Overcoming Violence


The twentieth century has been described as the most violent century in history. The problem of violence has recurred anew in this century with the “War on Terror” and genocide in Darfur.  Two international bodies, the World Council of Churches and the World Health Organization, began the new millennium by calling for renewed attention to violence and for theological and political solutions.   Yet, despite recent calls for apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation, our policies and theologies continue to waver between retributive and restorative approaches. This course will survey classic understandings of violence and its effects, along with contemporary writings in theology, law, politics, and public policy.  In exploring various movements in political theology, restorative justice, and conflict resolution, we will examine violence as a problem of deep religious and spiritual significance for Christian churches and other religious traditions, and for the health of the human community in the 21st century. 

News Item: Faculty Task Force on Overcoming Violence, 2006-2008,” Boston Theological Institute


“This course helped me to bring some closure to my MTS studies in religion, culture, and ethics. I was able to find readings and answers to questions here that I had been searching for the previous three semesters of my degree. This was the best course and most useful and informative course I have taken at HDS. This course should be required of EVERY STUDENT going into ministry or hoping to study the dynamics of religion and culture.”

 “I’m interested in teaching and as a potential educator I’ll need to know how to deal with conflict productively and transformatively. This course ought to be mandatory for all HDS students, as its content is very applicable and germane for the times.”

 “It was a comprehensive synthesis of my concentration. It involved a collection of information that is important to all aspects of conflict and religion. Broad set of information and great instructors. It was very comprehensive.”

 “This is one of the most powerful classes I have taken—or can imagine taking—on the subject of ministry/religion. Overcoming Violence provides an entryway into these topics that is unmatched.”

 “Relevant, lively forum for discussion of our broken world—theories and practical approaches—a diverse student group from all over the Boston Theological Institute—this course is why I came to divinity school.”

 “VERY USEFUL! Great overview of history, anthropology, philosophy, and theology related to violence. All HDS students could benefit from such comprehensive inquiry. Stimulates thinking on violence and conflict with broad scope of resources, research, and perspective.”

 “Even though it does not fit directly into my field of work, a course of this nature is not only ‘useful’ but incredibly of value to me as a student and concerned citizen of the world. It allows me to think critically and earnestly about some of the deep challenges that our world faces and move as a student/faculty to do something! I think a course of this nature should be required for HDS/BTI students. Discussing violence in our worlds has many facets, and as scholars in positions of ‘power’ we have obligations to witness and confront for change.”

 “Very useful—to engage in a topic at an interdisciplinary level broadens our view of ministry.     It gives an excellent overview of the issues which are pertinent to ministry.”

 “It helped us to understand the complexity of violence in our ministry. Simply excellent.”

 “This actually isn’t my area—yet I feel I benefited immensely.”