The reader should take away from this special issue the sense that the basic dichotomy of “the West” versus “China” needs to be reformulated. While the West has much to learn from listening to non-Western voices, the work of actually listening reveals that such sharp distinctions do more harm than good.
This special issue on “Human Dignity, Religion, and Rights in Contemporary China” features debates over religion and politics in China today. Political theology in China raises many questions that western readers will find familiar, but the Chinese context often requires different answers, so that gaining familiarity with the Chinese discussion can broaden our view of the available options at the intersection of religion and politics.
The idea that the political aspects of the Ten Commandments are confined to the latter portion and that the beginning portion is only ‘religious’ in nature is unsustainable. The politics of the commands themselves as well as the politics of the conversations in which those commands are embedded continue to be instructive for faithful communities today.
NATO’s humanitarian war in Kosovo in 1999 provides the context for the central idea of this book. In that conflict, the puzzling linkage between the desire to advance human rights and military means raises far-reaching questions about the role of rights in shaping international wars. Is it possible to understand or explain wars as an outcome of perceptions of rights? How did rights, be they divine rights in the Middle Ages, territorial rights in the eighteenth century, or human rights today, become something that people are willing to fight and die for?
Although Meghan Clark and Joseph Tetlow, S.J. have raised some important criticisms of Stacie Beck’s contention that the “social justice agenda” of many Catholics ignores certain basic truths of capitalist economics, they downplay the extent to which the provision of certain basic human rights is dependent on the creation of wealth. The Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain provides guidance on how to maintain both the grounding of human rights in universal human dignity and the contingency of concrete rights, a balance necessary in the current age of austerity.