Thomas/Tom Skeyhill was a writer that became interested in the story of Alvin Collum York, WWI's most decorated soldie...moreHis Own Life Story and War Diary
Thomas/Tom Skeyhill was a writer that became interested in the story of Alvin Collum York, WWI's most decorated soldier. Tom followed his curiosity to the hills of Tennessee, where he befriended the veteran and was the final in a string of persons and events that finally convinced York to publish his diary and follow through on his own earlier attempts at transcribing his memory of the events leading up to and including his taking 132 German prisoners almost single-handedly. York was famously introverted and refused numerous offers to publicize his story, himself insisting that "to take money like that would be commercializing my uniform and my soldiering." (300) Besides, his simple upbringing and lack of "larnin" belied a keen instinct, for his refusal rested upon his observation that "they jes wanted me to show how I done killed the Germans in the Argonne." (300) That Skeyhill was able to finally convince York to share his story in as near to his own words as possible reveals a bond of trust uncommon between popular culture and its combat veterans. Skeyhill seems well aware of this, and treats his subject matter with care and precision.
The first three chapters are in Skeyhhill's voice, giving the context to his visitation(s) with York before the biographer switches (with permission) to writing in York's own firsthand voice. Diffusing the otherwise questionable literary editorial choice of not-quite-ghostwriting is Skeyhill's careful use of "mountaineer" dialect; deferring to York's own linguistic nuance and at times confusing grammar unique to the frontier folk language of his time and place. In fact, Skeyhill's interest from the get-go is to give York voice its fullest possible expression, weaving in his transcription of York's personal war diary (which was against military regulation, given their proclivity for revealing operational intelligence were diarists to be captured). Several pages are dedicated to reproducing images of the text itself, as well as helpful pictures of York's home and situation in the rural mountains in the Cumberland Mountains.
I have become something of a connoisseur of veterans narratives lately, especially those that have coverage in film as well. The 1941 movie Sergeant York starred Gary Cooper in the title role, earned him his first Oscar for Best Actor. The popularity of the movie can be attributed to the timing of its release just two days before the July 4th holiday and just over five months prior to Pearl Harbor. However, the film (as opposed to the book) took many liberties and betrayed much of York initial convictions surrounding the use of his life story. Though the 1941 film probably has sept more into the minds of Americans, the book acts as a helpful antidote to the overt (inaccurate) nationalizing fervor of the Warner Brothers work (which was pulled from theaters within months for violating the Neutrality Acts of the 1930's, which forbade propaganda). Though the book predated the movie by over a decade, it is well served as a counter-narrative to that which was promoted by the cinematic embellishment that followed it.
Though York was known for his heroic acts in battle, they must not be separated from the pacifist convictions that initially formed his imagination about war. Indeed, "hit is a most awful thing when the wishes of your God and your country get sorter mixed up and go against each other." (154) When he received his draft notice at 29 years old, he had put the life of a fighter behind him. In response to the question whether he claimed exemption to military service based on religious scruples, he wrote to the draft board, which his own pastor served as director, "Yes, don't want to fight." (His draft card is viewable online via the National Archives, but also see p.157). His church and everyone in it was opposed to war based on the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." The regional board, despite his pastor's support and explicit claim that his entire local church was opposed to all war, refused to recognize his objection. So York appealed three times, and they stood firm the same number. If finally took 48 hours of prayer on a mountain near his home to convince him that God would protect York and that he could go to war even if it was against his and God's will. His peace to do what he was ordered came by way of his realization that "no matter what a man is forced to do, so long as he is right in his own soul he remains a righteous man." (176, emphasis added) So off he went to war, troubled and troubling all the way. Like Job before him, York's intense faith would inspire God to "believe in and watch over" him. (201)
The book spends a full half of its length before it finally gets to this point. In fact, York insisted that any depiction of his life not be overshadowed by the specter or war. When he signed the contract with Warner Brothers for the movie, he stipulated that no war scenes whatsoever be showed. He even required that he have final say over the leading lady, for he would not have his wife depicted by any of the infamous glamour girls of hollywood. Gary Cooper, who would play him on screen, was initially reluctant to portray the war hero because of the explicit pacifism inherent to York's story (as well as not being himself a veteran), for Cooper was among the minority in America in being in support of American intervention in Europe during WWII. In order to land the popular and talented actor, producers forged York's signature to a document insisting Cooper play the lead. Whereas the movie does cover some of York's life according to Skeyhill's account, slightly over half the movie is of Cooper in uniform, either in garrison in Camp Gordon, GA or on the battlefield in France. To be fair, the same proportion exists in the book, but no such agreement was made between York and Skeyhill, and York had much more control over the literary final product than he did the cinematic one.
The climactic scene of both the book and the movie is the one that takes place in the Argonne Forest in France, where York describes having been instructed to take out a machine gun nest to assist in his unit's advance toward Berlin in October, 1918. That the Armistice would occur just a month later did not deter intense fighting nohow, and York remembers the event vividly for Skeyhill. Having come across an enemy command post, his unit suffers a 50% attrition when the machine guns turn inward and take the lives of six of his men, including all the ranking noncommissioned officers. Taking command, he instructs the privates (the lowest in rank) to secure the few prisoners they had while he went off to silence the automatic weapons fire. His familiarity with rifles as a young man hunting for food in the mountains left him with a finely tuned marksmanship that enabled him to conserve ammunition and move between firearms rapidly, using a pistol when his carbine ran out of ammunition.
