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Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds

Oxford University Press / 2005 / Hardcover

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Product Description

Donald Shriver argues that recognition of morally negative events in American history is essential to the health of our society. The failure to acknowledge and repent of these events skews the relations of many Americans to one another and breeds ongoing hostility. Yet our civic identity largely rests on denials, forgetfulness, and inattention to the memories of neighbors whose ancestors suffered great injustices at the hands of some dominant majority. Shriver contends that repentance for these injustices must find a place in our political culture. Focusing on the wrongs suffered by African Americans and Native Americans, Shriver examines the challenges associated with the call for collective repentance: What can it mean to morally master a past whose victims are dead and whose sufferings cannot be alleviated? What are the measures that lend substance to language and action expressing repentance? What symbolic and tangible acts produce credible turns away from past wrongs? In answering these and other important questions, Shriver creates a compelling vision of the collective repentance and apology that must precede real progress in relations between the races in this country.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 368
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2005
Dimensions: 6.4 X 9.3 X 1.4 (inches)
ISBN: 0195151534
ISBN-13: 9780195151534
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

In Honest Patriots, renowned public theologian and ethicist Donald W. Shriver, Jr. argues that we must acknowledge and repent of the morally negative events in our nation's past. The failure to do so skews the relations of many Americans to one another, breeds ongoing hostility, and damages the health of our society. Yet our civic identity today largely rests on denials, forgetfulness, and inattention to the memories of neighbors whose ancestors suffered great injustices at the hands of some dominant majority. Shriver contends that repentance for these injustices must find a place in our political culture. Such repentance must be carefully and deliberately cultivated through the accurate teaching of history, by means of public symbols that embody both positive and negative memory, and through public leadership to this end. Religious people and religious organizations have an important role to play in this process. Historically, the Christian tradition has concentrated on the personal dimensions of forgiveness and repentance to the near-total neglect of their collective aspects. Recently, however, the idea of collective moral responsibility has gained new and public visibility. Official apologies for past collective injustice have multiplied, along with calls for reparations. Shriver looks in detail at the examples of Germany and South Africa, and their pioneering efforts to foster and express collective repentance. He then turns to the historic wrongs perpetrated against African Americans and Native Americans and to recent efforts by American citizens and governmental bodies to seek public justice by remembering public injustice. The call for collective repentance presents many challenges: What can it mean to morally master a past whose victims are dead and whose sufferings cannot be alleviated? What are the measures that lend substance to language and action expressing repentance? What symbolic and tangible acts produce credible turns away from past wrongs? What are the dynamics-psychological, social, and political-whereby we can safely consign an evil to the past? How can public life witness to corporate crimes of the past in such a way that descendents of victims can be confident that they will never be repeated? In his provocative answers to these questions Shriver creates a compelling new vision of the collective repentance and apology that must precede real progress in relations between the races in this country.

Author Bio


Donald W. Shriver, Jr. is President of the Faculty and William E. Dodge Professor of Applied Christianity, Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics (OUP, 1995).

Editorial Reviews


"This book speaks a healing and hopeful language, "neither absolutist nor relativistic but relational" (p. 122). Citizens of every country must come to lover their own country enokught to remember its misdeed! Honest Patriots is an urgently timely, great book." --Theology Today


"As long as there are such sensitive and profoundly truthful commentators as Donald Shriver around speaking to American power, there is always hope." --Restorative Justice


"A passionate but gentle teaching on personal, political, educational, and religious repentence. Written in the first person by a man who has confronted those questions many times in his life as a civil rights worker, teacher, minister, and president--now emeritus--of Union Thological Seminary in New York." --Christian Century


"The worst feature of the 20th Century was the inhumanity that resulted in the deaths, rapes and torture of many millions of civilians. The most hopeful feature was the movement in many regions of the world from oppression to freedom and democracy. These contradictory trends compel us to question how best to deal with the past in order better to shape the future. Donald Shriver provides a sensitive and compelling analysis of remembering and memorializing in Germany, South Africa and the United States. This is an essential book for anyone interested in transitional justice."--Richard Goldstone, Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa


"Donald Shrivers gift to America is his readiness to stir up the conscience of a nation he loves so well. His scope of concern breaks out of narrow nationalist preoccupation to international dimension of critique and repentance. He has made it his lifes work to probe the interplay between personal ethics and collective reality and responsibility. In this book he challenges us and fellow citizens of the world to look honestly at the less than noble moments in our history. This is not, in the end, a book of criticism, but rather one of hope, pointing the way to a collective change of heart and of public policy."--The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, Riverside Church, New York


"This is Donald Shriver at the height of his powers as a writer and a teacher. He is a passionate advocate for the healing of historical wounds in every society through the acknowledgement of moral responsibility, expressions of remorse and requests for the forgiveness of those people harmed. He shows persuasively how this process has worked in post-World War II Germany and post-apartheid South Africa. And, honest patriot that he is, he charts the brave although limited efforts of some white Americans, including himself, to face their responsibility to African and Native Americans."--Joseph V. Montville, Center for the Study of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University


"Like blind ambition, blind patriotism can be a dangerous delusion that can take us off the cliff. Donald Shriver's book shines with a love of America that embraces our ideals without denying our flaws."--Bill Moyers


"Donald Shriver is a towering, prophetic thinker who knows the difference between the cross and the flag. He is a long-distance runner in the struggle for freedom and Christian love."--Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism


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