Narratives of Resistance in the Pastorates of Henry Highland Garnet and Christian Führer: A Comparative Religious Inquiry
Cole, John E. (author)
Kelsay, John, 1953- (professor directing dissertation)
Stoltzfus, Nathan (university representative)
Kalbian, Aline H., 1954- (committee member)
Kavka, Martin (committee member)
Twiss, Sumner B. (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Arts and Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of Religion (degree granting department)
Religious communities find unity in a shared tradition, system of beliefs, and a determination to respond to those beliefs through active ethical engagement in the world. While these shared beliefs, often founded on sacred texts and nurtured through religious leadership and doctrine, have an important role in forming communal identity, lack of coherence between that shared language and how it is manifested in communal action can create instability. At the same time, intentional maintenance and development of such narratives in response to changing events, culture, contexts, or systems of oppression, can strengthen coherence and lead to a greater sense of purpose and understanding in the pursuit of faithful and moral lives. This dissertation examines two such narratives and why they were so effective in not only forming and maintaining communal identity, but also in initiating ethical responses that fostered impactful change. Both are examples of pastoral leadership in the Protestant tradition. Both rely heavily on themes of social engagement emphasized in the Reformed heritage. Yet, in their narratives of resistance, they advocated radically different means for change and operated in historical contexts a century and a continent apart. Henry Highland Garnet was a New York Presbyterian minister and black abolitionist leader, whose message of black empowerment and action in response to slavery encouraged armed resistance. Christian Führer was a Protestant minister in Leipzig, East Germany, who led a nonviolent protest movement that contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This dissertation asserts that analysis of the complex interplay between hegemonic, legal, and resistance narratives helps to explain why one found success in advocating violence, while the other found unity in nonviolence, resulting in impactful change for both. Establishing narrative links between communal identity and ethical response requires taking into account other currents of influence, such as narratives of law and tradition. In so doing, it prescribes a narrative hermeneutic and ethical approach that imagines a living tradition that seeks to be grounded in sacred texts and traditions while also being subject to ceaseless interpretive conversation, attuning itself to the best insights of various theological traditions and the full wealth of nontheological interlocutors. This method, analysis, and the conclusions it offers seeks to add to the field of ethics by incorporating important layers of analysis to narrative comparative religious ethics, including law, race and gender studies, and human rights. Beyond the method itself, it shows how the maintenance of narrative coherence results in communal solidarity and singularity of purpose, it explains why some religious communities have disintegrated or faded into irrelevance at various times in their histories, and it can help us understand contemporary struggles related to the fields of human rights, racial strife, gender bias, and economic oppression. Finally, by illuminating the constant interplay of narrative worlds within structures of power, privilege, and repression, this project will make normative claims about the conditional nature of law and justice, and the necessity of negotiating particularistic concerns without relying exclusively on "rights-based" adjudication.
ethics, hermeneutics, law, narrative, resistance, revolution
October 22, 2021.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Kelsay, Professor Directing Dissertation; Nathan Stoltzfus, University Representative; Aline Kalbian, Committee Member; Martin Kavka, Committee Member; Sumner Twiss, Committee Member.
Florida State University