Tuesday, March 08, 2011

deep disciples who are sexual predators: "I don't do coffee"

Ironically, one of the writers many have gleaned the most from about
   radical Jesus-discipleship, 
                social relationships,  politics,
                           and applied Christianity

never seemed very sociable.
Or even to like people.

It might have seemed that he was just introverted and academic.

Then of course, the sexual harrasment charges happened.

It is amazing that John Howard Yoder's large body of work and legacy was not deleted from Christian history, and banned from the book racks (I have seen his books in the cut-out rack at Christian stores, but I'll bet that's more because radical discipleship doesn't sell, more than a response to moral failure! At least they could put his books behind the counter with the  77s and  Lifehouse CDs).

Ted Grimsrud's take on Yoder's compartmentalized life, seeing him as  perhaps a savant  with Asberger's  (which a la "The Twinkie Defense" doesn't justify his actions) is  healing and helpful...bringing to light the tension we all feel, but don't like to admit,  between being and doing; words and deeds.  He compares  Yoder  to Martin Luther King's great accomplishments in the midst of "serial adultery."

And reveals that he "didn't do things like" getting together for coffee.  That's no small insight, St. Arbuck's interactions are  community/communitas/church.

,.. Yoder did not really seem to fit the profile I would have in mind of a more typical sexual predator. When Kathleen became interested .. the autism spectrum and the mild expressions called Aspergers syndrome, some lights began to come on in terms of trying to understand the Yoder phenomena.

No question, Yoder was brilliant, even savant like. He was also extraordinarily awkward socially. A friend told me recently of years ago when he spent quite a bit of time with Yoder talking about theological issues. My friend said, why don’t we meet for coffee sometime. And Yoder said, “I don’t do that kind of thing.”

And Yoder seemed to live a very compartmentalized life. I find it believable to imagine that his head/theology had little impact on his body/harassment. This is definitely hugely problematic and makes his life pretty messy and non-exemplary. But I wonder if this dynamic might let his theology off the hook a bit. That is, we can treat his ideas as in some sense separate from his life and let them stand (or not) on their own merits. Of course, such an attitude as I suggest here is in major tension with the ideals of Anabaptist theology (and Yoder’s own writing) that emphasizes the unity between word and deed. -Ted Grimsrud 

Backstory posts by Grimsrud:

John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Misconduct—Introductory article

Here  are Grimsrud's other articles on Yoder, see especially #4, which should be read in tandem with the blogs above

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