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The Politics of Jesus Paperback – June 9, 1994
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No one makes the case for the radical, total non-violence of the Christian message better than John Howard Yoder. Though he wrote many books after this one, this is by far the best place to start. Yoder's familiarity with Scripture is magisterial, and the gentle yet firm way he responds to his Catholic and Reformed critics is convincing and exciting. Most timely of all, he devotes an entire chapter to deconstructing traditional Christian interpretations of Romans 13:1-7, the passages most often cited by just war theorists to defend the use of violence by the state. Anyone who believes it is possible for a Christian to bear arms and follow Christ must respond to Yoder's analysis.
Though Yoder was a Mennonite (and though I am an Episcopalian by affiliation, I am an anabaptist in my heart), his work is catholic, orthodox, and accessible to all Christians. Yoder's death in 1997 marked the passing of the man whom I believe may well be regarded as the most important theologian of our time. As even good Christians "rally round the flag" and join in the cries for "just war" and "retributive justice", Yoder's work has never been more important as a vital theological corrective.
Yoder makes a case that Jesus was VERY political. He was not uninterested in world events around him. He was involved, but not in the way that much of the religious right is today. More likely, he made the footsteps that Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Theresa later walked in. This is a book on politics, power, and pacifism. At least that is the way that Yoder sees it.
Many Christians do not agree with Yoder, but he is not easily dismissed. This book is well written and each chapter of this revised edition contains an epilogue that helps to update it with new information since the days of the first edition.
Yoder points out early that this book is an ethical methodology, not an exegesis. Indeed, he spends the majority of the work building on and responding to the thought of innumerable other twentieth century scholars. His primary target is twentieth century Christian systematic theology that argues for various reasons that Jesus is not a valid source of personal ethics. Yoder does a thorough job of demonstrating that Jesus was indeed politically-minded, and one of the consequences of this is the discovery that Jesus has intended us to follow his pacifist lifestyle.
Contrary to what at least one reviewer has complained, Yoder does address the Old Testament as it relates to a modern Christian pacifism, albeit briefly. Yoder's treatment of Romans 13, however, is thorough.
Most of the criticism of this book seems to be from people who are inherently opposed to Christian pacifism as many arguments are from that ground rather than on anything Yoder has done incorrectly. That is, people tend to reject his arguments based on their personal beliefs and traditions. Many arguments say "Yoder didn't address such and such"; but a book can only be so long.
The book does contain a lot of the vocabulary and jargon of Christian scholarship, and people unfamiliar with such may have a little trouble with it.
The Politics of Jesus is the finest book on Christianity I have read in a long time. Yoder does an excellent job highlighting parallels and themes running through Jesus' life, and of making the case for Christian pacifism. I recommend this book to everyone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you take the time to read this book you will be greatly rewarded with a comprehensive understanding of the ethics of Jesus.Published 5 months ago by Dana Stelian
Overly intellectual and verbose, I'd swear, simply for the sake of being so. Most of the points were lost on me in the overly complicated way Yoder presents them. Read morePublished 8 months ago by MLipenk
Some themes in this book seemed dated, perhaps because of Yoder’s influence. But it has several important takeaways—especially (1) that imitation of Jesus is always connected to... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Teddy Ray
This is classic work on the personality of JesusPublished 11 months ago by Rajan Meletius Murimakil
A classic; has its flaws like all classics (and its author certainly does), but a classic and important work. Definitely worth engaging with, learning from and being challenged by. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Caleb Anderson
A useful volume for prompting reflection. I found the presentation lacked the depth and intensity of Catholic thought, which I would not have noticed years ago but which was quite... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Gregory Stone
I was really excited to read this book about a subject very dear to my heart. I'd heard great things about the book and the author, but I found the book excruciatingly tedious to... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Gebre Menfes Kidus