~ Random Ruminations; York refuses to lean on ideologies and streotype soldiers, even as a conscientious objector opposed to war. His experience in WWI left him with the impression that "war brings out the worst in you. It turns you into a mad, fightin' animal, but it also brings out something else, something I jes don't know how to describe, a sort of tenderness and love for the fellows fightin' with you." (212) Even of his enemies, he speaks so highly that he avoids the affects of dehumanization that can lead to post-traumatic stress or moral injury. About one German soldier who refuses to surrender and continues to fire at York and even the Germans under his care, York writes "I had to tech him off... he was probably a brave soldier boy. But I couldn't afford to take any chance." (234)
But he is also unwilling to call war good, for "God would never be so cruel as to create a cyclone as terrible as that Argonne battle. Only man could ever think of doing an awful thing like that." (215)
Whereas the movie depicts York rather derogatorily gobbling at the Germans like turkeys in order to get them to poke their heads out, the actual story is not nearly as dehumanizing. While York does indeed rely on strategy similar to that which he used hunting wild game, it is never to make animal noises at his targets - that surely would have given away his position and compromised his safety. Instead, it was the practice of firing on the trailing animal so that those ahead do not know they are being attrited. "That's the way we shoot wild turkeys at home." (228) He does the same to the German soldiers, though only to those who are so busy firing on him or his buddies that he cannot call out to them to surrender; the urgent need is to stop them firing, and their heads were the only parts of them he could see. He "done hollered to them to come down and give up. [He] didn't want to kill any more'n [he] had to." (228)
For the rest of his life he was left to think about what he done, both good and bad. He tried to forget it for awhile, never telling anyone, even his own mother. Lamentingly, he remarks "If they had done surrendered as I wanted them to when I hollered to them first, and kept on hollering to them, I would have given them the protection that I give them later when I tuk them back." (236) The words "surrender" or "give up" never leave the lips of Gary Cooper during the same scene in the movie. (less)
Daniel Bell’s book is an important work that attempts to re-center the tradition of just war on the church instead of the state. To make his case, Bel...moreDaniel Bell’s book is an important work that attempts to re-center the tradition of just war on the church instead of the state. To make his case, Bell distinguishes Just War as Christian Discipleship (CD) from Public Policy Checklist ("PPC," 73. Throughout his book, Bell uses upper case in reference to just war. I cannot be sure exactly why, but I am inclined to defer to Yoder’s impulse against granting it the esteem of a proper noun. ) He leverages Augustine primarily in his effort to show that just war as a form of discipleship is essentially an act of love, that just war cannot be seen as a lesser evil but is in itself a working out of the entire life of faith in reference to the particularities of battle. Indeed, he reminds us that if just war is really a manifestation of Christian love, one specific expression of the broader moral life for Christians, it is made possible only through the entire character of one’s life. After all, “Discipleship is the sum total of our lives as Christians.” (20) He wisely reflects that just war (PPC) is less holistically focused, for it “does not concern itself with daily life outside of war” and “has as its starting point ... modern nation-states and international law.” (74) Because just war PPC is so limited in scope, and because Bell does such a superb job of deconstructing some of its faulty assumptions, I will focus more on Bell’s development of just war CD in the interest of brevity.
“No church has produced a single, definitive ‘doctrine’ of just war.” (71) Instead, just war is simply the name for that set of virtues and habits called for in direct response to the particular circumstances that war and violence entail. In other words, just war is no different from the suffering love expected of Christians who encounter a freezing beggar or wounded traveller. Christians necessarily clothe the former and provide aid to the latter. When Christians are confronted by similar injustices that expect violence, the response is unique but cannot be divorced from the same love that motivates the earlier situations. Just war criteria therefore include things like proportionality, the requirement of legitimate authority, etc. Particular injunctions emerge from the context in which a Christian finds herself. For example, a Christian who encounters a wounded traveller would clean their wounds and prevent further bleeding. There would be specific guidance formulated by experts in medicine that she could leverage to provide a loving response appropriate to the situation. Likewise, “faithful just warriors may be morally obligated in certain circumstances not to fight in the first place or to surrender once the fighting is underway.” (241) All of this describes how the church can look to pagan philosophers like Cicero or Aristotle to come to certain conclusions about the justice in war apart from explicitly Biblical considerations. Indeed, “Christians adopted a rudimentary vision of just war from the Romans,” it is therefore “a living tradition that more closely resembles an ongoing conversation.” (71. Bell adopts a Yoderian emphasis on “tradition” over and above “doctrine” or “theory” for the same reasons Andy Alexis Baker and Ted Koontz outline in their Note 1 on page 75 of Yoder’s Attitudes. )
But Bell is right to point out that Christian discipleship is a form of life inseparable from the habits that disciples cultivate within the church with the help of the living and the dead amongst us. “In the midst of the Christian community... we have the gracious opportunity to learn from the lives of the saints around us as well as from the lifetimes of the saints who have gone before us.” (83) For this reason, Augustine holds as much influence as does Paul Ramsey or John Yoder, though they may disagree heartily. Bell emphasizes over and over again the necessity of learning the virtues within the church so that we might be a just people capable of waging war in such a manner. One point in particular I had not come across before is Bell’s insistence that “Individuals cannot be just warriors... Just War (CD) is the practice of a community or it is not practiced at all.” (239) Not only significant for its import in relation to the centrality of community for Christians, but also for its parallels to military culture, in which there are no lone rangers on the battlefield, a form of life that emphasizes the necessity of camaraderie and never leaving a buddy behind. The implications of this claim are impressive for its scope in challenging the notions of individuality so prevalent in America, and increasingly in the Army, whose marketing ploy includes phrases like “An Army of One.”
However, this very idea of being formed by experts and mentors in the field begs the question of who it is the church looks to for martial formation. Modern notions of propositional theology make the criteria for just war more central than the character necessary therefore. Augustine is a formidable thinker, but he reflected to people like Boniface without personal experience in war. This is less a dig against Augustine as it is what moderns have done with him, for he never espoused a formulaic understanding of criteria-based expectations about war. Instead, he responded pastorally to a fellow Christian in search of answers to incredibly vexing questions of profound significance. Likewise, we must be careful to turn as well to those who know war in a deeper sense than abstract theologizing can attain. Augustine wielded theology deftly in his reflections on war, but we must be careful to turn to saints with particular virtues and experience for questions of particular scope like just war, like Martin. In all, Bell does a wonderful job of outlining the significance of just war as Christian discipleship made possible only by being a just people that does not merely “hold a presumption for justice” (87) but are ourselves just. The church holds no such presumption in the same way it does not contain a social ethic. We are, after all, just. We are a social ethic.
