Liberating the Politics of Jesus
Renewing Peace Theology through the Wisdom of Women
- ISBN: 9780567692788
- Published By: Bloomsbury Academic
- Published: September 2020
“Liberating the politics of Jesus was (and still is) a pressing issue for us as women living in a highly patriarchal and sexist society” (xv), Elizabeth Soto Albrecht writes in the preface to Liberating the Politics of Jesus: Renewing Peace Theology Through the Wisdom of Women. The politics of Jesus are politics of liberation from oppression. And yet, Jesus’ own words are in need of liberation—liberation from those who would twist, subdue, or subvert this message into discipleship ethics and peace theology that ignores the experiences of women and gender queer persons within a patriarchal and heteronormative society. What are the implications of Jesus’ discipleship ethics in a context of gender binaries and inequality? Sadly, peace studies (i.e., peace theology, along with historiographies of peace churches, such as those of Anabaptist Mennonites) has largely been dominated by men (viii) and written without attention to how social inequalities related to gender shape particular and embodied experiences of violence. To that point, as Darryl Stephens adds: “The international Mennonite community continues to grapple with the abusive legacy of John Howard Yoder, its most famous modern-day theologian, whose work became synonymous with nonviolent theology” (3). As a result, and because “commitments to peace, nonviolence, forgiveness, and reconciliation can become abusive in themselves when practiced in ways that deny the need for truth-telling, accountability, restitution, and protection of the vulnerable” (3), a liberating politics of Jesus is necessary today.
In response to this need, women from diverse backgrounds with differing experiences and conceptions of peace theology offer contributions to this book, which reimagines Jesus’ politics as liberating for all peoples. The contributors participate in the constructive work of building a peace theology that emerges from, and is accountable to, women’s experiences of suffering and pain, paying attention to “the wisdom of women en la lucha—in [their] everyday struggles” (xvi). While the book title recalls John Howard Yoder’s formative book The Politics of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1972), Soto Albrecht is clear that it is not, primarily, an engagement with Yoder’s work. Instead, the book touches on Yoder’s theological propositions in a cursory manor “just long enough to impart our own ideas” (xvi). This book, she claims, is a constructive work, which Stephens more specifically describes as “[a] constructive Anabaptist theology written by women, whose voices have been historically marginalized within [the] peace church tradition” (13).
The book’s “communally based, liberative hermeneutic” (6) is evident throughout—both in its format (as a collection of voices) and in each chapter (as the contributors locate themselves and their arguments in the lived experiences of women’s suffering and their commitment to liberation for women). A look at a few specific chapters illustrates the content and methodology of the book. In chapter 1, “The Retrieval of a Liberating Christology,” Nancy Bedford locates herself as an Anabaptist Latina feminist systematic theologian. She argues that the politics of Jesus need to be liberated from “normative whiteness, lethal forms of masculinity, and docetic epistemologies” (18). In chapter 5, “Women of Faith Advocating Peace in Columbia,” Alix Lozano locates herself as a Columbian woman, Mennonite, and pastor (83). She details and affirms the significance of women in peace movements, drawing on peace processes in Columbia that have recognized the specific toll that violence takes on women in conflict zones, and then argues that women should be empowered to be especially involved in peace processes (85). For Lozano, peacemaking is liberating when it accounts for the gendered dynamics of violence in conflict zones, paying attention to the experiences of women, and letting women help guide peace efforts.
The concluding chapter by Karen Guth, “Lessons from Anabaptist Women’s Responses to John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Violence,” reiterates several criteria for a liberating politics of Jesus. While she reflects on the specific lessons learned from women’s responses to Yoder’s sexual violence, her findings align with the more general commitments named throughout the book. Guth lists the following as criteria for a liberating peace ethic: 1) that it values women’s experiences of inequality and abuse; 2) that it recognize the need to connect theory and practice; 3) that it addresses all forms of violence (including gender based and sexual violence); 4) that it attends to misuses of power; and 5) that it challenges traditional conceptions of authority (203-207). Guth’s summary reflects the constructive nature of the contributions in this book and its significance for peace studies.
Liberating the Politics of Jesus is an indispensable resource to students in peace and justice studies, peace theology, and women and gender studies in religion for its attention to women’s experiences of violence and peacemaking and its vision of a constructive, communal, and liberative politics of Jesus. While contributors often assume a binary view of gender, they nonetheless open a door to conversations about whose voices and experiences of violence have been missing in peace studies. For these reasons, it is also important reading for Anabaptist and ecumenical scholars and practitioners committed to the well-being and peace of all peoples.
Kimberly Penner is an adjunct instructor at St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta.Kimberly L. PennerDate Of Review:September 25, 2022