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The Evangelical Left

Reverend Gregory Boyd goes after the Religious Right.

12:00 AM, Aug 10, 2006 • By MARK D. TOOLEY
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In Myth of a Christian Nation, Boyd quotes from and appears to rely upon the late Mennonite theologian and pacifist John Howard Yoder, who rejected all statecraft as coercive. Yoder, who taught at Notre Dame, portrayed Christ's submission to crucifixion as a rejection of all violence. Christians, rather than seeking political power, should simply model their sacrificial love through the church. Yoder's colleague, Stanley Hauerwas, now teaches at Duke Divinity School and, is Yoder's main apostle (Time magazine declared Hauerwas to be America's most influential theologian).

Despite their ostensibly rejecting politics, Yoder-Hauerwas fans are typically condemning of America as "empire." After 9/11, Hauerwas suggested that America got its just desserts, comparing it to Chile's supposed equivalent of 9/11 on September 11, 1973, when Socialist Salvador Allende was overthrown by the Chilean military.

Boyd makes points not dissimilar to Hauerwas's. In Myth of a Christian Nation, he says that the "horrendous" abuse by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib led to the Iraqi terrorist beheading of John Berg. "You can begin to understand why, given our passionate convictions and given their passionate convictions, this bloody tit-for-tat game is almost inevitable," he writes, attributing both passions to "tribal" loyalties.

Will evangelicals hearken to the separatist, neo-Anabaptist mindset that Boyd espouses, as transmitted through Yoder and Hauerwas? It seems unlikely, but Yoder and Hauerwas are popular in many evangelical seminaries. For evangelicals uninspired by the traditional Religious Right, the Yoder-Hauerwas model seems to offer an alternative, without succumbing to theological liberalism. Expect to hear more from such disciples as Rev. Boyd

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.