An Interview with Franklin I. (Chris) Gamwell
Chris Gamwell was present at the creation of Protestants for the Common Good fifteen years ago. He has been and continues to be a central load-bearing pillar of the organization – as someone who thinks deeply, writes and speaks eloquently, and guides us with penetrating faith and reason. He is the author of many of our statements of principle and policy, collected and published as By the People, For the People: A Political Voice for Progressive Christians (Wipf &Stock, 2010).
Over a three and a half decade career of teaching and scholarship at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he also served as academic dean during the 1980s, he gained an enviable reputation as an exceptional teacher, advisor, and writer in the fields of philosophical theology and ethics. He retired from full-time teaching at the end of 2010 as the Shailer Mathews Professor of Religious Ethics.
On April 19, Chris was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among the most prestigious honorary societies in the nation.
The following interview with Chris Gamwell was conducted on-line by PCG’s Theologian-in-Residence and Editor, Larry Greenfield.
Q) Not many public or church theologians have probed the connections between faith and politics (or, more specifically, Christian faith and democratic polity) as you have over the course of your career: when did that issue first arise for you and now, in retrospect, how have you seen it develop or advance over time?
A) My interest in politics does not reach back before college years and arose when my academic major in economics was increasingly invaded by a growing interest in ethics, leading to moral questions about the economic order. The ethics quickly became tied to Christian faith, not because I had effective Christian commitments but, rather, because I was captivated by William Sloane Coffin, whose first year as Yale chaplain (1958–59) was my senior year. More than any other single thing, I judge, it was Coffin’s example that turned me from plans for law school or business school to Union Theological Seminary.
My studies and activities at Union (1959–63) further cultivated attention to faith and politics. The importance of this relationship was widely affirmed by faculty and students; Reinhold Niebuhr’s influence at Union, even though he had ceased teaching, was enormous; and I admired the wisdom of Roger Shinn. My nonacademic activities included: a year of part-time field work in community organizing at the LaGuardia public housing project on Manhattan’s lower east side; a summer (1960) as one of four initial participants in the Student Interracial Ministry (three of us each served as assistant to the pastor of an African-American church in the South) and a subsequent year organizing the venture for other students in succeeding summers; and an intern year with the Chicago City Missionary Society, where I was placed in a store-front church in Pilsen and, above all, was profoundly influenced by the faith and witness of Donald Benedict, the Society’s executive director and, previously, a principal leader of the inner-city parish movement during the 1940s and 1950s.
Three years immediately following seminary as a pastor in Chicago’s West Side Christian Parish were also pervaded by how Christian faith might have political expression—with respect to public housing, public welfare, community organizing, an aldermanic campaign, and the Chicago civil rights movement. On returning to graduate work in 1966 and then pursuing an academic career, I returned also to Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought, on which I wrote my doctoral thesis. His articulation of how Christian convictions provide an alternative to secularistic accounts of human life and how the contrast is consequential for our common life has remained a standard for my aspirations.
Still, I became convinced that Niebuhr’s appeal to the “ultrarational” convictions available only through special revelation should be corrected by the way of reason. The Christian revelation cannot be true unless its claim to disclose God and the human condition can be redeemed through reasons authorized by our common human experience. So far as I can see, final appeal to authority is no different than mere assertion, and final appeal to reason is the only commitment explicitly neutral to all disagreement. Politically, this entails, wherever possible, government through full and free discussion and debate. Democracy is the political form of the way of reason, and Christian convictions cannot make a political contribution consistent with the democratic way unless they are open to reasoned assessment. Thus, the quest for a reasoned response to Christian faith became inseparable from my appreciation of democracy at its best.
Q) You are admired for the rigor and depth of your philosophical, theological, and ethical inquiries while at the same time instilling a similar appreciation for the clarity and relevance of your political insights, including politics-on-the-ground. In your mind, how have you been able to pull that off and continue to have them mutually informing?
