Resistance: Confronting Violence, Power, and Abuse within Peace Churches

Resistance: Confronting Violence, Power, and Abuse within Peace Churches March 3, 2023

In addition to writing and pastoring, one of the hats I wear is managing editor at the Institute of Mennonite Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. There I have the privilege of working on projects that center voices and perspectives that historically have been marginalized or silenced. One of those projects is the recent book Resistance: Confronting Violence, Power, and Abuse within Peace Churches, edited by Cameron Altaras and Carol Penner.

Historic peace churches, like the Mennonites and Amish featured in this book, are best known for holding to the teaching of nonresistance drawn from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt. 5:38-39).

By titling their book Resistance, Altaras and Penner make clear that they are challenging this historic emphasis, which so often has been used to justify abuse within the home and church. While they don’t reject nonresistance entirely, they seek to contextualize Jesus’s teaching in a way that doesn’t perpetuate harm to victim-survivors.

While the emphasis on the book is resisting sexualized violence, the book begins with chapters on racism, colonialism, and heterosexism to demonstrate how these originating sins intersect with sexualized violence. Numerous chapters written by victim-survivors give poignant witness to the harms done by the church, while also offering ways forward that don’t perpetuate the harm. At a time when churches and denominations are coming to grips with abuse and cover-ups within their ranks, Resistance will find resonance well beyond its Anabaptist context.

For a recent review of the book, see historian Rachel Waltner Goossen’s “Once-muted voices speak out on abuse” in Anabaptist World. You can also watch the editors and numerous chapter authors discuss the book at this virtual book launch. Or to learn more and purchase a copy, visit the book’s page on AMBS’s website.

About David C Cramer
David C. Cramer is teaching pastor at Keller Park Church in South Bend, Indiana, and managing editor at the Institute of Mennonite Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He is co-author of A Field Guide to Christian Nonviolence (Baker Academic, 2022). You can read more about the author here.
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