s social anthropology, understanding of social sin, and commitment to a global common good are poised to reorient responsibility for irregular migration beyond individuals who cross borders or overstay visas alone.
In 2010 the rectorate of the University of Vienna established the research platform “Religion and Transformation in Contemporary European Society” (RaT) the name of which was later changed to “Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society”. RaT is the supporting organisation of the “Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society“ (JRAT) which was founded in 2015. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of RaT, the philosopher Esther Ramharter takes a closer look at the significance of the term transformation. Her main focus will be on the way in which this term has been used in the publications of the members of RaT. A review of ten years of RaT.
The reader’s subjective experience cannot be easily integrated into an interpretation that claims a certain objectivity and adequacy to the text. For the exegesis of sacred texts, this means that something unspeakable remains, the encounter of which is traditionally described with the theological categories revelation and salvation. This raises the suspicion that by methodically excluding subjectiveness, at least part of the theological character of a text gets lost in interpretation. In order to exemplify the challenge subjectivity poses to scientific interpretation, especially within the framework of a religious community, this paper analyzes documents of the Catholic Church on the interpretation of the bible since 1965. In a next step, the categories of revelation and salvation are traced in Roland Barthes’ essay Camera Lucida (1980). His concepts shed light on the shortcomings of the documents and provide fresh impulses for a transformed understanding and appreciation of the reader’s experience.
Against the promise of free movement and mobility celebrated by the narrative of capitalism and globalization, the border stands as a stark reminder of the terrorizing history of death, destruction, and humiliation at the frontier. Like the Atlantic Ocean, home of the invisible and brutalizing memory of the slave trade, the Mediterranean and the Sonoran Desert today have become a dead zone, a dark trail of loss and sufferance amidst faint dreams of open lands and seas and freedom to roam. The growing militarization and securitization of the border unleashed by sophisticated technologies and algorithms of surveillance reflect a disturbing precariousness of empathy which seeks to conceal and banalize the trauma of crossing frontiers. By framing the debate of borders around security, threat and territory, the narrow calculus of border thinking multiplies and mutates beyond the physical spaces of the frontier, animating in the process a narrative of invasion, cultural purity, and territorial privilege. This article offers a critical reading of the politics, performance, and poetics of the border, border practices and border thinking in our current fractious conjuncture. Using the works of Caribbean poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant, I argue for a different interpretation and poetics of the border, one which does not nullify rootedness but refutes the tyranny of the “totalitarian root”. Under this alternative imaginary, the degeneration of borders into zones of non-being and the converse image of mobility as a human right force us to re-visit old fundamental questions about the distribution of the earth.
In his book After Europe, the Bulgarian political theorist Ivan Krastev observes the ‘free fall’ of the dominant grand narrative in Europe after 1989, Fukuyama’s idea of the ‘End of history’. If we want to understand why we must pay attention both to the ‘periphery’ of this narrative, as well as to the periphery of Europe, where the recent movement of migration in the refugee crisis is experienced from a nationalist déjà vu mindset and not welcomed, we have to rethink the phenomenon of nationalism and patriotism, and the difference between the two. After a short phenomenology of the diverse combinations of ‘love’ (among other meanings the love for my patria) and ‘justice’, the author concludes that a strict separation of patriotism and nationalism is hardly possible. And even more fundamental, there will always be a tension between love and justice or, in philosophical terms, between the particular and the universal. Following Krastev, the autor holds that the contemporary rise of populist movements and of ‘illiberal democracy’ points to the crisis of a meritocratic idea of liberal democracy. One longs for a form of belonging that is not the result of our performance but that is unconditional, as Jean Améry argued in his reflections on the meanings of a homeland (Heimat).
This article examines the significance of public space for the European project and reflects on the contribution of Christianity to the shaping of today’s public space. It is characterized by a common and shared symbolic, social, cultural, economic, political and geographical sphere that is potentially accessible and open to all people and welcomes creative participation. Today the specific task of Christianity consists not at least in the concretization of the idea of universal friendship in view of an ethos of empathy and inclusion which is perceptive of migrants and their narratives. The development of a amicable and non-hegemonic coexistence of Christianity, Islam and the secular world in Europe poses a particular challenge. In addition, it is necessary to make one’s own traditions and potentials fruitful in such a way that also the dead, who in the secular world are largely excluded, obtain a corresponding presence in the world of the living beyond nihilistic resignation. In this context it becomes apparent that the vocation of Christianity consists in providing an exit strategy to closed social and symbolic worlds. This exit includes the subversion of boundaries. It does not create an abstract boundlessness, but sets in motion a continuous process of creative openings and shifts in which public space becomes concrete as a place of ever new approaches, exits and inclusions.
From 1933, the inner Protestant ‘German Christians Church Movement’ from Thuringia took control over some Protestant regional churches in Germany. For the German Christians the main motives of their agitation were the creation of a ‘volkisch’ belief system based on race, Christianity and ‘dejudaization’ (of Christianity).
Based on the theoretical considerations of spaces, boundaries and exclusion, the article uses the example of the German Christians to show under which conditions individuals are denied entry into an imaginary religious space. ‘Exclusivist border crossings,’ as this phenomena is named here on the theoretical perspective, can explain how religious arguments exclude people from entering a religious space such as salvation when the access criteria are linked to birth-related conditions.
This article offers an interpretation of late modern social imaginaries and their relationship to religion and violence. I hypothesize that the transition from the ‘secular age’ to a so-called ‘post-secular constellation’ calls on us to critically reconsider the modern trope that all too unambiguously ties religion and violence together. Discussing the fault lines of a secularist modernity spinning out of control today on various fronts, I argue that the narrative semantics of the so-called ‘return of religion’ is frequently adopted as an imaginative catalyst for confronting these contemporary discontents – for better and worse. In linking recent work on ‘social imaginaries’ with Paul Ricœur’s discussion of the productive role of imagination in social life, I then explore the transformative potential of religious imagination in its inherent ambiguity. In conclusion I demonstrate that this quality involves a poietic license to start all over, one which can be used to expose both the violence of our beloved political ideals of freedom and sovereignty, as well as their repercussions on religious practice.