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Interrogating Social Ethics

A visit with Sharon Welch, Professor of Religious Studies

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: religious studies multicultural education privilege social ethics ethics

Moving beyond the “good guys versus bad guys” script

Topics: cultural scripts ethics

The real challenge for Welch is how “to help people see that they too can be the agent of evil.” Given that most of our stories involve “good guys versus bad guys,” those are the cultural scripts we are given. Taking some ideas from Theophus Smith’s Conjuring Culture (1995), Welch argues that “it’s not just a simple divide of oppressor/oppressed.” While clearly there is blatant oppression, sometimes excessive shaming occurs—“the people who have been oppressive need to be shamed, need to be called to account,” yet, “there’s no way all that suffering is going to be redeemed.” When a single event or person becomes a scapegoat for all the suffering groups of people have experienced historically, “it becomes a way of driving a deeper and deeper wedge.” The goal is to find a way of balancing accountability without demonizing the oppressor.