'Not My People': Jewish-Christian Ethics and Divine Reversals in Response to Injustice

In Kevin Timpe & Blake Hereth (eds.), The Lost Sheep in Philosophy of Religion: New Perspectives on Disability, Gender, Race, and Animals. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 120-137 (2019)
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In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are familiar consequences for disobedience to God—destruction of holy sites, slavery, exile, and death. But there is one consequence that is less familiar and of special interest in this chapter. Disobedience to God sometimes results in stark reversals in God’s very relationship and experiential availability to God’s own people. Such people may even remove God’s very presence. This is a curious form of punishment that threatens the very spiritual identity of the victims of the reversal. This chapter explores divine reversal in the Hebrew Scriptures (and its continuation in the New Testament). Insofar as the self-identified people of God commit positive injustices against others, and even insofar as they are culpable for failing to prevent such injustices from occurring, devotees of the Hebrew Scriptures—so, devout Jews and Christians alike—ought to take seriously the possibility that God will side with those who suffer the injustices and even, in a sense, sanctify their life, practices, and identity. Divine reversals pose problems for Jewish and Christian ethics, which must grapple with the possibility that God might seem to adopt inconsistent moral positions across time—or at least inconsistent moral postures.
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