As of this writing, there are exactly zero full-time, entry-level, tenure-track jobs in Christian ethics being advertised by Protestant universities. Zero. There are a handful of such jobs in Catholic universities, but there are zero traditional job openings for Protestant Christian ethicists finishing or recently removed from their graduate work.
What does this tell us?
First, it is further evidence in support of Robert P. Jones’s recent argument that we are experiencing the “decline of white Protestant dominance” in American life. In other words, “White Christian America” is dying. Of course, many of us want to argue that Christian ethics is not at all about “White Christian America,” but Stanley Hauerwas warned us many years ago that whether we admit it or not “the subject of Christian ethics in America is America.” What he meant by “America”, of course, is similar to what Jones means by “White Christian America.” If it is true that we are reaching the end of this “America,” why are we surprised that we are witnessing the (gradual) end of Protestant Christian ethics as a viable discipline in American universities? Many of these universities have gradually let go of their Protestant heritage and character so why is it a surprise when they no longer employ the caretakers of that heritage?
Second, practically speaking it tells us that all students of Christian ethics must become well-versed in Catholic Social Teaching. There is no viable path to teaching Christian ethics in America today without the ability to teach Catholic Social Teaching. Catholic Social Teaching is the required introductory material in the universities actually hiring Christian ethicists, and it is perhaps the most visible form of public theology happening in America today. If you are not receiving such training, or if you are teaching graduate students without incorporating CST, you must change that immediately.
Third, Christian ethicists must not assume that their most likely professional future will be that of the tenured professor. Christian ethics in America, at its best, has always been a practical and engaged task. It is academic but also prophetic. It takes social science seriously and is also pastorally attuned to local communities and the individuals who make up those communities. It is in the Church and in the world (and not only in the academy). We must think of ourselves occupying different spaces than many of our teachers have.
We must do so because it is when we are doing our best work. But we must also do so because the spaces our teachers have occupied are going extinct.