The Holy No: Worship as a Subversive Act

Adam Hearlson. Eerdmans, $24 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7385-9
In his eloquent and convincingly argued debut, Hearlson, a minister in the United Church of Christ, exhorts readers to reconsider Christianity’s subversive nature. “To speak the Holy No,” he writes, “is to refuse to be complicit in the oppression and violence of the ruling power.” Starting from the thesis that Christianity was originally attractive due to offering alternatives to the values of the ruling Roman class, Hearlson delves into the historical subversion found within Christianity and the Church. For him, biblical subversion begins before Christianity with Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah disobeying the Egyptian pharaoh’s orders to execute Jewish children. He continues in this vein with a chapter on Christian absurd theater, which combined “devotion to a just God and devotion to a broken people.” One of the most prominent methods of subversion is “indirect sermon” (sermons delivered without being presented as sermons), Hearlson writes, exemplified by Pentecostal glossolalia and the “churchly fool,” such as the clowns and participants in Christmas pageants. He also looks at contemporary art as forms of holy subversion; a particularly illuminating section covers Barack Obama portraitist Kehinde Wiley. Hearlson’s enjoyable book of outsiders will invigorate any reader looking for a fresh take on Christianity. (July)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 07/01/2018
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