Political Theology and Nonviolence: Three Significant North American Contributers

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Date: 
Friday, 1 January 2010

Edited version of a section in the forthcoming Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, edited by W. Cavanaugh and C. Hovey. 4 pp.

Note: Twenty years ago I argued that the Cross of the nonviolent Jesus, who lived and died resisting empire and renewing Israel’s alternative social vision, represented a “stumbling block” for many political theologies (see Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus, Orbis, 1988/2008, pp 469ff). Recently I was invited to reflect on three North American Christians who have shaped nonviolent thought and practice for the Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology (edited by William Cavanaugh and Craig Hovey). Below is an edited version of that contribution; the volume is due out next year from Eerdmans.

Theories and practices of revolutionary nonviolence have too often been overlooked or marginalized by liberation and post colonial theologies. This brief reflection looks at three North American Christians who have contributed significantly to the development of the theology and discipleship of nonviolent social change. Dorothy Day (1897-1980) lived among the urban poor in New York’s Bowery neighborhood, founding the Catholic Worker movement during the Great Depression. Rene Girard is a French social philosopher and literary critic whose formidable work has been influential, yet has earned only a small (if loyal) following among academic theologians. New Testament scholar Walter Wink did much of his work from Auburn’s “seminary without borders” in New York, and in recent years has concentrated his efforts on popular education in churches and peace organizations in the U.S. and South Africa. Each of these three has been instrumental in developing and promoting engaged Christian nonviolence.

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by Ched Myers

All articles on this site were written by Ched Myers unless otherwise specified.