Glennon, Ph.D. (Courses)
Professor  (RH 216)
Department of Religious Studies
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, New York 13214

THE 237

Course Schedule


Sections 01, 02   Reilly Hall 338, T/TH 11:30; 2:30


Class Topics and Assignments

Module 1

The Learning Covenant



Questions:  Why am I in this class?  What do I hope to learn from taking this class?  Who else is in this class and why?  Who is this professor?  What qualifies him to teach this class?  Can he help me meet my learning objectives?


The Learning Covenant

Questions:  What is a "learning covenant"?  What contribution, if any, can it make to my learning in this class and beyond?


·         Fred Glennon, "The Learning Covenant Revisited," Teaching Theology and Religion  vol. 11 no. 1, pp. 32-41 (on Canvas under Learning Covenant Module Reading Assignments).  This essay will provide a framework for the pedagogical style I use in this class.)

·         Read Syllabus and Learning Covenant materials (learning covenant guidelines, activity options) on Canvas ( or my web page (

Module 2.

Elements of a Christian Social Ethic



Facts and Perceptions



Questions:  What are the elements of a Christian Social Ethic?  Why are facts and perceptions of the situation so important in developing one's ethical framework?  What influences one's perceptions of ethical situations?


·         Stassen and Gushie, "The Four Dimensions of Holistic Character Ethics,” from Kingdom Ethics (on Canvas)

·         De La Torre, "The Liberation of Ethics," from Doing Ethics from the Margins (on Canvas)



Social-Institutional Location/Loyalties

Questions:  Does my social and institutional location (my ethnicity, race, class, family origins, religion, educational status, political perspective, etc.) shape my moral conduct and moral character?  Does it contribute anything to my ability to think, feel, and act ethically about the important issues of our day?  Does it keep me from seeing other points of view?


·         Glennon and Oliver, “Ethical Traditions:  Situation Ethics, Evangelical Ethics (on Canvas)




Beliefs, Values and Moral Principles

Questions:  What role does the beliefs and values I hold play in my ethical decision-making?  How have these contributed the Christian complicity in injustice over the years?  What principles does the Catholic church think ought to guide ethical decision-making on important societal issues?  Do I agree with these principles?


·         Glennon and Oliver:  “Ethical Traditions:  Natural Law Ethics, Feminist Ethics”  (on Canvas) (everyone read)



Moral Reasoning

Questions:  What constitutes a good moral argument?  What is the relationship between the conclusions I reach and the beliefs, principles, and facts from which those conclusions are drawn?

  • Anthony Weston, "A Word to Students: How to Write an Ethics Paper," in A Practical Companion to Ethics, 85-97 (on Canvas) (everyone read)

Assessment Activity #1:  Learning Covenants Due (see Assignment #2 under Module 1 on Canvas)


Module 3

Sexuality, Marriage, and Family



The Social Construction of Sexuality and Gender

Questions:  What are gender and sex?  Do men and women have different innate qualities and characteristics?  Or are these characteristics shaped by their culture and society? What is the nature and purpose of sexuality?  What does it mean to say that we are sexual beings?  Is it only about making babies or is it more?  Should sexual expression be limited?  If so, in what ways?  


·         James Nelson, "Embodiment in Sexual Theology," Embodiment, 19-36 (on Canvas) (Group 1)

·         Daniel Maguire, “Sex and the Sacred” (on Canvas) (Group 2)

·         Beverly Harrison, “Human Sexuality and Mutuality,” in Justice in the Making , 53-65 (on Canvas) (Group 3)




The Morality of Sexual Variations

Questions:  Why is there such debate about the morality of homosexuality and same-sex marriages today?  Can people with different sexual orientations act on their sexuality in morally appropriate ways?  If so, what makes those acts moral and others immoral?


·         Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986),"; (Group 4)

·         Ellison, “Reimagining Good Sex,” in Erotic Justice (on Canvas) (Group 5)




·         Fred Glennon, "Must a Covenantal Sexual Ethic Be Heterocentric? Insights from Congregations" Perspectives in Religious Studies  (on Canvas) 




Marriage in Christian Perspective

Questions:  What are the nature and purpose of marriage in the Christian traditions?  Does the blessing of gay marriage or civil unions undermine or threaten them or can these nontraditional forms achieve the same ends?

