Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John Howard Yoder: Pacifist Aggressive

From Mark Oppenheimer at The New York Times:
Can a bad person be a good theologian?

All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.

By that standard, few have failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. In his teaching at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and in books like “The Politics of Jesus,” published in 1972, Mr. Yoder, a Mennonite Christian, helped thousands formulate their opposition to violence. Yet, as he admitted before his death in 1997, he groped many women or pressured them to have physical contact, although never sexual intercourse.

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moseynon said...

The question of whether an individual can do monstrous deeds, as well as things worthy of great praise, may be troubling but the answer is clear. Yes, they can do both.

Fritz Haber was a German chemist who is still world famous for developing a method of turning air into ammonia. The Haber Process revolutionized farming around the world. Wiih cheap and abundant fertilizer, crop yields soared. Perhaps up to the third of the world's population is alive today because of his invention.

But Fritz Haber also is infamous for starting gas warfare in World War I. When he first proposed the idea to German military leaders, they were appalled and rejected him outright. But he persisted, and volunteered to organize a gas warfare unit. With his fame and prestige already established, he eventually won approval. He was at the front when his chlorine gas was first used, and then returned home to celebrate.

The NYT article notes that Mennonites "tend to consider behavior more
important than belief. For them, to study a man’s writings while ignoring his life is especially un-Mennonite." I think there is value in that attitude.

DirtyHarry1 said...

I guess even theologians can be scumbags.

Censored said...

Pacifist-aggressive, indeed.

The original proclaimed pacifism of Mennonites was a reaction to their violently aggressive behavior in the 1534–1535 Münster Rebellion, where the Anabaptist leader "legalized polygamy, and himself took sixteen wives" during a "forceful attempt to establish a theocracy." [/wiki/Münster_Rebellion]

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Paul T. McCain said...

A friendly warning to this blog community.

Beware of Brian Bowman who is a notorious troll. The man loves to come on to a blog site and spout off incessantly and obsessively.

Be warned, friends.