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Healing memory, ontological intimacy, and U.S. imprisonment: Toward a Christian politics of "good punishment" in civil society

Feb 15, 2013

from the article by James Logan in Law and Contemporary Problems:

....Christian moral theology focused on criminal justice contributes to society by imagining and translating something of the “peaceable” virtues of “good punishment” into better state-sponsored practices of criminal justice. 

I hope to persuade civil authorities and the public to pursue forms of criminal sanction that do not function under the alienating spell of retribution as the primary purposeful aim of punishment. For the past several years, I have been developing and refining a theological ethics of good punishment most significantly by way of a reconstructive critique of Stanley Hauerwas’s theological ethics of punishment.

Central to Christian theological perspectives on criminal punishment is the requirement of discerning the difference Jesus Christ makes for Christian understanding and possible participation in society’s meting out of punishment. 

I advance here a thesis significantly indebted to Hauerwas’s work; a Christian praxis of good punishment offers a healing politics of better hope for society’s practice of criminal justice. 

Good punishment, as an embodied Christian praxis, involves a particular story-informed and worshipful practice of “healing memory” in the service of “ontological intimacy.” Essentially, good punishment involves a peaceable Christian politics of healing the memories of wrongdoing by way of the acknowledgement of sin within a communal setting of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Ontological intimacy is the Christian confession that all things participate in the power of  God’s being through bonds of radical communion.

Read the whole article.

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