·         Lisa Sowle Cahill, “Marriage,” in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 1)

·         Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003)" (Group 2)

·         Jean Porter, “The Natural Law and Innovative Forms of Marriage: A Reconsideration,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 30, 2 (2010): 79-97. (Group 3)

·         Marvin Ellison, “Marriage Advocates,” in Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis, 78-98 (on Canvas) (Group 4)

·         Wilson Yates, “The Protestant View of Marriage,” Ecumenical Studies (on Canvas) (Group 5)



Parenthood and Families

Questions:  How does the Christian tradition understand the role of the family and parenting?  Is the nuclear family the norm or an aberration?  In our day of over population, can we really justify having more than one child?  What is the impact of the economy on the well-being of families?

  • Margaret Farley, “Family,” in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 1)
  • Karen Lebacqz, "Parenthood in Scriptural Perspective," (on Canvas) (Group 2)

·         Bill McKibben, "The Case for Single Child Families" (also on Canvas) (Group 3)




Catch-up Day

I am adding this into the schedule to address any questions you may have to this point and to review what we have done.

Module 4

Justice and Individual Rights




Questions:  How do we know when an injustice is occurring or has occurred?  What are the marks of such injustice?  What does it mean to say that our society is marked by a "web of injustice"?  

·         Karen Lebacqz, “The Reign of Injustice,” in Justice in an Unjust World, chap. 1 (on Canvas) (everyone read)


Fall Break (no class)



Christian Conceptions of Justice

Questions:  What is social justice?  Is it one thing or are there various understandings of it?  What significance does the Bible have for Christians who are trying to understand social justice? 


·         Stephen Mott, "God's Justice and Ours," Biblical Ethics and Social Change, 59-81 (on Canvas) (Group 4)

·         Beverly Harrison, “The Dream of a Common Language:  Toward a Normative Theory of Justice in Christian Ethics,” in Justice in the Making, 14-29 (on Canvas) (Group 5)



Contraception and Abortion

Questions:  What does it mean to say that people have human rights?  How extensive are they?  What do they mean, if anything, for the abortion debate?  Can you envision an instance where aborting a fetus might be a morally justifiable act on the part of a woman and/or family?  If not, why not?  If so, what are the reasons you would use to justify it? Are other forms of birth control and family planning acceptable to you?  What are they and why?  

  • Vatican Declaration on Procured Abortion 1974 (Group 1)
  • Daniel McGuire, “The Roman Catholic Freeing of Conscience,” in Sacred Choices 31-41 (on Canvas) (Group 2)
  • Daniel McGuire, “Protestants and Family Values,” in Sacred Choices 121-131 (on Canvas) (Group 3)
  • Beverly Harrison, "Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice,” Making the Connections (on Canvas) (Group 4)


  • Patricia Miller, “The Story Behind the Catholic Church’s Stunning Reversal on Contraception,” excerpt from Good Catholics:  The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (on Canvas)



Euthanasia and Suicide


Questions:  Is it ethical to choose to end one's own life, especially when one's quality of life is so bad?  Who should decide? Are all forms of euthanasia unethical?  Is there ever a time when medical personnel can and should assist people in ending their lives?

·         Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Declaration on Euthanasia” (Group 5)

·         Joseph Fletcher, “Euthanasia,” “Suicide,” in Humanhood:  Essays in Biomedical Ethics, 149-158, 166-175 (on Canvas) (Group 1)


Module 5

Justice and Social Rights



Economic Justice

Questions:  Questions:  What are the possibilities and pitfalls of our emerging global economy?  Can Christianity provide ethical guidance to address the inequalities of the system or is the global economy beyond its reach?

·         Excerpts from Catholic Bishops’ Letter Economic Justice for all (also on Canvas) (Group 2)

·         Rebecca Blank, “Market Behavior and Christian Behavior,” in Faithful Economics, chap. 3 (on Canvas) (Group 3)

·         David Gushee, “The Economic Ethics of Jesus,” in Faithful Economics, chap. 7 (on Canvas) (Group 4)



Health Care

Questions:  How should we distribute health care?  Is it a part of the communal provision that we should provide to each other?  Or should it only be distributed on the basis of one’s ability to pay?

·         Glaser, “Health Care,” in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 5)

·         Chapman, “Health Care Reform: The Potential Contributions of a Faith-Based Approach,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 28,2 (2008): 205-215. (Group 1)



Work and Employment

Questions:  Why do people work?  Is it only to make a living?  Or is there something in human nature that leads us to engage in some type of productive work?  Are all forms of work equally valuable or is there some work that is better than others and even some work that human beings should not engage in? 

