Dr. Michael Reid Trice, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics and Constructive Theology and Assistant Dean of Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue at the School of Theology and Ministry, recently published a chapter entitled “On Incarceration: For the Sake of Our Shared Future.” The book, titled “Thinking Theologically about Mass Incarceration: Biblical Foundations and Justice Imperatives,” connects theological thought and mass incarceration, and considers imperatives for justice in theological thought and dialogue.
An excerpt from Dr. Trice’s chapter:
“Christian statements on incarceration begin with liberty and then seek the virtue of mercy and its capacity for unprecedented restraint in the world. For Christians, mercy is not equal to permissibility as a form of immediate clemency and requisite amnesia of past trespass. Rather, mercy is a vanguard public principle that seeks restoration over retribution as an end in itself. Rooted in Christian consciousness from Jesus’ teaching, and elevated in Medieval theology is the truism that “mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” Too much cruelty and lack of mercy poisons society at the root of liberty.”
Dr. Trice serves on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches, whereby churches across the country endeavor together to face the toughest challenges of civic life. Incarceration in the United States is a central challenge. Approximately 1 in every 100 adults in the U.S. is in prison or in jail. Apart from contributing a book chapter connecting incarceration and theological thought, Dr. Trice values and fosters various ways to experience the challenges of our shared civic life in the classroom.
When he was a graduate student, he worked with incarcerated communities on death penalty appeal cases, which he found complex and transformative. In the courses he teaches, students are encouraged to connect the issues they read about and discuss with a focus on the theological, leadership, community and personal perspectives and impacts.
Dr. Trice says:
“All theology is public theology, if it hopes to be credible in today’s world. There are no fences to sit upon even as barriers go up around the world. Public theologians must choose subject matter that opens a vista into what ails society. Co-religionists around the world also know that retributionist forms of incarceration tell us something about the failures of social life. I am committed to insightful public theology without fences, with a focus alongside other religious scholars that speaks to human freedom and reimagining the world God has us tend.”