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As I entered my second semester as an MDiv student at HDS, I looked forward to branching out and taking courses that were cross-listed with other Harvard schools and composed of students from different parts of Harvard University. My favorite course so far this semester has been one such course: Christian Ethics and Modern Society with Dr. Charles Lockwood. The diversity of my class represents everything I like best about being a Harvard student. In addition to coming from all different parts of the University–from Harvard College to Harvard Divinity School to alumni working as fellows at the University–my class comprises students of various faith traditions, gender identities, sexualities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and philosophical camps.

Our class meets once a week, and each meeting covers a topic under the umbrella of Christian Ethics (e.g. Christian ethics and gender, Christian ethics and economics, etc.). Because these topics are so loaded, so subjective, and ultimately so far-reaching, lively discussion always ensues. On the first day of class, Dr. Lockwood warned us that the course would dive headfirst into “all the things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table,” and he was absolutely right.

The best part about this course is not just the richness of the weekly reading assignments or even the quality of the classroom debates, but rather the way that the content sticks with me long after I walk out of the classroom every Thursday. If something a classmate said struck me as particularly wise, I’ll find myself ruminating on it as I fall asleep. If something a classmate said struck me as particularly irksome (which happens equally often, when discussing topics so near and dear to the heart), I will parse out the issue with my friends, ask my roommates to look over paragraphs from the readings and give their opinion, or fume about it to an old college classmate over the phone. The beauty of the course is its staying power: we are discussing issues that feel urgent and tangible and completely worth the hours a week I spend tumbling them around in my head after class time has ended.

Religious studies books written by former and current Harvard faculty. Photo by Caroline Matas

Religious studies books written by former and current Harvard faculty. Photo by Caroline Matas

My experience in my Christian Ethics class is, in many ways, representative of all the best things about an HDS education: By being an HDS student, I get to go to classes like this. I get to get angry about issues and then bother my roommates about it. I get to sit at a round table full of other students who–whether or not we agree on the particular issue at hand–understand just how important it is that we are all here.

I look forward to the remaining weeks I have of this class, all the hand-wringing and nit-picking and brow-furrowing and deep thinking that awaits me in the upcoming weeks. With any luck, the questions and ideas I’m about to encounter will be ones that stick with me for years to come.


If you’re looking to do some light reading on the topic of Christian ethics, check out some of the works we are reading in this course:

  • A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone
  • Just Love by Margaret Farley
  • The Market as God” by Harvard Divinity School’s own Harvey Cox
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