A) My activities in seminary and on Chicago’s west side are, I expect, responsible for the persisting belief that academic work, and especially work in religious ethics, should make a difference, at least in the longer run, to human life and the human community. One important reason for this legacy is the following: I returned to academic work in part because, during my time with the West Side Christian Parish, I continually sensed my inability to formulate or defend an account of Christian principles providing grounds for social and political decisions—for instance, on alternative styles of community organizing or differing views of justice or the relations among and relative importance of differing political issues. Doctoral work was, whatever else it was, a way to settle my own mind about some basic issues in theology and philosophy for the sake of clarity about social and political purpose. For that reason, and even if my wish to follow the way of reason has meant attention to some recondite theoretical matters, the more specific significance of theoretical conclusions has remained on my mind. In more recent years, Protestants for the Common Good and my colleagues there have prevented slippage by insisting that my theological and philosophical interests not be impractical. More positively stated, this association has provided me the occasion to maximize whatever political importance I can give to those theoretical pursuits.
Q) Looking back, identify key influences in your collegiate studies at Yale, your ministerial studies at Union Theological Seminary, and your graduate studies at the University of Chicago. Who and what shaped your thought most decisively? Who and what shaped your Christian faith most decisively? Who and what shaped your politics most decisively?
A) Several people have shaped my thought by shaping my understanding of Christian faith in relation to politics—and these include those I mentioned above: William Sloane Coffin, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Donald Benedict. With respect to intellectual influences, I should also mention John E. Smith, a Yale philosopher, who introduced me to reasoned religious thought; John Knox, a New Testament scholar and theologian at Union, who first offered me a sensible understanding of why Jesus can be called the Christ; and Alvin Pitcher and Alan Anderson, faculty at the Divinity School, who showed me how to pursue theoretical thought that can be important to moral and political deliberation.
No one has had more influence on me than my teacher, Schubert M. Ogden, to whom, more than any other single individual, I owe my education. Moreover, such Christian faith as I have owes him an immense debt. My self-understanding as a Christian was, upon leaving seminary, still largely dependent on theologians for whom faith in God is only possible through confession of Jesus Christ as God’s revelation, so that belief in God is finally “ultrarational” because it requires accepting the authority of Christian witness. This account became, for me, increasingly indefensible, and Ogden’s systematic theology, more than the work of any other thinker, has provided for me a clear and compelling alternative: the Christian experience of Jesus is, for Christians, the decisive re-presentation of the God who is already present in all human experience, and thus philosophy may, as Ogden does, explicate and defend belief in this God through reflection on common human experience. Also, I owe a major debt to my long-time colleague at the Divinity School, David Tracy, not only for the learning given me through his scholarly achievement but also for his generous and effective critical attention to my efforts and for continually showing me intellectual opportunities I had not previously seen.
There are many thinkers in Western history—theologians, philosophers, moral and political theorists—whose work has left its lasting mark, and I will only mention among them the central importance to me of philosophers Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. Their philosophical theology, wherein God and all other things are constituted by their relationships, is, so far as I can see, the only systematic resource presently available for understanding ourselves as absolutely dependent on God’s love and its promise of everlasting worth and, therefore, as privileged to pursue the beloved community.
Q) You started your career as a pastor of a storefront church of the West Side Christian Parish. How did that come about? How did it shape you and how did it continue to inform what followed in your life and career?
A) My intention throughout education at Union was to pursue a ministerial career, and I came to see inner-city ministry as the important challenge (indeed, I romanticized this setting), principally through my admiration for Donald Benedict and my intern year at a storefront church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. With graduation from Union approaching, I asked Benedict if an inner-city church was open in Chicago, and he sent me to the West Side Christian Parish. Three years as pastor of the Holy Trinity Church congregation and member of the Parish’s group ministry had a decisive bearing on me—especially because they occurred during the 1960s when the Parish related to so many social change movements, including early stages of the War on Poverty and a major involvement in preparations for the Chicago civil rights movement. The experience underscored the importance of a social ministry; led to a basic challenge when my theological accountings did not make sense to nonreligious activists whom I admired; and left as its legacy the insistence that theological and philosophical study, whatever else they might do, should also make a difference to human life and, specifically, to contemporary political purposes.
Q) You spent some time teaching undergraduates and then working in the field of philanthropy, any continuing contributions from those endeavors?
A) During my two years of undergraduate teaching in New York (1973–75), immediately following doctoral study, I worked with a few bright students and some committed faculty and cherished the opportunity. In retrospect, however, my overwhelming memory centers on the measure in which students sought a college education for its instrumental value toward future careers. The enjoyment of ideas for their own sake, or for the sake of justice and the common good, was not pervasive. In this respect, those years contributed by making the more precious what was conspicuous by its relative absence.
