Ethicist Wins Grawemeyer Award in Religion

by ekramer on December 5, 2008

Today, the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary are announcing the winner of the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for religion. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Donald Shriver Jr., an ethicist and former president of Union Seminary in New York City, earned the Grawemeyer for his book “Honest Patriots.” In it, Shriver says that the United States cannot be a great nation until it honestly remembers its offenses against Native Americans and enslaved African Americans.

“The book is a call to social and political empathy about the past,” Shriver says. “It is in danger of being forgotten, but which with some effort we can remember the suffering of fellow citizens who are not of your own particular social group.”

The book gleans lessons from actions of atonement in Germany and in South Africa.

Shriver says remembering history just through celebrations can cause divisions that undermine democracy.

“Amnesia about the bad side of our past is a common human failing,” Shriver says. “And it can be very harmful if people forget things that their neighbors are still suffering from.”

Shriver says remembering and repenting would make the United States a stronger country.

“A citizenship in which people remember each other’s sufferings is a morally superior citizenship to one that gives people permission to ignore each other’s suffering,” Shriver says.

Each year, the Grawemeyer Foundation at U of L gives awards for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion.

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