Course Syllabus

Foundations of Social Justice


Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre     

TA: Rudy Reyes                  

Course Description

This course will explore various ways to study social justice, including normative theories.  Special attention will be given to the development of “normative” Eurocentric ethical perspectives to the discourse of social justice. Additionally, special attention will be given on how to bring about social justice from U.S. and global marginalized perspectives. The aim of this course is to enable students to accomplish the following goals: First, to read and reflect upon tensions in the various perspectives concerning social justice. Second, investigate consciously constructive social justice paradigms that have been normalized and legitimized. And third, to examine the challenges these paradigms present in addressing religious traditions rooted in the Euro-centric world.


Course Objectives

  1. Critically engage the substantive proposals of social justice ethics by carefully examining both their content, tasks, and methods and their relationship to Christian thought in the contemporary world.
  2. Explore particular issues important to marginalized groups in the study and practice of social justice and ethics.
  3. Distinguish between multiple approaches to making social ethical judgments, and identify their characteristic mode of ethical thinking and its relationship to their religious tradition.
  4. Engage in social analysis of contemporary religious traditions and institutions in order to assess current religious practices and to design meaningful practices of ministry within particular contexts.
  5. Articulate a vision for increased social justice in relationships, communities, institutions, and systems and structures of power.
  6. Demonstrate an awareness of the importance of social location (race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability/disability, etc.) for self-understanding and professional practice.
  7. Complete a power analysis of systems and relationships and make strategic decisions for how one intervenes as a religious leader.
  8. Become effective professionals in their chosen area of Social Justice and Ethics.



1)    Regular class attendance is mandatory.

2)    Timely and thorough reading of the material is essential for this course.

3)    A pass/fail grade option is available.  Please inform the professor in writing if you choose this option.


For those who choose a letter grade, the following scale is used:


    Final Paper                45%

    Class Participation     45%

    Academic Decorum    10%



Written grades will be based on a 15 to 20 page final paper. Written grades are determined as follows:

A: The student demonstrates exceptional quality in written work. Little room for improvement exists. Several primary sources (outside of class readings) are used in the writing assignment. Both effort and execution are first-rate. It is obvious that the reading assignment was critically analyzed.

B: The student’s work is above average. At least one primary source (outside of class reading) is used in the writing assignment. It is obvious that the reading assignment was completed.

C: The student has fulfilled the minimal requirements for this course. Effort and the execution of assignment are of average quality. It is obvious that the reading assignment was not thoughtfully read. There is room for improvement.

D: The student work is below average. It is obvious that the reading assignment was not done. The student is not living up to the expectations of graduate-level work.

F: The student failed to accomplish the class assignments.

A late paper will lose one letter grade for each class day that it is turned in late. If extra ordinary circumstances exist which prevent the student from completing the assignment on time, then the student needs to make an appointment with the teaching assistant to discuss an alternative schedule prior to when the assignment is due. Students who do not hand in ALL completed assignments must make prior signed arrangements for an Incomplete.  Students not making these prior arrangements will automatically receive an "F" for the course.  

Submission of Assignments: In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, we ask that no assignment be submitted in paper form. Please electronically submit your final paper.




Students will come prepared to discuss the following questions for each reading.  The student is expected to answer the following questions in writing, not formally but in note form:


  1.      Who is the author?


2)     What is the author’s thesis?

The thesis question should be answered in one sentence: this is a valuable skill to practice that will enable you to process information efficiently and effectively.


3)     What is the author’s methodology and theory?

Method is the way the author conducts research; theory is how the author explains the research findings


4)     How did this reading further your self-understanding of ethical issues and what do you take away from the book?


5)     In light of the reading and class lecture, suggest a specific act of justice you feel motivated to do.  



  • ACADEMIC DECORUM              

10% of the grade is based on academic decorum.  Being consistently present for class is a baseline expectation. Grade decorum is based on the following:

A: The student is respectful of others.  While disagreeing or challenging, the student never dishonors or disrespects.

B: Every so often the student attacks another student rather than challenging or disagreeing with whatever point of view is being offered.

C: The student is disrespectful and is not willing to entertain different views.  

D: The student disrupts the learning experience of others by the way they conduct themselves in class.

F: The student creates a hostile classroom experience.


Required Reading:

De La Torre, Ethics: A Liberative Approach

Ellison, Making Love Just

Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens

Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Nature and Destiny of Man

Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel

Rieger, Liberating the Future

West, Disruptive Christian Ethics

Wogaman, Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction

Schedule of Assignments:



Week One - History

9/11    Discuss Wogaman




Week Two – Social Gospel   

9/18    Discuss Rauschenbusch


Week Three – Realism

9/25    Discuss Niebuhr (chapters 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9)


Week Four – Narrative Ethics

10/2    Discuss Hauerwas and Willimon




Week Five – Global Liberative Movements

10/9    Discuss De La Torre (chapters Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4)


Week Six – U.S. Liberative Movements

10/16    Discuss De La Torre (chapters Intro, 5, 6, 7, 8)


Week Seven

10/23    Discuss De La Torre De La Torre (chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, conclusion)




Week Eight

10/30    Discuss West


Week Nine

11/6    Discuss Ellison


Week Ten

11/13   Discuss Rieger

Course Summary:

Date Details Due