John Yoder: a great theologian and decades of sexual assault.
John Yoder is not nearly as widely known as Karl Barth or Reinhold Niebuhr. Yet, he is as significant as they, primarily because he politicizes Jesus in a convincing way. “Christianity Today” ranked The Politics of Jesus as the fifth most important religious book of the twentieth-century (v. 44, no. 5).
Yoder is also a troubling character, having been accused by more than one-hundred women of sexual abuse. His status, institutional cover up, and the absence of the #MeToo movement in the 1970’s protected him. I’m not sure how important sexual assault is in judging a theologian’s contribution, but I can’t believe that the behavior of the man doesn’t matter. More on this later in my post.
Yoder’s thesis: Christ was a political actor in a political world
A Mennonite, Yoder argued in The Politics of Jesus (1972), his most well-known book, that if one doesn’t think of Christianity as a confrontation with corrupt power, and instead thinks of it in terms of personal salvation, then one has missed the point.