U.S. must own up to misdeeds, says Grawemeyer religion winner

Donald Shriver Jr., an ethicist and former president of Union Seminary in New York City, earned the prize for the ideas he set forth in his 2005 book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds. He is winner of the 18th Grawemeyer religion award.

The United States has never adequately faced or tried to repair the damage from its national misdeeds, Shriver says. Before it can progress as a country, its government and people need to openly address the problems much as Germany has worked to make amends for World War II and South Africa has tried to atone for apartheid, he says.

“Shriver shows us that loving our country uncritically does not make us patriots,” said Susan Garrett, a religion professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary who directs the award. “He explains exactly what we need to do to mend the fabric of American society, and it’s a creative, powerful concept.”

Shriver, an ordained Presbyterian minister who has belonged to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations since 1988, was president of Union Seminary from 1975 to 1991. He has taught ethics at Union, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary and Emory University, written 13 books and lectured worldwide.

The Grawemeyer Awards at the University of Louisville awards $1 million each year, $200,000 each for works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. The religion award is given jointly by the university and Presbyterian seminary.

Winners of the other Grawemeyer Awards also were announced this week.

About Donald Shriver

Donald Shriver Jr. has long taken an international voice in examining ethical issues related to race relations, youth, business, politics and medicine.

DonaldAn ordained Presbyterian minister, he was president of Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1975 to 1991 and taught ethics there until 1996 as the William E. Dodge Professor of Applied Christianity. He also has taught at Jewish Theological Seminary, Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and Columbia University’s schools of business, law, international affairs and journalism.

Before teaching, he was pastor of a congregation in North Carolina and a Presbyterian minister at North Carolina State University.

Shriver, who has belonged to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations since 1988, has traveled to 55 countries including India, Germany, South Korea, South Africa, England, Ireland and Belgium.

A member of the American Theological Society and former president of the Society of Christian Ethics, Shriver also has engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue in several countries. He was a fellow of the American Academy in Berlin and visiting senior scholar of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Shriver has written 13 books about ethics. His previous works include The Unsilent South: Prophetic Preaching in Racial Crisis (1965), The Lord’s Prayer: A Way of Life (1983) and An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics (1995). He is now working on a new book about his former teacher, H. Richard Niebuhr of Yale University.

His Grawemeyer Award-winning book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds, was translated into German last year.

Shriver earned a doctorate in religion and society from Harvard University and degrees from Davidson College, Union Theological Seminary and Yale University Divinity School. He also has received six honorary degrees.

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