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Title: Neither grand nor noble : an overview and appraisal of John Howard Yoder's sexual politics
Author: Hutto, William Joseph B. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 6914
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis offers an evaluation of and engagement with the reimagined Christian sexual politics that John Howard Yoder began arguing for and engaging in during the 1970s, collectively referred to as his "Grand Noble Experiment." Its primary goal is to present how Yoder postured his "Grand Noble Experiment" as a theological exercise. A secondary goal is to then appraise it in regards to traditional Christian understandings of sex, marriage, and community and also in regards to Yoder's own broader theopolitical work. It is hoped that by doing these things this thesis will not only shed light on Yoder's "Grand Noble Experiment" but will also help others-theological ethicists, Yoder scholars, and Christians more broadly- adjudicate its place and power within his wider corpus as they seek to discern if, and if so how, they might faithfully continue to rely on that corpus. Chapter one will give an overview of the lived history of Yoder's "Grand Noble Experiment" with a particular focus on Yoder's relationships with women around him during the 1970s. This chapter will show how Yoder's new communal sexual theology evolved in the 1970s and early 1980s and will serve as background for the discussions that follow. Chapter two will examine Yoder's efforts in the early 1970s to encourage Mennonite churches to take the loneliness and isolation of single Christians in their midst more seriously and then to restructure their communities in order to better incorporate these single brothers and sisters into their lives together. While there is little that is overtly sexual in these works, and less that is perversely so, much of what followed grew out of this early focus on singleness. Chapter three will look at a set of essays that Yoder wrote in the mid-1970s in which he offers a reappraisal of Jesus' own sexual ethics: how Jesus related to the women around him and therefore, Yoder maintains, how he would have his male followers relate to women as well. Because one of Yoder's core theological, discipular commitments was that the life of Jesus was ethically normative for Christians, the exegetical (eisegetical?) work that Yoder exhibits in these essays will be seen to be a turning point in how he presented the Church's responsibility for the care of single Christians. For Yoder, the freedom that Christians have to relate to one another through physical affection, following the witness of their Lord, brings with it a concomitant responsibility to address the physical, sexual needs of single brothers and sisters around them. Chapter four will then take an extended look at how Yoder himself presented sexuality and its place within Christian community as exhibited in his writings from the second half of the 1970s through the early 1980s. In these essays, Yoder's "Grand Noble Experiment" comes to full flower as he encourages Christians to put off the unchristian sexual inhibitions that they had inherited and to live into the full physical freedom of the Gospel, a freedom that they can enjoy with one another-married and single alike-as brothers and sisters in Christ's Body. Finally, chapter five will briefly step away from Yoder's "Grand Noble Experiment" in order to engage another segment of Yoder's corpus: his unpublished essays on marriage and divorce, collectively titled "One Flesh Until Death." Because these essays on divorce were written over the same period of time as his essays on sexuality and because of the overlap between their subjects, one might assume that the arguments contained in these two sets of essays would be sympathetic to one another. However, it will be shown in this final chapter that the politics of Yoder's "One Flesh Until Death"-the sexual politics to be sure but also the wider communal, Christian politics that it assumes-differ significantly from those of his "Grand Noble Experiment." Therefore, it is the assertion of this thesis that "One Flesh Until Death" offers a helpful juxtaposition to the "Grand Noble Experiment" and therefore that their juxtaposition can serve as a useful heuristic for evaluating the place and power of the "Grand Noble Experiment" within Yoder's wider work.
Supervisor: Brock, Brian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sexual harassment ; Sex ; Christian ethics