Reflections from a chagrined “Yoderian” (part two—sexual violence)

Ted Grimsrud—August 3, 2013

For all of my adult life, ever since I was nearly drafted into the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, I have thought constantly about issues of violence, its effects and how to overcome the problems it causes. Most of my focus has been on violence in relation to war, but I have thought about violence more generally as well. John Howard Yoder’s theology has been influential for me, but others have perhaps influenced me even more in thinking about violence’s origins and impact on our world.

Violence as a central Christian issue was the focus of my graduate studies both in my M.A. program as Associated Mennonite Biblical Studies and my Ph.D. program at the Graduate Theological Union. My doctorate was in Christian Ethics. Part of my training as an ethicist has involved the discipline of “ethical description.” One element of an ethicist’s work is simply to describe the situation, the issues, the interested parties, the various points of view. I was never attracted to the neutral bystander, strictly descriptive approach, but I have found the work of seeking to describe to be useful, even if mostly as a prerequisite for the most useful kind of prescriptive work. I suppose, too, my undergraduate training in news reporting has been useful.

So, this conversation about John Howard Yoder as doer of violence (see Barbra Graber’s initial guestpost, “What’s to be done about John Howard Yoder“, and the first part of my set of reflections) links in with my interests on several levels. Certainly on the level of how to make sense of the actions of my teacher  who helped me learn so much about peace theology. But also on the level of thinking about a terrible and oh so personal aspect of the phenomenon of violence—men acting violently toward women, especially in Christian communities. And also in thinking about how to apply things I have learned about violence from many sources over the years. So, I struggle ahead, mostly for the purpose of myself trying to understand a little better (more than affecting anyone else).

Important sources for understanding and responding to violence

I have found four writers to be especially helpful for my thinking about understanding and responding to violence and seeking peace: Walter Wink, Alice Miller, James Gilligan, and Howard Zehr. Continue reading “Reflections from a chagrined “Yoderian” (part two—sexual violence)”