Questions: •Why does Bell begin his exploration of discipleship and war with Augustine? As Yoder and Bainton show, the propositions that emerge as major tenets of just war have their origins in Aristotle and Cicero, so beginning with Augustine seems to make him a middleman, as though the church's discernment about soldiering and the virtues erupted spontaneously in the 4th century, which ignores many of the soldier saints that went before the African bishop. How might incorporating the passion of military martyrs and the lives of the soldier saints challenge and enrich Bell's account of war as discipleship? •If it is true that Ambrose (and Augustine?) believed “war was a deeply religious undertaking,” (27) where did they develop this understanding if they borrowed its structure from the pagan jurist Cicero? Can this impulse be traced to similar ways in which Gentile Christians adopted Roman structures and symbolism (ex. basilicas, magisterium, etc.) at times above those that might have been inherited from Judaisms? (less)
In this 2008 Essay Press release, fellow Iraq veteran Joshua Casteel recounts his 2004 deployment as an Army interrogator via a series of email exchan...moreIn this 2008 Essay Press release, fellow Iraq veteran Joshua Casteel recounts his 2004 deployment as an Army interrogator via a series of email exchanges with friends and family. A very quick read, Letters from Abu Ghraib include vivid and compelling tales of everyday life and not-so-everyday musings. Casteel is clearly contemplating the role of Christians amidst war and violence with every fiber of his being. We listen in as he responds to both concern and criticism from people he cares about, all the while trying to maintain moral coherency within circumstances that he shows us are anything but morally coherent. It is not until near the end of this short book that we learn of his eventual decision to apply for discharge from the US Army as a conscientious objector.
I picked this book up as part of a survey of memoirs by Iraq veterans, hoping to gain some insight into how other combat veterans were digesting an experience (unbeknownst to them) we share. Joshua’s account is the first that I have found to have interpreted his experience primarily theologically, instead of merely politically. He reflects on Hauerwas and Bonhoeffer, and a number of theological concepts appear throughout (that, had it not been for a year of seminary, I otherwise would not have recognized).
The most concrete difference is the structure – no other book I have discovered literally takes us into their world, sharing with us the very intimate and unguarded correspondence they shared with friends and family during their combat tour. We see Joshua in all his humanity, for good and bad. He wrestles viscerally with his role as an interrogator at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison at the same moments in time that I too found myself fighting in Iraq including the 2004 election cycle that saw Bush gain reelection. I found myself noting my whereabouts correlating to many of the individual emails. A number of them are artfully composed, and I found myself caught up in imagery made up by my own time in-country. Furthermore, memory seems to be one of the touchstones that can set off his most creative meanderings, most notable of which are his entries for July 21st, 2004 and October 15th, 2004 (pp. 32 & 97, respectively). These two entries seemed inspired by the death of one of Joshua’s heroes, Jacques Derrida, a notable French philosopher.(less)
Nicola Slee presents many important facets of Christian feminist theology in this introductory book, a part of the Exploring Faith: Theology for Life...moreNicola Slee presents many important facets of Christian feminist theology in this introductory book, a part of the Exploring Faith: Theology for Life series published by Darton, Longman and Todd in the United Kingdom. When I set out to familiarize myself with Christian feminism, I was not aware that the book I chose would be written from a non-American perspective, though I am happy to have found that to be the case. Curiously, Slee places the origins of contemporary feminism in the United States, which makes this particular book a refreshingly objective introduction.
The extent of my understanding of Christian Feminist Theology (CFT) has come through personal dialog with friends and colleagues, and I found this extrapolation no less personal and digestible. Her tone was refreshing and approachable, uncharacteristic of the fringes of certain ideologies that have been suppressed (consciously or otherwise) for centuries; she didn’t indict men, just androcentrism. In fact, Slee considerately concedes that there are forms of feminism that have swapped misogyny for misandry.
Slee’s greatest, and yet simplest, accomplishment (in my reading) is her structure of main threads within the book into individual chapters. These chapters include Bible, Language, Sin, Christology, Salvation, Pneumatology (study of the Spirit), Ecclesiology (study of Church), and Spirituality. The first chapter introduces CFT and the final chapter explores the simultaneous gift and challenge of CFT to the Church. She takes these central theological tenets and describes first how they have been understood popularly (which may be assumed is also patriarchal), how CFT critiques them, and finally where feminist theologians fall short and the ground that has yet to be covered. For someone who prefers logical, sequential arguments, I found her organization incredibly engaging and superbly suited to a beginner hoping to get the no-nonsense basics.
Much of what I read was new to me, though the major tenets were generally expected, such as the purpose and importance of feminist readings of Christian scripture. Especially as a white heterosexual (i.e. privileged) male, interacting with texts like Slee’s are invaluable in my own development as someone who desires to be a more compassionate, well-rounded person. CFT helps me to see the ways in which my own inherent biases have skewed my perceptions, and offers a glimpse of a more equitable world in which those biases have lost their power and their poison. My recommendation cannot be strongly worded enough; this is an essential text for all those interested in the intersection of feminism and faith, men and women alike.
Slee takes care in addressing how patriarchal treatments of Christian scripture have been to the detriment of not only men, but women as well. She outlines several authors who posit that one of the central sins of womanhood in our age is their failure to self-actualize; they have, through androcentric models of Christ, become dependent upon males for security, fulfillment, and salvation. Women, these authors suggest, have drunk the Kool-Aid of androcentrism. In a hopeful tone, Slee reminds readers of all sexes that there are developed theologies that are simultaneously empowering, enlightening, and encouraging for all those who wish to expand their image of the divine beyond the limitations of masculine renderings.
As with any interaction I have with feminism, I admittedly read the text cautiously, painfully aware of those strands of feminism that border on misandry. As that privileged member of society, it frequently seems assumed that my privilege is welcome or unassuming to me; that I take fro granted the opportunities I enjoy on account of my social or economic class. Nothing could be farther from the truth; in the last several years, I have been unable to separate myself from the reality of who I am taken to be on account of my own gender, sexuality, or skin color, even my history in the military. When I recently supported civil unions here in Hawaii as well as on a national scale, why were my queer and female friends surprised? Was it assumed that my gender informed my understanding of gender equity, was there perhaps a bit of cognitive bias on the part of those who knew me? It has been my experience that bias is a universal problem, that nobody is without them.
It is from that perspective that I often enter into texts that espouse a nontraditional ideology. I consider myself quite non-traditional, but at the same time not recklessly so. For this reason, I was ever more grateful for Slee’s treatment of such sensitive subject matter. She is neither an apologist for knee-jerk radical feminism, nor willing to concede to archaic institutions merely on account of their long history. However, the text was clearly focused on women, with only a few prescriptions for men or a feminist interaction with the new field being developed known as “men’s studies.” Hers was an account of primarily, but not exclusively, of women and their experience as source and norm. If I were to change anything in this introduction, I would like to have been given more in the area of deliberately seeking out common ground for men and women’s studies together. Certainly, that effort might take up an entire book in itself, but alluding to the commonality between these two camps a few times in her final chapter seemed to be insufficient treatment, especially considering the fact that frequently in the text the necessity of an academic symbiosis between and amongst the genders is implied.