I then worked in the Rockefeller family philanthropic office for four years (1975–79). Three contributions from those years come immediately to mind. First, a lesson about humanity: The Rockefeller family was, on the whole, exemplary in its philanthropy; as someone with the right to judge once said: “Whether one family should have this much money is debatable; but if so, no family has done more with it than the Rockefellers.” During this time, I was also privileged to meet—sometimes fleetingly—not only members of that family but also others who were wealthy, often through being CEOs of major institutions. Some were admirable people. But I learned that most of the upper class in our society are simply human—finally not notably different in terms of talents, faults, and failures from people whose names are little known. In other words, I learned (although I may not have so formulated the matter at the time) how much differences in condition and achievement depend on situation, on what we are given by the specific communities in which fate places us—and thus learned how fully we become who we are by gift of our relationships.
Second: I met some people, both staff people in one or another of the Rockefeller foundations and activists who worked in organizations one or another Rockefeller family member considered supporting, whose practical wisdom—the capacity to conceptualize a practical problem and design a commendable course of action by which it might be addressed—I came to admire. During my years at Protestants for the Common Good, some of my colleagues have in the same way drawn my admiration, and in their presence, I recognized that any contribution I might make would have to be of another order.
Third: I worked for the head of the Rockefeller family philanthropic office, Ms. Elizabeth McCormack. Her talents were indeed remarkable, and she was the most impressive person I came to know during those years. A former college president, she integrated a love of ideas with practical wisdom; exemplified a contained mind; showed how to distinguish the important from the unimportant, identifying incisively what is at stake in a given problem; and always conceived the purposes served by her office or institutions with which she worked in light of justice and the common good.
Q) You served two five year terms as dean of one of the most important divinity schools in the world; what did you gain from that and – go ahead and be immodest – how do you think you contributed to religious, theological, and ministerial studies as an educational leader?
A) Although I did not consider my principal interests or capacities to be administrative, I thoroughly enjoyed the time as dean—aided, I am sure, by a faculty I admired and students I continually found uncommonly smart and challenging. I learned some things about academic communities but will only mention the following: the Divinity School’s own human faults and failings notwithstanding, I was regularly impressed by its commitment to reasoned discussion and debate and by the “public happiness” the common adventure of ideas offers. Beyond hoping to help sustain the excellence of the School—its faculty, students, and intellectual interaction—I sought during those years to advance the view that historical and constructive studies in religion are integrated constructively: thought about the past (study of what has been done and said religiously), while rewarding for its own sake, is always also for the sake of thought about the present and future (study of what should be said and done religiously). I prefer to abstain from attempting comment on contributions made or not made.
Q) You were instrumental in the founding of Protestants for the Common Good. How did that come about? What were your hopes for it in the beginning? How do you now assess its work over the last decade and a half? How do you see its future?
A) Following a session in early 1995 with a faith and politics group at St. Paul’s Congregational Church, to which Don Benedict had invited me, he spoke of his wish for a wider effort in relating Christian faith to contemporary politics. I mentioned a thought I once briefly pursued to gather denominational leaders in Chicago toward defining a common sense of that relation. Don had a better idea. He called not long after to ask if I would participate were he to assemble a group of local religious people around the need for a progressive Christian political voice; either before or after that call, I assume, he also spoke with long-time associates Robert Wilcox and William Lovell. The four of us met to plan the breakfast John Baird had agreed to host—although little planning was required: Don would introduce the need for progressive Christian attention to politics, the rest of us would make very brief comments, and discussion would ensue. The breakfast was energetic, a small steering committee or fledgling board was formed from its participants, a summer given to defining an organization (the success of that summer was especially indebted to Bill Lovell ), and an initial rally held in December. Some funds were subsequently raised, and Al Sharp was hired as executive director during the following year.
At the outset of this venture, I took it to have three principal purposes: (1) to persuade Christians in the Chicago metropolitan area and beyond that their faith gave them reason to share our commitment to politics and, specifically, politics for the common good; (2) to advocate within the wider public equal political access and economic justice, not because they are requisite for equal satisfaction of diverse private interests but, rather, because God’s love empowers pursuit of a community of love and thus human mutuality; and (3) to make, consistent with that vision, a political and thus legislative difference. With respect to the first purpose, I am not clear that we have persuaded many Christians who were not already convinced that Christian faith calls for a political vocation. With respect to the second purpose, we have, I suspect, impressed a significant number of people that we represent religiously informed principles in a thoughtful and potentially important way.
