The focus of Journal of Religious Ethics 43:2 is a conversation at and about the interface of feminist ethics and religious ethics, in order to show what these multifaceted fields of intellectual endeavor and practical import have to say to each other, to teach and to learn. The seven essays approach that dialogue from a variety of angles and traditions, reflecting the fecundity of both fields and the wide-ranging concerns of colleagues in religious ethics who share commitments and methods with feminist ethics.
Throughout these articles, themes and methods characteristic of feminist thought prevail, perhaps especially feminism’s insistence on the crucial value of a particularist perspective for moral deliberation. From Hille Haker’s powerful story of Valentina, a Moldovan mother who fell prey to sex traffickers, to the voices of young black lesbians, in the essay by Thelathia N. Young and Shannon J. Miller, mourning the disruption of formative relationships with their mothers and their church communities, the focus on particulars afforded by narrative methods stands out. One consistent result of this attention is the readiness to interrogate arguments that seem to “work” in the theoretical realm but threaten harm when put into practice.
These essays make clear that feminist ethics and religious ethics not only have much of value to say to each other, but also have ways of holding each other accountable for blind spots and errors that arise from too narrow a focus on one or another method or conviction, errors that can have undesirable, even immoral results in practice. In addition to the fruitfulness of the dialogue, however, feminism also offers something new: previously unacknowledged fields to explore, novel perspectives on areas of ethical thought that may have seemed to have been conclusively settled, and fresh examinations of long-shelved topics and thinkers.
The call to be “finely aware and richly responsible”—issued by feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum (1985), using words of Henry James that also echo in the work of religious ethicist H. Richard Niebuhr (1963)—knows no disciplinary boundary. It’s time to talk.