My impression of CFT has been exponentially increased by my reading of Faith and Feminism. Slee’s final chapter, especially, was provocative and inspiring; calling invested persons to a considerate and critical dialectic. Such a discussion, she implores, will prove fruitful to all concerned; clergy, laity, and secular alike. Should even one of these three groups exempt themselves from this important work, it would be an impairment to all. Her alter call, so to speak, leaves the reader with hope that how things have been does not need be how things are or will be. Not without difficulty, this task of genuine and mutually respectful dialog amongst often disparate ideological camps (sacred v. secular, feminist v. traditionalist) is an imperative that speaks against both ignorance and reaction. Only considered, respectful responses between parties will provide the framework for a future free from fundamentalism.(less)
James McClendon’s central claim throughout his Biography as Theology is that "The truth of faith is made good in the living of it or not at all; that...moreJames McClendon’s central claim throughout his Biography as Theology is that "The truth of faith is made good in the living of it or not at all; that living is a necessary condition of the justification of Christian faith." The lives of Christians not only reflect the faith of particular people, they also make present the true faith to which all Christians are commonly called. The particularities of religious experience certainly do not determine Christian doctrine, but it is within the lives of believers that doctrine gains its coherence.
McClendon was a soldier during the 20th century, a time period he suggests was marked by increasing disenfranchisement with the institutional church, especially during the American “conflict” in Vietnam. The religious experience for Christians in America especially was one of moral dyslexia, trying as many Christians did to make sense of supposedly liberating movements such as feminism, free love, and Vatican II. The modern “utilitarian calculus” of states and the “propositional” theologies of the institutional church, which combined to make something like Vietnam possible, were exposed as fraud. A “new” form of theological method of understanding post-modern religious experience must fill its place.
Cautiously avoiding the phrase “narrative theology,” he argues that “propositional theology,” the method of the Barths, the Rahners, and the Tillichs of the world, had lost traction in the post-modern world emerging in the shadow of the wars of the 20th century. Stories, not scholarly debate, would prove of most value. The lives of the Christians he profiles are shaped by a theological vision so that "a key to these biographies is the dominant or controlling images which may be found in the lives of which they speak."
A name he gives to the necessary replacement to the paradigm of “propositional theologies” he variously refers to as “biographic theology,” an “ethics of character,” and “a theology of life.” Far from being without its own “reasoned truth,” McClendon’s entire work is dedicated to describing how lives are in fact inherently theological.
"The living out of life under the governance of such a vision is the best way to conceive of 'religious experience' in so far as the latter can be a datum for theology.” For Hammarskjold, it is Christ as Brother, King followed the liberating Christ, Jordan shared in God’s Movement, and Ives sang of the church’s Rugged Plurality. These images help illumine for us the image (and images) of God and for God. Their lives become for us a window to understand more fully the work of god in our world and help us in the work God calls to us.
After all, "Theology is done not only from a perspective but to and for a community." In such a community, "there is a continual blurring of the line of application between the teacher and his disciples." While McClendon does not appear to have virtue ethics in mind, he is very close to virtue theory that suggests that the cultivation of good habits establishes good character by making the virtues second nature. By making a habit of praying, eventually I find that I have become prayerful.
One can easily read McClendon’s account of the apocalyptic parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25in this exact light. Of both the sheep and the goats, he claims "that actions by which their final destiny is judged... are instead ones in which they acted unknowingly, and yet showed themselves for what they truly were." The sheep are as surprised as the goats; they each ask when it was they did the things for which they are either praised or condemned.
In his closing chapters, he turns to the distinction between objectivism and subjectivism, claiming that it is "has not proved satisfactory in modern theology." Propositionism is here aligned with objectivism, for it assumes a universal reason accessible to all. More problematically, objectivism assumes an exclusion “from personal participation in the atoning work” of Christ. McClendon seems to associate objectivism primarily with the abstracting work done in theorizing forms of philosophical/”theology proper” for being "more suited to attacking rival theologians than informing the Church of God." He accuses these forms of theology of "the time-defying strategies of modern intellectual work."
However, he avoids the easy move of dismissing objectivism and its propositional outgrowths in theoretical and philosophical forms of theology. After all, subjectivism assumes the self as the source of reconciliation. McClendon does not advocate for complete disavowal of objectivism or of propositional theology. Biographical theology instead must insist that these 'objective' forms of theology "be in continual and intimate contact with the lived experience which the propositional doctrine by turns collects, orders, and informs." Doctrinal significance and meaning, in other words, must be "exemplified in contemporary Christian experience." We must be on guard, McClendon reminds us, against uncritical forms of propositional theology that might deny its contingency upon the biographical form. McClendon suggests that we can tell that propositional theology has "[retreated] to the uncritical form" when/if it abandons any "attempt to confront or be confronted by Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ."
Finally, McClendon closes by turning to the saints to illustrate lives lived that must be brought into contact with purely doctrinal theology. Such lives cannot possibly be described as being composed of experiences of some quantifiable, objective “God” (which assigns "a cognitive priority to the compressed, the non-durational, the abstracted products of actual or durational experience," ), but experiences with Emmanuel, the God-with-us. We are known not by some radically unknowable god, as Paul encountered at Mars Hill, but the God who both reveals and names himself so that we might (even objectively) know and be known by God. McClendon sums it up by saying, "The compelling aspect of the lives to which we are drawn is often more powerful than the propositional religious goals we are in the position to formulate... the doctrine we may draw from their life stories, if it is compelling, is so just because it had prior embodiment in them and may be embodied again." (less)
Tripp York suggests that martyrdom “is the political act because it represents the ultimate imitation of Christ.” It is easily inferred, then, that in...moreTripp York suggests that martyrdom “is the political act because it represents the ultimate imitation of Christ.” It is easily inferred, then, that in so far as war is “the” political act (as many modern political philosophies suggest), it represents the ultimate imitation of Cain. That the first city was “predicated on the punishing of a murderer” serves to affirm a Yoderian reading of Romans 13, that the ordained nature of the authorities is good; restraining (or at least responding) to injustice “exists under the providence of God.” The city itself is not evil, even if it does “exist as though God did not exist.”