With respect to the third purpose, achievements are transparent and notable. Credit belongs especially to the staff, beginning with the executive director, but also to the board, especially some of its most active members. In any event, PCG has given Christians in Chicago and beyond who share our political sensibilities an opportunity for effective expression and, further, has become a consequential participant in Illinois politics, where we command the attention of legislators and are prized by other organizations that share one or more of our political purposes. Deliberate political effect, at least in our setting, depends on organized participation, and PCG can justly claim that important aspects of our current legal framework would be missing were it not for this organization’s presence during the past 15 years.
I have no special wisdom regarding the future of PCG. If it continues to make the kind of difference it has made, it will have compelling reason to claim attention and support. Maintaining the organization’s vitality will, naturally, depend on continuing attention to board development, including the addition of members who have the time and capacity to give leadership to both its theological and its specifically political deliberations. The organization is presently facing the critical decision about a successor to Al Sharp, and his will be especially difficult shoes to fill. I am also increasingly persuaded that PCG should become in some way a national voice. So far as I can see, there are at least two possible beginnings toward this end: For one, we might renew thought about how PCG can become the model for similar organizations in other states. For a second, and perhaps prior to the first, we might identify a national political issue that is both of special concern given our commitments and promising as a focus for common attention with other associations, religious or not, elsewhere in the country. For my part, the massive and ever increasing maldistribution of wealth and income is a prime candidate for such an issue; but some other may be equally viable. A national dimension to our purposes will, perhaps, put PCG in a position to command financial support from beyond Illinois and, moreover, attract greater interest by people even within Illinois who have political sensibilities but are attentive especially to national issues.
Q) If someone had an inkling to become a Gamwellian, or if someone simply wanted to get a introductory handle on how to understand your thought, what would be most helpful for them to know? If they wanted some “essential readings” to get them on their way, what would you suggest?
A) As mentioned above, I became convinced during doctoral study, largely through a debt to Schubert M. Ogden, that religious understandings cannot be true unless they can be validated by way of humanistic reasons, that is, reasons authorized by experience common to all humans. In words that defy improvement, Alfred North Whitehead summarized the point: “The appeal to history is the appeal to summits of attainment beyond any immediate clarity in our own individual existence. It is an appeal to authority. The appeal to reason is the appeal to that ultimate judge, universal and yet individual to each, to which all authority must bow.” Inheriting a concern with whether Christian faith is true, I focused academic work on philosophical discourse about theism and politics, with moral theory being the essential middle term. On my reading, Western theism entails that nothing can be rightly understood independently of the divine reality, while a dominant consensus in Western philosophy since Kant has denied the dependence of morality on God. If the consensus is true, theism is false, and if theism is true, marking by way of humanistic reasons the difference it makes to our purposes could be, in our contemporary setting, a contribution.
So, my project has included two main moments. One of these, principally negative, seeks to understand and disclose internal problems in moral and political theories within the dominant consensus, beginning with Kant and stressing twentieth century thinkers. But internal criticism of a great mind typically argues with the thinker against that same thinker, which means that some important aspect of her or his thought is instructive—and I have learned extensively from conversation partners like Kant, John Dewey, Alan Gewirth, Karl-Otto Apel, John Rawls, and Hannah Arendt. The second moment, mainly positive, pursues the promise of neoclassical metaphysics, sometimes called process philosophy, for a convincing view of human life, its meaning and purpose in relation to a divine reality. I mentioned above the influence of Whitehead, who first formulated this mode of thought systematically, and Charles Hartshorne, who critically appropriated Whitehead for an achievement in philosophical theology. The term “neoclassical” marks a difference from so-called classical metaphysics, and with respect to theism, the basic point might be captured this way: process metaphysics breaks with the long Western tradition on which the divine reality is completely changeless, eternal in its entirety, and instead conceives of God as supremely temporal because supremely changing. God is the individual who always has and always will exist, continually adding to its appreciation of everything past the new events in the world as they happen, thereby receiving all our experiences and deeds into its everlasting life and giving to them everlasting worth. To the best of my thinking, this accounting offers a theism without need for authoritarian appeal and, if a proper neoclassical theism is also Christian, offers defense of Christian faith by way of reason.
