Scandalizing John Howard Yoder
In the years following, some say preceding, the 1972 publication of his monumental The Politics of Jesus, the celebrated Christian ethicist John Howard Yoder emotionally manipulated and sexually violated numerous women. Yoder’s conduct troubles us on multiple levels. Because these behaviors strike us as profoundly dissonant with the ways in which his thought has deeply influenced us, we spent the last year attempting to find out all we could about his actions and to reflect theologically on what we found. In this essay, we first report what we know about Yoder’s manipulations and violations and their histories at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and the University of Notre Dame. Next we consider inconsistencies and consistencies between those behaviors and his theology. Finally, we utilize one aspect of his thought—his account of the fallen powers—to reevaluate his legacy in the terms of his theology.
Editor’s Note: We made an error by posting the entirety of this article earlier this week. The full feature will appear later this month in conjunction with our friends over at Christian Century. We apologize for the confusion.
David Cramer is a PhD student in religion (theology and ethics) at Baylor University. He is co-editor of The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism.
Jenny Howell is a PhD candidate in religion (theology and ethics) at Baylor University. She is co-editor of John Howard Yoder: Spiritual Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters Series).
Jonathan Tran is an associate professor of religion (Christian ethics) at Baylor University. He is author of The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory and Foucault and Theology.
Paul Martens is an associate professor of religion (Christian ethics) at Baylor University. He is author of The Heterodox Yoder and co-editor of several works by John Howard Yoder.