Martyrdom, from the Greek martus (a witness), defies tragedy and the ontology of violence in its giftedness by God to the martyr, to the church, and to the world. While we do not rejoice in the macabre (“the moment of death is not the moment of longing” ), we memorialize them as gift as well as blessed recipient. Martyrs themselves became letters, words not unlike Christ, passed along in the written correspondences between churches in whose memory the martyrs “entrust the loss of their lives.” With Milbank, York insists that the very nature of the pilgrimage the Christian calls the life of faith is “founded on the memory of the murdered brother.”
Though it would have helped, York does not explore the implications of memory in his short monograph. Instead he leaves it hidden in passing remarks. Indeed, the Fall’s god-like positioning, perceptible in any imitation of the earthly city of Cain, is made possible by “the forgetting of our one true love: God.” Drawing on Augustine for his Cain/Abel dichotomy, he leaves unmentioned the fertile theological debate that often accompanies such a dichotomy. Cain was a settler, an agrarian in perpetual need of land for agriculture. Certainly Cain’s first settling was not in Nod, but in the land from which he draws his offering of “fruits of the soil.” Abel, on the other hand, represented the wandering shepherds who called home wherever their sheep led them. Though he dedicates an entire segment to Abel, York does not place his discourse on exile therein, but two segments later, with nary a mention of the junior progeny.
This facet of the paradigm is crucial to build York’s argument in favor of the exilic nature of Christian identity and citizenship. For instead of protecting the borders of some externally defined Home, Christians find themselves with Abel in their perpetual exile, which “is both a judgment and a calling” that Christians betray if they “understand their scattering in a pejorative manner.” This critical distance from the seduction of political power is necessary for a “prophetic earthly citizenship” that “calls the sinner out of disobedience.” The call of exile, now as it was in history, was often a sentence to die. But this anticipatory death is not the tragedy of victimhood, but the triumph of the apocalypse, a revealing of the “authentic world… inaugurated by the cross.”
The martyr’s “doxological performance” makes Christ present in the world by their death. At the same time, they witness against the reign of Cain and the earthly city that “exists as if God does not exist.” Martyrdom is a gift from God to not just the individual Christian suffering persecution but also to the watching world; for martyrdom narrates the world as the world for its own benefit. However, martyrdom itself, the seal of death given as gift, is only properly understood as one “specific act within a larger vocation of witnessing.” The question this begs, at least etymologically, is whether the “larger vocation” properly understood as martus as well?
Questions: • York mentions saints like Day, Theresa, and others not killed in their imitatio christi, but fails to extrapolate what the ‘proof’ was of their own fidelity to God. Is there something to be said here of intent, of actual willingness to suffer death, which possibly is hidden even from the believer themselves until the moment thereof? • What does York’s martyrology/hagiography say of ecumenism, i.e. what does “saint” mean across theologically diverse denominations and traditions? Or “martyr,” for that matter? Would Roman Catholics be right or wrong in suggesting that the very martyrs they created and that Anabaptists memorialize are not “martyrs” in the proper sense? • As a citizen suffering very little that could be called “persecution,” and in a culture that increasingly medicalizes death, is it tenable to suggest that the Arena that produced martyrs for/by Rome has been replaced by the Clinic (or the Lynching Tree, or any place in which dying is dictated by contemporary “powers in rebellion to Christ?” )(less)
Fausto-Sterling, in her Sexing the Body (Basic, 2000), explores the trend, over time and across disciplines, of how sexuality and gender have been des...moreFausto-Sterling, in her Sexing the Body (Basic, 2000), explores the trend, over time and across disciplines, of how sexuality and gender have been described and defined by socio-cultural processes. She argues convincingly that facts and nature are rarely, if ever, truly factual or natural. Instead, she claims, “What we call facts about the living world are not universal truths.” (7) She agrees with scholarship that suggests identity is embodied, “not individual and fixed, but irredeemably social and processional.” (4) What is constructed becomes reality…
As new technologies and categories and biological phenomenon are discovered and require description, the very act of describing enters a new ‘thing’ into existence; hence, “scientists create truths about reality.” (5) Varying disciplines have identified and regulated (created?) gender – from religion, to law, science, and (most recently) medicine. However, what we think of as gender has actually been different across time and culture, most often being related directly to male political privilege. These disciplines, instead of merely identifying or categorizing gender, have been used by the status quo to regulate gender and punish or ‘correct’ deviance from a “two-sex system.” Science especially “was used as a tool to obliterate precisely the wonders it illuminated” (37) with scientists defining “some bodies as better and more deserving of rights than others.” (39)
Medicine takes a heavy beating in Fausto-Sterling’s critic, especially the practice of infant genital surgery, variously referred to also as “mutilation.” (79) Surgeries that “correct” biology, she claims, are actually motivated by social concerns, not “nature’s course,” as the language of doctors often suggests. She argues strongly in favor of discontinuing involuntary and unnecessary procedures that often are conducted without parental knowledge or consent.
In her concluding chapter, Fausto-Sterling focuses again on processes as the fundamental character of gender identity formation, that (using the example of blind Braille readers) “the environment and the body co-produce behavior and that it is inappropriate to try to make one component prior to the other.” (241) This fits well with her overriding thesis that “the divide between nature and nurture is indivisible.” [I lost the citation, but credit is hers] The name she gives to this framework is described variously as a “Development [or Dynamic] Systems Theory” and a “Systems Account” (25, 238, 243, 249, 254, etc.) of gender identity.
Obviously, a major theme of her work is that gender (and I kept reading into her claims ‘identity’ as well) is constructed over time and never totally crystallizes into one final and absolute form. Dynamic systems of physiology and environment co-produce the developing gendered person, even as society writ large suggests that gender is produced, perhaps at conception, by biological sex. I don’t know quite what to do with the (mildly amusing) contradiction to her overall claim, namely that if the construction is in fact of a two-sex system, then exactly how is it that these non-binary expressions emerge (if it’s a chicken that produces the egg, then where did this swan come from)? Maybe construction is not actually reality…
Fausto-Sterling suggests that “cells and culture mutually construct each other,” (242) a theme of her work is that nature and nurture are inseparable. Breaking down this dichotomy is helpful and encouraging. However, if we are to “erode the distinctions between the physical and the social body” (20), where does that leave rights claims? Seemingly, one of the classic claims of early feminisms in the West was that women had more claim over their bodies than did political (often masculine) entities, if not an absolute claim; if we are to erode that physical/social distinction, would that not reinforce certain assumptions she is trying to dissolve? Fausto-Sterling should possibly describe in more detail the permeability of this distinction, and defend why some of the distinctions not remain in place.
