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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment
by:T. Richard Snyder
This bold work confronts the spirit of punishment that permeates our culture and its deleterious effects on today's penal system and society at large. Rooted in experiences of prison reality, the book sets forth an original theory about the theological roots of our current punitive ethos and offers a creative antidote informed by a commitment to...
This bold work confronts the spirit of punishment that permeates our culture and its deleterious effects on today's penal system and society at large. Rooted in experiences of prison reality, the book sets forth an original theory about the theological roots of our current punitive ethos and offers a creative antidote informed by a commitment to restorative justice. Snyder shows that the spirit of punishment in our culture is rooted in and reinforced by popular Christian misunderstandings of human nature and God's grace. These misunderstandings include two consequential errors: the absence of any notion of 'creation grace' and an understanding of 'redemption grace' couched exclusively in individualistic, internalized, and nonhistorical terms. In both cases the social-historical dimensions of grace necessary for holistic redemption are ignored. These theological distortions, coupled with a prevailing cultural context that divides people between 'them' and 'us' 'the most virulent form of which is racism' make a spirit of punishment inevitable. Snyder finds clues for a different understanding of humanity and God in responses to crime categorized as 'restorative justice'. These alternative perspectives seek redemption not only for the perpetrator but also for the victims of crime and the larger community. They also recognize all persons as 'graced', no matter what their actions may have been. Drawing on these clues, Snyder initiates fresh ways of thinking about the traditional theological concepts of covenant, incarnation, and trinity as foundations for a restorative approach to justice. He also challenges religious communities to understand God's good news in ways that offer hope for a transformed world. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment is an eye-opening work with profound implications for contemporary social life.
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