James McCarty

Clinical Assistant Professor of Religion and Conflict Transformation; Director, Tom Porter Religion and Conflict Transformation Program

James W. McCarty is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research sits at the intersections of Peace Studies and Christian Ethics. In particular, he is interested in the ways that social forces shape our moral lives and the ways that moral agency is exercised toward social transformation in the everyday lives of those most negatively impacted by those social forces. He researches these dynamics in social and political practices such as peacebuilding, truth and reconciliation commissions, nonviolent social change, and racial justice and human rights activism. He has also written about the theological ethics of Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu. His essays have appeared in journals of theology, ethics, and law.

In addition to his research, McCarty is a minister and activist. He has worked in congregational and campus ministries in Washington, Georgia, and California. He has also been a restorative justice, transformative justice, and conflict transformation practitioner in the United States and East Africa. Particular peace and justice practices in which he has both practical and research expertise include peacemaking circles, nonviolent direct action, truth and reconciliation commissions, and organizational change regarding issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism.

McCarty is a past co-convener of the Asian and Asian American Working Group of the Society of Christian Ethics and is a general editor of the book series The Business of Modern Life. Prior to coming to BU, he held administrative and teaching positions at Emory University, Seattle University, and the University of Washington.

He teaches courses in conflict transformation, restorative justice, peacebuilding, and community organizing. In addition, he administers the Certificate in Religion and Conflict Transformation in collaboration with the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium.


Edited Volumes

The Business of Incarceration: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Prison-Industrial Complex. Co-edited with Justin Bronson Barringer and Sarah Frances Farmer. (Eugene: Cascade Books, in progress, expected 2024).

The Business of War: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Military-Industrial Complex. Co-edited with Mathew A. Tapie and Justin Bronson Barringer (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2020).

Violence and Peace, Special Issue of Practical Matters: A Journal of Religious Practices and Practical Theology (March 1, 2012). Co-edited with Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon.

Journal Articles

“‘Hope is a Discipline’: Practicing Moral Imagination in Transformative Justice.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 43.1 (2023), 129-147.

“Reflections on the Field: Teaching Religion and Upholding Academic Freedom,” with multiple authors, Journal of Religious Ethics 51.2 (2023), 343-373.

“The Power of Hope in the Work of Justice: Christian Ethics after Despair.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 40.1 (2020): 39-57.

“New Directions in International Justice,” Journal of Law and Religion 29.1 (2014): 197-205.

“A Paradoxical Theology of Biology: Desmond Tutu’s Social Ethics in Light of His Sermon at Southwark Cathedral.” Theology and Sexuality 19.1 (2013): 89-97.

“The Embrace of Justice: The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Miroslav Volf, and the Ethics of Reconciliation,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 33.2 (2013): 111-129.

“The Hybridized Public Sphere: Asian American Christian Ethics, Social Justice, and Public Discourse,” with Keun-joo Christine Pae, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 32.1 (2012): 93-114.

“Nonviolent Law? Linking Nonviolent Social Change and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions,” West Virginia Law Review 114.3 (2012): 969-1005.

“When the State is Evil: Biblical Civil (Dis)Obedience in South Africa,” with Joel A. Nichols, St. John’s Law Review 85.2 (2011): 593-625.

Selected Book Chapters

“Restorative Justice in Washington State,” with Inga Laurent and Barb Toews, The International Encyclopedia of Restorative Justice: North America Volume (forthcoming)

“Prison-Industrial Complex Abolition and Transformative Justice: A Primer for Christians.,” with Johonna McCants-Turner, in The Business of Incarceration: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Prison-Industrial Complex (Cascade Books, forthcoming).

“Building Peace in a Violent Nation: A Kingian Response to the Interconnected Violence of Racism, Materialism, and Militarism.” In The Business of War: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Military-Industrial Complex (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2020): 179-192.

“‘The Gods Will Not Save You’: On Teaching Ethics with The Wire,” in The Wire in the College Classroom: Pedagogical Approaches in the Humanities, eds. Karen Dillon and Naomi Crummey (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015): 127-42.

“Reading Differently,” in Reading Theologically, ed. Eric D. Barreto (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014): 95-108.

“Civil Law and Civil Disobedience: The Early Church and the Law,” with Joel A. Nichols, in Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy, and Legal Institutions, eds. Robert F. Cochran Jr. and David Van Drunen (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013): 183-207.

Other Publications

Excerpt from The Business of War: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Military-Industrial Complex in Canopy Forum: On the Intersections of Law and Religion

“Transformative Justice is Resistance to the Military-Industrial Complex,” as part of symposium dedicated to The Business of War:

Introduction to Syndicate symposium on Disciplined by Race: Theological Ethics and the Problem of Asian American Identity

Selected Media Coverage and Interviews

Interview, “Black history is under attack across US from AP African American Studies to ‘Ruby Bridges’,” USA Today, in special issue “MLK’s ‘I have a dream’ speech looms large 60 years later,” August 23, 2023,

Feature story, “BU Faculty Combine Academics and Activism—with Social Justice at the Core,” Bostonia, Summer 2023,

Interview, “Why We Need More MLK in Schools, not Less,” BU Today, November 29, 2022,

Faculty Types