Finally, as a theology student with particular ethical commitments, I wonder how her use of the word “process” might interact with theological frameworks that share the same name that suggest ‘becoming’ should be privileged over ‘being.’ This might explain her aversion to notions of ‘essence’ and nature, but she does not clearly discredit that school of thought. Instead, she ostensibly suggests a fusion of nature/biology (essence) and nurture/culture (environment), though I am left wondering if in reality she holds more firmly to the latter than the former. After all, she spends little energy or ink to critiquing culture per se, instead focusing her energy on scientific and medical forms of gender essentialism.
Questions; • How does DST fit with theological frameworks such as “Narrative/Post-Liberal” or “Process” (235) theological frameworks? • If culture is so formative and co-productive, how should that shape the ethics of mass media, television, advertising, etc.? (less)
The whole book is really good, and a reliably peek into what it is like to go to war. The final two chapters or so are curious, but not to the detrime...moreThe whole book is really good, and a reliably peek into what it is like to go to war. The final two chapters or so are curious, but not to the detriment of the book as a whole. In the second to last, Marlantes gets into what has been known as the "just war tradition" without ever calling it that (for reasons he does not explain). Essentially, he outlines how war and violence might be justified and be minimally injurious (morally, ethically) to those who fight in combat.
The last few segments talk at greater length than it should (given his relative lack of credentials) on parenting, the role of women in post-combat rehabilitation, and other various topics. Here, Marlantes relies on a kind of gender essentialism that I think is unnecessary. He does not adequately account for the fact that women now are serving in combat, for example. (i.e. for Marlantes, women welcome warriors home, but what if the warriors are women, and what if men are equally capable of welcoming warriors home?)
Relying heavily on the paradigm of the Power of Myth espoused by Joseph Campbell, his use of archetype and ancient mythic frameworks that we in the West have inherited from Rome and Greece is very helpful and full of keen insight. Particularly useful are his reflections on The Club of Veterans, which maybe should have been his final chapter...(less)
John Howard Yoder’s The Christian Witness to the State (1964) explore an embodied witness to the established political order, particularly the somatic...moreJohn Howard Yoder’s The Christian Witness to the State (1964) explore an embodied witness to the established political order, particularly the somatic theological implications therefor. The begins by defending the relevancy of the Christian (and therefore, for Yoder, pacifist) witness to a non-Christian, non-pacifist establishment in which they live and work and worship. From the outset, Yoder has Niebuhrian theology in mind, and begins by lamenting the “prophetic irrelevancy” (7) to which his colleague apparently relegates Christian pacifism. A few particular points that are helpful are his claims that a) “the bearers of political authority are in spite of themselves agents of the divine economy, being used whether in rebellion or submission as agents of God’s purpose,” (12) b) “The meaning of history… lies in the creation and the work of the Church.” (13)
These twin claims are powerful and compelling to any person who considers themselves a Christian, since it forces them to put political claims directly subordinate to the God from which they derive their authority, despite the arrogance of many political assumptions. In fact, to take the universal vocation of the church seriously, it leads us to the conclusion that “…the Christian church knows why the state exists… better than the state itself.” (16) And it is from this conviction that one overcomes the supposed prophetic irrelevancy to which Niebuhr wants to condemn pacifists.
A central concept Yoder advances is what he calls “middle axioms” (32-33, 35, 47, 72-73) that are “halfway between meaningless broad generalities and unrealistically precise prescriptions… midway between absolute moral principles and mere pragmatic common sense.” (33, n.3) To reconcile the claims of the state and the convictions of the Church, Yoder tries to find that area of grey that might satisfy both. Going into each example would be redundant here, though it seems as though one of the central issues he forces each view to confront is the privileged nature of reason and justice known apart from or held over and above revelation. Yoder’s own view attempts to combine Niebuhr’s rightful insistence on the persistence of sin, the unknowable nature of justice as a norm/middle axiom, and the agape-love of Christ as the foundation upon which the created order rests.
In Witness, Yoder only sporadically brings in the notion of vocation/calling, and usually to make the point that the burden of proof is upon the statesman, not the pacifist, that theirs is a calling from God. His thoughts on Eucharist are exemplary; keeping in mind the Medieval/Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran distinctions he describes, between two realms (the political and the ecclesial), Yoder insists “The Gospel response to this notion is not that there is no such thing as a Christian calling or vocation, but that it is not to be distinguished from or contrasted with following Jesus.”
A similar criticism is again leveled in his conclusion, in which he claims the these major Christian traditions set up “a firm dualism separating Christ from culture… [in which] social ethics can and should be less authentically derived from the gospel than should Christian thought and witness in any other realm of discourse.” The gospels, he reminds us, should be more constitutive for Christians than later ‘developed’ or ‘enlightened’ intellectual discourse and theoretical abstraction.
• If it is true that “The good action is measured by its conformity to the command and to the nature of God” (44), then how can the Church learn obedience from its soldier saints like Martin, Ignatius, Francis, etc.? • Yoder claims (in the negative) it would be apostasy for a nation to claim “the sword is itself not part of the fall.” (38) But his emphasis on the Bible makes this connection difficult, as violence does not seem present until well after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. Does he equate “the sword” not with violence per se, but with general disobedience? • Yoder’s insistence that “communication to the statesman is… pastoral” (24) is much appreciated. He qualifies “pastoral” by reminding us that it includes looking to the stranger with an esteem that does not exclude God’s judgment. This is not what most ministers mean when that same word is uttered. Usually, divine appraisal is associated with the ‘prophetic’ office. In his larger body of work, does Yoder maintain this distinction between the pastoral and the prophetic, or challenge it, as he does here? (less)
The following is a restatement of the major points made by John Howard Yoder in his book What Would You Do? The stated question is the proverbial chal...moreThe following is a restatement of the major points made by John Howard Yoder in his book What Would You Do? The stated question is the proverbial challenge to any pacifist, Christian or otherwise. Yoder crafts an excellent expose of the fallibility of many of the arguments that lie within that challenge, with the second half of the book including essays and statements of historic and contemporary pacifists. We hope you will find the book as provocative yet refreshing as we have (I can only playfully imagine that the title is a thinly veiled pun, playing off the popular “What Would Jesus Do” slogan, but cannot be entirely sure).