These two moments have shaped several efforts, including The Divine Good: Modern Moral Theory and the Necessity of God and Democracy on Purpose: Justice and the Reality of God. As the latter title suggests, the question of how metaphysical theism relates to political theory has been a constant companion. Typically, I have asked how religious adherents and, especially, Christians might understand their democratic citizenship given the political principle of religious freedom and thus a political community inclusive of religious plurality. In response, I have sought a theory on which a democratic constitution constitutes nothing other than a full and free political discourse. Like Robert’s Rules of Order provide the commonly accepted context for conducting a meeting, the constitution defines the rights of “we the people” and the institutions of political decision making all citizens must respect so that rule may occur through full and free debate. As a consequence, the diverse views of justice derived from diverse religious and secularistic beliefs are welcomed into the public realm, where the way of reason is the best approach to ultimate truth about the human condition and its pertinence to specific laws and policies of the state. Democracy is the political form of commitment to humanistic reason.
Within the democratic process, then, Christians advocate principles of justice derived from the divine purpose. On my view, this means a political order designed to maximize human mutuality and thus the empowerment of each to flourish for the sake of all, whereby politics does all it can to create for divine appreciation the best we can be. Democracy itself, I argue, implies its own authorization by this divine good. But it is no business of the constitution to stipulate this implication, and justice as general empowerment waits on a convincing articulation of it within the democratic discourse. Religion within the political order was discussed in an earlier work, The Meaning of Religious Freedom: The Modern Political Problematic and Its Democratic Resolution, and, more fully and more recently, in Politics as a Christian Vocation: Faith and Democracy Today.
I might summarize my theological views in four convictions that are, for me, central: (1) Christian faith includes beliefs about who God is and who we humans are in relation to God, and its entire point is to clarify the presence of God’s all-inclusive love in every moment of every human’s experience, whereby we may decide to embrace authentically or distort duplicitously our full humanity. (2) Christians confess Jesus as the Christ because Jesus decisively illuminates the God of all-inclusive love all humans always experience and thereby illuminates God’s offer to be fully human by loving, insofar as we can, all that God loves. (3) Because God’s offer of full humanity is ever present to every human, we are commonly called to a beloved community, where each is both the recipient of the achievements of others and the giver of achievements to others. (4) Democracy as government by the people for the people is the political form of the beloved community.
The collection of writings associated with PCG, By the People, For the People, is the best I have been able to provide as a statement of how these convictions make a difference in our deliberations about particular contemporary political problems.
Q) What do you identify as the key political challenges facing our nation and our globe and how do you suggest we — you can identify “we” however you want — go about meeting those challenges?
A) In relation to our political situation, I have nothing useful to add to discussions in By the People, For the People. Notwithstanding some laudable changes, acceptance of human diversity continues to be significantly absent in our country. Legitimate diversity is an essential condition for the rewards of life together, and fear of or resistance to such difference eviscerates our common potential. But the attitudes and institutions expressing debasement of others, while not immune to change, display a kind of self-perpetuating force. I have in mind especially the inequities relating to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. In addition, the massive inequity and widening gap in our national distribution of income and wealth is, I believe, a profound corruption within our social and political order and the source of many other political faults. It, too, has become self-perpetuating because those at the very top of the economic distribution have moved the entire political spectrum in their direction. Advocates for policies resulting in benefit mostly for the few have misled many citizens by portraying governmental action in support of the poor or middle class as if it violates rights to individual freedom. Thereby, many whose economic interests are sacrificed for the rich have been persuaded to join in opposing policies designed to promote greater economic justice. Our society is, in truth, a plutocracy ironically supported by many who are its victims—because social and political purposes in service to the most advantaged have been tied to a deep and now damaging tradition of American individualism. What we in this country need, so far as I can see, is a religious change in our democracy, in directions I will mention in answer to the next question.
The problems of differential advantage are ever more glaring internationally and, further, are complicated by the magnified threat of violence and war, both internal to nations and within the global community. But I have no particular wisdom to offer.
Q) What do you identify as the key religious challenges facing the Christian church and religious communities in general — and, for that matter — people of conscience, whether they are religious or not?
