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Authentic Protest and the Church

A precondition for authentic protest is that there be a committed community; our word for that is “church,” but of course that is another word which most people use with other meanings. That body must not be the same as the entire society or nation. There must be a critical mass of like-minded people, sustaining one another in the world view they have given themselves to and celebrated. The church is the seed bed where valid dissent can sprout, where the alternative world view can be rehearsed.

The existence of the church therefore answers first of all the question asked by the sociology of knowledge; how is a construction of reality nurtured that can be at the same time holistic and critical? Only by letting one’s life overlap with those of others on the same pilgrimage. Only by teaching one’s children, even in Babylon, the songs of Zion which the Babylonians cannot understand.

~ John Howard Yoder, “Christianity and Protest in America,” Unpublished lecture, 1991

9 Comments

  1. myles wrote:

    “A precondition for authentic protest is that there be a committed community; our word for that is “church,” but of course that is another word which most people use with other meanings.”

    this is the Yoder I hate, the “this-is-that” Yoder of social analogies.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  2. Hill wrote:

    I can’t say it’s Yoder’s fault, but this rhetorical trope is indeed annoying. I’m going to incorporate it in to my collection of strategies for sarcastic blog comments.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  3. myles wrote:

    Halden, can you send me a copy of this lecture?

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Sure.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    And I might be wrong here, but I didn’t see Yoder making a social analogy here. I just thought he was saying that other people don’t always use the word “church” to mean a community of committed disciples.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  6. myles wrote:

    that’s a generous read, Halden. Why does he hold up Gandhi as a model in the lecture then if he’s not arguing for some trans-communal analogy?

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    I just meant in this paragraph, yeah there’s some analogical work going on in the lecture as a whole. But analogy is also different from “this-is-that”–that would be univocity.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  8. Hill wrote:

    I was speaking of its rhetorical structure.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  9. myles wrote:

    Eh, “this is that” doesn’t have to mean univocity; rather it can mean that what either “this” or “that” is is located fully in neither place, but as the two enter into conversation. this is what I think Yoder is after here: locating secular analogies which ultimately becomes ‘other’ analogies which don’t have to find a Christian telos to be intelligible.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

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