The first dependent assumption we might recognize in such a loaded question is that of determinism on the defender’s (your) part – that you have the only decision to make, and that it is only your decision that will provide resolution. If you do not act, the attacker will kill the victim, and your course of action will end in the death of the attacker. The accuser insists that the attacker is motivated only by pure evil, that there exists no hope of redemption. However, no crime is ever without motive; there is in fact something that will satisfy any attackers’ purpose for violent action (cooperating with their demand for money, safe harbor, etc.). It is simply unreasonable to believe that the only possible course must inevitably lead to death (the victim’s at the hand of the attacker, or the attacker’s at your own hand). No course is predetermined; the only limit to nonviolence is one’s own creativity and commitment.
The second assumption is that of omnipotence, that you somehow have absolute control and that your course of action will undoubtedly result in success. We cannot know for certain, in any instance, that our own decision will unfold without event or unseen consequence. Furthermore, both the victim and the attacker are assumed to be incapable of sentient thought or free will; their reflexes and instincts are considered immaterial to the argument. It is ridiculously optimistic to pretend that any agent, acting in concert with such unpredictable variables as a deranged attacker and a terror-stricken assailant, could enjoy absolute control over any situation, violent or otherwise. Another assumption related to omnipotence is that of omniscience, the idea that you know with absolute certainty how your course of action will unfold. After all, the obligatory conclusion is that of death. You are expected to be able to operate without doubt, a convenience no person in history has ever been able to enjoy in such an event. In any and all situations, we can be sure of only one thing, that we know nothing for certain and must act out of consideration for the unpredictability of the situation.
A third assumption our inquisitor relies upon is individualism, the belief that only my own interests are to be considered relevant. However, the victim’s relationship to me must inform my decision; I should not act outside their interests. If the victim shares my commitment to nonviolence, it would not be their desire that I use lethal force to save them from whatever catastrophe awaits them. If they do not subscribe to nonviolence, Yoder would argue that the desire to use a disproportionate amount of force against one’s attacker would be founded in selfcentrism (on either the part of the victim or the defender), an evil that already must have motivated the attacker. Put simply, true justice has in mind even the interests of the criminal. A defender cannot justify adopting the role of judge, jury, and executioner alone and hope to be protected by the claim of having objectively served justice. Furthermore, when a person is reduced to a possessive object, such as the case when it is assumed that the victim has no capacity to influence what must be exclusively my decision, it becomes an act of self-interest disguised as a virtue.
Stemming from the last issue comes the presumption of righteousness. Your actions are immediately considered ethically superior to those of the attacker. However, you lose any credibility as judge and jury when your own interests and welfare are a part of your decision. Your objectivity is compromised. It is then that people often claim, falsely, that their decision is effectively determined by the actions of the attacker (“they made me do it”). Once the ‘victim card’ is played, your actions become sanctioned by a fabricated sense of moral superiority. Far from being justified, you become the evil you had hoped to conquer. After all, it is violence and hostility that produces the attacker in the first place. Such are products of a culture so misled about true justice that it teaches its members not to murder by murdering murderers. Those who would use violence so readily have seldom been shown the prophetic power of love to destroy fear. The Hitler’s of the world only know hatred and fear precisely because they have never been shown grace and reconciliation. Even if it means sacrificing my own life, I will not become a victim to the myth of redemptive violence.(less)
In 1972, John Howard Yoder set out, in his Politics of Jesus, to recapitulate a kind of “biblical realism” as an alternative to the reigning theologic...moreIn 1972, John Howard Yoder set out, in his Politics of Jesus, to recapitulate a kind of “biblical realism” as an alternative to the reigning theological framework of his day. The Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey supposed that a solidly scriptural “ethic of imitation [of Christ]” was an irresponsible model for Christian politics, since it failed to account for the persistence of political states and their right to survive. Biblical realism, on the other hand, “sought to take full account of all the tools of literary and historical criticism, without… letting the Scriptures be taken away from the Church.” Politics, Yoder reminds us in his 1994 reprint, was not fresh research, but merely a summation of work that corrected mainstream Christian ethics. Against Christian realism, Yoder argues throughout Politics that Jesus must be normative for ethics to be distinctively Christian – that his life and ministry does not constitute the avoidance of politics, but are themselves inherently political. This review will briefly recount the structure of the book before proceeding to focus on three distinctive aspects of the book; idolatrous causality, revolutionary subordination, and worldly impermanence. It must be understood that, throughout this work and others, Yoder is working to undermine the accusation that pacifism, while undeniably Biblically grounded, amounts to little more than “prophetic irrelevancy.” The entirety of his Politics of Jesus might be seen as a systematic and concerted reversal of this accusation, effectively implying that for such an accusation to stick, it must also be leveled against Jesus himself. Indeed, “mainstream ethics” necessitated a conviction that Jesus was not the norm, that “Jesus was simply not relevant in any immediate sense to the question of social ethics.” Yoder would argue that the politics of Jesus must be the politics of the Church, such that any Christian politics without Jesus are no politics at all.
Structure Over several chapters Yoder develops a Christian ethic that refuses to relegate the life and teachings of Jesus to hopeless idealism. He moves fluidly between theology and exegesis, focusing his exegetical work on Lukan themes of “The Kingdom Coming” (ch.2) and Levitical “Implications of the Jubilee.” (ch.3) The issue of war is dealt with decisively in his fourth chapter (“God Will Fight for Us”) by exegeting a number of Old Testament passages that many pacifists are all too eager to avoid, defeating accusations of Marcionism in pacifist readings of the canon. Confusingly, however, he follows his chapter on war with possibly the shortest exposition on nonviolence in publication (“The Possibility of Nonviolent Resistance”), but may be excused if seen as a short transition from exegesis to theology, for chapters six (“Trial Balance”) onward explore ethical frames made possible if Jesus is taken as normative (ch.7, “The Disciple of Christ and the Way of Jesus”), essays he admits are “fragmentary.” His eighth chapter (“Christ and Power”) quotes his own translation of Hendrik Berkhof’s Dutch text so extensively that it is difficult to ascertain what new idea/s Yoder brings to bear. A compelling concept clearly attributable to Yoder is that of “Revolutionary Subordination,” the subject of his ninth chapter, which he argues via questions around the moral non-being of women and slaves. Later chapters once again incorporate exegetical work amidst his theological reflections, especially the tenth (“Let Every Soul Be Subject”) and eleventh (“Justification by Grace Through Faith”) chapters. Yoder concludes in his twelfth chapter (“The War of the Lamb”) by illustrating how a Niebuhrian ethic of realism that dismisses pacifism for its ineffectiveness is nothing more than an idolatrous attempt to control history.