A) I will attempt to answer this question with specific attention to the challenge of our life together. I am persuaded that religious ideas or ideals are more consequential than most of us typically allow. Here, I use “religious” in the extended sense proper to the understanding of religious freedom, that is, to mean any conviction about the point of human life as such and, therefore, about the ideal for our common life. And I believe that religious convictions associated with American individualism are implicated in our political failure to maximize justice and the common good.
There are two forms of this individualism. One articulates an ideal of liberal happiness—for which life is properly aimed at the satisfaction of private interests or preferences, and the larger social and political structures are principally instrumental to the diversity of these private purposes. In this form, individualism is deeply complicit in making economic institutions and growth supreme in the social purpose, because economic benefits (wealth and income) provide instrumental resources usable toward satisfying “consumer preferences,” whatever private interests any given individual may have. Those committed to this ideal can endorse a welfare state, but only in the context of a government whose primary purpose is to maximize economic success and, thereby, the resources for private happiness.
The second form of individualism articulates an ideal of conservative liberty. On this view, individuals largely control their own capacities to achieve. The idea that differences among us depend greatly on differing situations, that each of us receives in large measure from other people and from our communities whatever opportunities and support we enjoy, is given little credit. Lesser achievement is then interpreted as exhibiting personal failure. Individualism in this form is sometimes framed within a certain account of what makes life good: private moral character is said to exhaust the substance of a good life. Virtues such as honesty and sexual responsibility that can be cultivated without concern for where differing people are stationed in the structure of social benefits and burdens are, we are told, virtually all one needs to flourish, and something like this conviction is often advanced on the so-called Christian political right. There is, indeed, every reason to affirm the importance of personal moral character. But private moral individualism considers personal virtues largely sufficient to a flourishing life. In any event, the ideal of conservative liberty in all its forms typically minimizes the communal sources of opportunity and power. Hence, governmental activity beyond what serves to maximize liberty (for instance, enforcement of the criminal law and contracts and, perhaps, local mores) is typically resisted as an exercise in illegitimate coercion.
In contrast to individualism in both forms, the divine purpose as understood in Christian faith calls for commitment to mutuality as both the source and the aim of true happiness or achievement. This is because God’s call to love all that God loves is ever present to all humans, so that we all are commonly called to live in a beloved community. The voice that is wanting or all-too weak in America is the articulation of this religious conviction—the ideal on which our chance to flourish, to be creative, is shaped substantially by the associations to which we have access, even while we make the most of those opportunities when we act for the sake of maximal mutuality, act in love for the flourishing of all. Presenting persuasively that vision of our common life and exposing the false ideals all too consequential in our politics define, in my judgment, the most basic religious challenge facing the Christian church and, for that matter, all people of conscience.
Still, there is a prior, less demanding challenge to our religious communities. I am persuaded that our plutocracy is self-perpetuating in part because misinformation and warped interpretations are delivered to the public in polemical snatches, and more complicated political issues are too often treated publicly in simplistic distortions. If the Christian community has the best of religious reasons to call itself and the larger society to democracy at its best, the churches could foster, even without explicit criticism of alternative ideals or advocacy of the beloved community, forums or settings where citizens engage in more complete democratic discourse. That step alone would be a contribution.
Q) You have now retired from full-time teaching – although I suspect you will still find yourself in the classroom for awhile – so what are your plans for the future.
A) I have no well-conceived plan for the immediate future, although seeking to advance a case for politics dependent on the reality of God will stay on my mind. Reflection on the current intellectual scene leaves me troubled both by theological proposals dependent on authoritarian appeal because they renounce humanistic reason and by philosophical theories that decry metaphysics because they confine all human life within some specific historical context. In conversation especially with this latter view, I am currently completing a manuscript entitled “Existence and the Good: Metaphysical Necessity in Morals and Politics.” This book revisits issues I have discussed in previous work, but I try here to make the arguments better, to offer a clearer statement of how God and the world interact, and, as noted, to argue against accounts that circumscribe all understanding within some specific language or culture or tradition. In any event, the effort to formulate a common human experience of God’s ever-present love, through which all are privileged to act for an abiding humanistic ideal, and to articulate in conversation with relevant others the difference this makes in our moral and politics—that effort defines a task that cannot be completed and will, I am confident, continue to direct my reading and writing. And one expression of continuing attention to this task will, I hope, be continued participation in the activities of Protestants for the Common Good.
“Compassion and justice are companions, not choices.”
—William Sloane Coffin, Jr.