A new book by Dr. Karen Guth, Co-Chair of the Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Unit of the American Academy of Religion

Cambridge University Press, July 2022

What do we do when a beloved comedian known as “America’s Dad” is convicted of sexual assault? Or when the man who wrote “all men are created equal” owned slaves? Or when priests are exposed as pedophiles? From the popular to the political to the profound, each day brings new revelations that respected people, traditions, and institutions are not what we thought they were. Despite the shock that these revelations produce, this state of affairs is anything but new. The problem of what to do when those we revere are shown to be compromised is a fundamental existential condition. In this book, Karen V. Guth identifies “tainted legacies” as a pressing contemporary moral problem and ethical challenge. Constructing a typology of responses to compromised thinkers, traditions, and institutions, she demonstrates the relevance of age-old debates in Christian theology for those who confront legacies tarnished by the traumas of slavery, racism, and sexual violence.

Dr. Karen Guth, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, is the author of Christian Ethics at the Boundary: Feminism and Theologies of Public Life (2015) and numerous articles in publications including the Journal of Religious Ethics, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and The Christian Century.

Bonhoeffer does not figure prominently in Guth’s new book, but you can read her work on Bonhoeffer (which is resonant with this important new work) in a number of places:

“‘Heritage Not Hate’ or ‘Heritage and Decay’?: Lessons for White Christians from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Confederate Monuments Debate,” in The Political Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Lori Brandt Hale and W. David Hall. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020, 157-174.  

“Claims on Bonhoeffer: The Misuse of a Theologian.” Christian Century 132, no. 11 (May 27, 2015): 26-29.

“To See from Below: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Mandates and Feminist Ethics.”Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 33, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2013): 131-150.

Dr. Karen Guth
Topics: Christian Ethics, International Bonhoeffer Society
Karen Guth




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