Reflections from a chagrined “Yoderian” (part one—introduction)

Ted Grimsrud—August 2, 2013

Back on July 10, I put the finishing touches on a blogpost on connections between John Howard Yoder’s thought and anarchism. I drew heavily on a fine article by Ted Troxell, “Christian Theory: Postanarchism, Theology, and John Howard Yoder.” I was (and still am) excited by how Troxell displays in a fresh way the on-going relevance of Yoder’s theology (and, more importantly than simply drawing attention to Yoder, displaying how Christian pacifism might speak to the contemporary task of embodying a humane politics).

Almost immediately after I posted my article, my family left home for a short trip to Arizona to spend time with extended family. After a two-day delay mostly spent in a Richmond hotel keeping my 7-year-old grandson and 3-year-old granddaughter occupied, we finally made it to Phoenix. Even then, I found it difficult to find computer time, and hence mostly missed out on vital moments of what was a stimulating conversation in response to what I wrote.

The Yoder dilemma

More challenging, though, by the time I got back home, my Yoder-oriented energies had been diverted. While we were in Phoenix, I had gotten an email from Barbra Graber wondering if I would be interesting in putting up a guestpost from her. This post would be a kind of manifesto speaking to on-going dilemmas related to Yoder’s continuing prominence as an important theologian (an importance certainly affirmed on this blog) standing in tension with Yoder’s own violent life of widespread sexual harassment.

I responded positively to Barbra’s suggestion. I have not had many (actually no) guestposts, but I am certainly deeply interested in this distressing aspect of Yoder’s legacy. I had alluded to Yoder’s violations in a 1998 tribute article I wrote in The Mennonite shortly after his death (an article that I would write differently today but that gives a good sense about why I agonize over how to respond to Yoder’s sexual violence) and then had written a more lengthy reflection December 2010 followed by an addendum in February 2011. Barbra had been in touch with me in the midst of that conversation and had actually helped arrange for me to get electronic access to the remarkable series of investigative articles by reporter Tom Price published in Yoder’s hometown newspaper, The Elkhart Truth, in the summer of 1992. I posted those articles on my PeaceTheology site.

Barbra’s manifesto was initially posted on the website Our Stories Untold and then on Young Anabaptist Radicals. The attention it attracted witnesses to the strong interest the Yoder situation still commands. She thought it would be of value still to have the piece posted here given the potential of reaching a somewhat difference audience. Plus, she continued to revise it and welcomed the chance to publish an updated version (which may be read here).

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