Released: Dec. 16, 1999
New book by Eric Mount explores Christian ethics
DANVILLE, KY - Eric Mount, Rodes Professor of Religion at Centre College, is the author of a new book entitled Covenant, Community and the Common Good: An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. Pilgrim Press is the publisher.
Mount says that the word "covenant" should be one of the most important in our language, implying commitment and responsibility, yet the very concept is on shaky ground in an age that emphasizes personal pleasure and individual rights. In contrast to ancient Hebrew people, who believed that citizens must always value community needs above individual preferences, the United States and other Western countries have created what Mount refers to as a "cancerous form of individualism."
The book presents the idea that the ideals of covenant and the common good can serve as correctives to damaging forms of individualism. But Mount also notes that "covenant" and "the common good" can become unhealthy ideals when used to suppress diversity or impose subordination. The prescription for healthy covenants, he says, is a community that respects differences, enables full participation and carries on a continuing conversation about the idea of common good.
In his critique of contemporary society, Mount says that the narrow emphasis on self is reflected in attitudes toward work, government and family life. Mount devotes an entire chapter to marriage and family. He says that for many contemporary couples, marriage has become merely a legal contract to protect assets, while others simply ignore the notion of marriage because they intend to live together only so long as it gives each of them personal pleasure. What is missing is an appreciation of mutual benefits that require some self-sacrifice but also yield self-fulfillment.
Mount argues in the final chapter of his book that faith, hope and love are not only covenantal virtues but also civic virtues. He says these virtues can build and maintain communities in answer to the erosion of "civil society" lamented by both conservatives and liberals. As one extraordinary example, Mount cites former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mandela kept his hope and his patience while imprisoned for 30 years by his political opponents. His courage and his sense of covenant helped bring constructive change for his country.
A Centre faculty member since 1966, Mount teaches courses on ethics and health care, business ethics, Christian social ethics and contemporary theology. He has also served the college as chaplain, vice president/dean of students and director of Centre in Strasbourg.
Mount is the author of three prior books: Conscience and Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1964), The Feminine Factor (John Knox, 1973), and Professional Ethics in Context: Institutions, Images, and Empathy (Westminster/John Knox, 1990).
For more than 20 years, Mount has moderated a community ethics discussion group held monthly for members of the Danville and Centre community. An ordained minister, he is active in the Presbyterian Church in Danville. He has served and chaired several boards of local organizations, including three ethics committees at present. Mount has been active in civil rights and race relations in Central Kentucky and received the 1985 John E. Haycraft Award from the NAACP for outstanding contributions to civil rights. He was a founding member of the Danville Boyle County Human Rights Commission.
Mount holds a bachelor of arts degree from Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), a bachelor of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, a master's degree in sacred theology from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate from Duke University.
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