·         May, “Work in the Catholic Theological Tradition,” in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 2)

·         Almade, “Just Wage,” in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 3)

·         Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, “For the Workers,” in To Do Justice, 1-11 (on Canvas) (Group 4)


·         Glennon, “Desperate Exchanges:  Secondary Work, Justice, and Public Policy,” The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics (on Canvas)



Poverty and Welfare

Questions:  Who are the poor?  Why are they poor?  Is it simply a failure of personal responsibility?  Or is it more complex involving structural impediments that the poor have difficulty overcoming?  Whose responsibility is it to overcome poverty?  What obligations do the poor have?  What is the obligation of the state toward its neediest citizens?


·         Rebecca Blank, “The Changing Face of Poverty,” in It Takes a Nation (Princeton), chap. 1 (on Canvas) (Group 5)

·         Fred Glennon, "Welfare/Welfare State;" "Social Security," in New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (on Canvas) (Group 1)




·          Fred Glennon, “Renewing the Welfare Covenant: A Covenantal Perspective on Responsible Poverty Policy,”  (on Canvas)


Module 6




What is Violence?

Questions:  What do we mean by the term "violence"?  Is it only physical, or can it be emotional, social, or institutional?  If it is broader, then what are we trying to get at when we say that someone has experienced violence? 

·         Robert McAfee Brown, "Clarifying Our Terms," in Religion and Violence, 1-13 (on Canvas) (everyone read)



Sanctioned Violence:  War

Questions:  Considering the multiple conflicts going on in the world today (Afghanistan, Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, etc.), how do the parties involved in the conflicts justify going to war?  Is there such a thing as a "just war" given today's military firepower?  What criteria should we use to measure the justice of a war or conflict?  


·         Daniel Maguire, The Horrors We Bless, chapter 2 (on Canvas). (Group 2)

·         Daniel Bell, “Discriminating Force: Just War and Counterinsurgency,” Christian Century Aug. 7, 2013 (on Canvas) (Group 3)

·         Douglas Johnson, “What Torture Does to Human Beings,” in Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul (on Canvas) (Group 4)



Sanctioned Violence:  Capital Punishment

Questions:  Should a society have the right or obligation to put people to death, even when that same society does not allow individuals to do the same?  If so, what reasons does a society put forth to defend such a right?  If not, why not?  What reasons do Christians give to support, limit, or oppose the death penalty?  What alternatives to the death penalty seem appropriate?


·         Glennon and Oliver:  “Criminal Justice:  The Execution of Troy Anthony Davis” (on Canvas)

·         Catholic Bishops, “Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death” (on Canvas)




Environmental Case Study:  Keystone XL Pipeline

Video Presentation: Watch these videos online:

·         Keystone Pipelies Exposed

·         Naomi Klein, "This Changes Everything" (Links to an external site.) (this short film gives a Canadian perspective that complements the Keystone Pipeline issue)

Then read the case study below.  These will be the basis for your case study discussion analysis which is due on Canvas.


·         Glennon and Oliver, “Case Study:  Keystone XL Pipeline”




Nonviolent Social Change

Questions:  Does social change only come through violent means?  Is the notion of redemptive violence really a myth?  Is the biblical concept of "turning the other cheek" realistic in our world today?


  • Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence, 51-103 (on Canvas) (everyone read)

Supplementary (to read in addition to the above, not in place of)

·         Fred Glennon, "Baseball's Surprising Moral Example: Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, and the Racial Integration of America," in Faith of Fifty Million: Baseball and Religion in American Culture, 145-166 (on Canvas)

Module 7

The Environment



The Roots of our Ecological Crisis

Questions:  Is our world on the brink of ecological crisis (global warming, ozone depletion, species extinction, etc.)?  If so, how did we get to this place?  Is it only the result of overpopulation, consumption, and the like, or did religion, especially Christianity, play a role at the level of worldview and ethic?  Is there hope within Christian traditions for addressing this crisis?


·         Lynn White, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," Science 155 (1967): 1203-07 (on Canvas) (everyone read)





Environmental Ethics

Questions:  What are the theological beliefs and values that would enable Christians to rethink their relationship to the natural world?  How do we learn to see the intrinsic value of the world around us rather than simply see it as there for our own purposes?  What environmental ethics do Christian traditions espouse to address the directions we should take? 

·         U.S. Catholic Bishops, “Renewing the Earth: The Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching” (on Canvas) (Group 5)

·         Sallie McFague, “Intimate Creation:  God’s Body, Our Home,” Christian Century (on Canvas) (Group 1)




Open date for student topics and interests.



Last day of class

Open date for student topics and interests.

Group Final

·         Section 01:  Dec. 12, 9-11:30pm (Exam due 12/15 by 5pm)

·         Section 02:  Dec. 13, 12-2:30pm (Exam due 12/15 by 5pm)