This book addresses the need for theological reflection on uncivil disobedience. Existing scholarship in theology and politics mostly treats church-state relations theoretically, with studies in non-violent resistance or civil disobedience, or in other ways largely assuming traditional forms of governance and means of protest—all while paying little to no attention to post-modern political philosophies. Recent eruptions of uncivil disobedience, oftentimes involving violence, like we have seen with Antifa, Black Lives Matter protests, the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building, and in the actions of other right-wing, leftist, and religious groups, assume new ways of protesting and new forms of organizing or mobilizing. Additionally, these groups and their activities are often informed by post-modern philosophies. These new political dynamics present an opportunity for theologians to produce scholarship in response. After establishing philosophical underpinnings related to uncivilly disobedient action, the contributors cover traditional historical and theological responses to political unrest as a foundation for considering or evaluating attempts to address theologically present-day manifestations of uncivil disobedience.
David M. Gides is associate professor of theology at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana.
I: Uncivil Disobedience – Philosophical Foundations and Historical Considerations
1. In Defense of Uncivil Disobedience
2. Which Extreme, Whose Extremist?: Limitations of Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer for Countering Contemporary Fascist Movements
3. Cultural Images of, and Experiences with, Disobedience
4. “We Must Obey God Rather Then Men”: Lutheran Resistance Against Pope and Emperor in the Reformation Era
John Witte, Jr.
5. “Let the Princes Hear and Be Afraid”: John Calvin and Resistance to Tyranny
Matthew J. Tuininga
6. The Virtues of Democratic Disobedience: Catholic Ethics and Political Disobedience
Anna Floerke and Matthew A. Shadle
7. Civil Disobedience, Violence, or Revolution?: Liberation Theology and the Narrative of Violence
Ryan R. Gladwin
II. Application – Theological Perspectives on Contemporary Uncivil Disobedience
8. Uncivil Disobedience and the Free Passage of the Word: Sanctuary as a Preparing of the Way
9. Bonhoeffer, Antifa, and the Moral Defensibility of Uncivil Disobedience
David M. Gides
10. Black Lives Matter: A Just War Perspective
Joshua W. Carpenter
11. The Storming of the Capitol: The Outcome of a Theology of Political Power
12. Theology, Decoloniality, and Idle No More
Jordan E. Miller
We live in hyper-partisan times with dire consequences to the breakdown in public trust and concomitant political dysfunction and social dislocation we face. Meanwhile, serious theological inquiry has been increasingly relegated, either as a relic of the past or an inaccessible realm reserved for academic and religious specialists. Does contemporary theology have anything to offer to our current situation of political turmoil? Can it help us understand different modes of political protest, different claims to moral authority, and different rationales for resistance and protest? This book answers these questions with a resounding YES, and in so doing, not only shows what can be learned from well-known historical figures and standard teachings and theories but also, and most interestingly, navigates the thickets surrounding the difficult questions about our present forms of political order, power, and mobilization.
When the rules of social engagement are insufficient to address systemic injustices, a breach in the decorum becomes an imperative. Uncivil Disobedience responds to a context such as this by offering insightful resources for Christian theologians and ethicists unwilling to conform to an unjust world order and who are willing to take a risk for justice through acts of disobedience.
A book talk was given via Zoom on February 23, 2023; the link to the recording is here .