Idolatrous Causality By the time of Yoder’s writing, Niebuhr had rebuked the social gospel movement inaugurated by Walter Rauschenbusch by decrying its inherent humanistic idealism in presuming that the church could affect its own salvation. Yoder is aware of a similar criticism that Niebuhrian ethics level against his own very prominent pacifist convictions. However, Yoder responds by claiming that any attempt to manage global politics and history, by any means and toward any telos, is a failure to trust in the cross as the ultimate form of salvation in history. Yoder therefore combats this secularization of American Christian social ethics by insisting upon the primacy of Jesus for any ethic the Church might embody or espouse. In doing so, Yoder turns the tables on Christian realism by claiming that if pacifism is irrelevant to social ethics, so too is Jesus, for he consistently refused to rely on violence to control his own fate. Furthermore, his fate is determinative for ours as well, which is “the inevitable suffering of those whose only goal it is to be faithful.” The problem of mainstream ethics, then, is that they sacrifice faithfulness for effectiveness; they trade the possibility of suffering for the certainty of survival.
Niebuhr, therefore, had simply reinvented the same idealism he had rejected in Rauschenbusch’s social gospel by moving the supposed locus of change from one institutional structure to another – in this case from the charitable social form of the church to the violent machinations of the state. In each case, however, the presence and future of Christ is denied; they are ethics without an eschatology. But in typical Anabaptist fashion, Yoder suggests that institutions were never the answer, whether religious or political; Jesus built not an institution, but a body that has and will suffer on behalf of others. Our end, our telos, is nothing but God, who cannot be controlled. Nothing can bring us to God but Christ in his body. However, structures are here and they are not going away; in fact, “We cannot live with them” and “we cannot live without them.” The only distinctively Christological response to the power of institutions is that of “refusing to support them” on their own terms, “in their self-glorification.” To fail to do so is to fail to exist particularly as the Church. The name Yoder gives the peculiarity of Christian ethics is “revolutionary subordination.”
Revolutionary Subordination Right order is centrally important for Yoder, and he contrasts “willing and meaningful” subordination against forceful subjection and passive submission. Women and slaves serve as a case study for him, as they had no moral substance or legal status in the world of the Gospels. Paul and Jesus’ overt and deliberate attention to them is noteworthy in that it presumes that 1) the Christian moral order includes those previously excluded, and that 2) men “in the superordinate position” shared equally in the command to subordination (even to such non-beings). That “the subordinate person in the social order is addressed as a moral agent” was itself revolutionary. An attitude of revolutionary subordination makes a spectacle of the powers, it shames corrupt powers by going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and loving those we have a right to hate. Yoder would agree that power per se is not evil, but “the powers,” being human and fallible, may and do suffer from corruption. Christian response to corruption is limited by the command to love, within which we have little choice but to subordinate ourselves thereto in a manner that honors the dignity of those in power.
In Jesus, even slaves enjoyed previously denied moral agency, for “The subordinate person becomes a free ethical agent in the act of voluntarily acceding to subordination in the power of Christ instead of bowing to it either fatalistically or resentfully.” This statement garnered Yoder severe backlash and set himself apart from liberation theologies of his day. What Christ did on the cross was to save humankind from the very disorderliness that makes war thinkable. Christ stepped outside the typical power dynamics that presumed acrimony and animosity by subordinating himself to the powers over him, even to the point of death on a cross. Animosity gives power to the person we hate, for we still desire their attention. The attention Christian realism gave to statecraft represented a kind of idolatry, as it loved violence for survival more than it did suffering for salvation. For death, we will see, is particularly the realm of humans and their institutions, and any denial of its persistence by a realistic ethic is a mark of idolatry.
Worldly Impermanence That the Church failed for many centuries to delegitimize slavery has offended modern people, but it ignores the truth behind Christian realist claims that Yoder admits has some merit – Jesus and Paul each saw the world’s passing away as being immanent and unavoidable. Niebuhr used this against pacifist claims, since he saw imitating early Christian ethics as being therefore inadmissible to contemporary ethical inquiry – the world has not passed away as expected, so Jesus must not have anticipated or respected societal need for survival. Far from a fatalistic assent to slavery or gender inequality, Christians may work toward their abolition because, unlike Paul, they have stubbornly refused to pass away as finite human persons and structures should. However, any work against such structures that can distinctively be called “Christian” must reflect a “freedom from needing to smash them, since they are about to crumble anyway.”
Jesus did not smash the politics of his day, nor are Christians of any day called to do so. We work within their rebellious nature as fallen structures, remembering that we too are in a similar state. Yoder’s exegetical and theological prowess have trod a path few have followed, “for the gate is narrow and the road is hard.” Jesus did not fight the politics of Rome because he knew it was passing away. The deep irony of Niebuhr’s claim is that Jesus was right! And not just because he was the Messiah; we can see that Rome has passed away, it is obvious that the world of the early Christians has died. Christians need not work toward national survival because such human structures, properly subordinate to God, will all return to dust. To grasp at power and resort to violence to save our lives or our culture is folly, but we may cling to Christ in whom our salvation is secured.
Conclusion In the end (and there will be an end to everything human), any ethic that relativizes Jesus does so at the expense of bearing the title “Christian.” Yoder rightly criticizes American social ethics of the past century of having had to assume that because Jesus and the early church thought the world was passing away that they have nothing to offer the contemporary church. However, it was precisely their recognition of worldly impermanence that allowed them to worship Christ instead of Caesar. Every human person and structure is subject to death and is subordinate to Christ. Recognizing this proper ordering is revolutionary in a world that seeks to be permanently relevant (ultimately to itself). People and nations rose from the dust and they shall return thereto in due time. Yoder knew that the stubborn refusal to accept finitude by managing politics and history was a sure sign of idolatry. Attempts to control our telos reveal that our telos is not God, for God cannot be managed. Therefore, any ethic that turns its focus from Christ to Caesar has traded the cross for the sword. Christian ethics must begin and end with Christ; Jesus must be normative for ethics to be distinctively Christian, for his life and teachings do not reflect the avoidance of politics but are themselves inherently political. Our politics are not of this world – our politics are The Politics of Jesus.