The Holy No: Worship as a Subversive Act

Book, 2018, 184 pp
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In this book Adam Hearlson argues that Christians can say a holy "no" to oppression and injustice through the church's worship practices. "To speak the holy no," Hearlson says, "is to refuse to be complicit in the oppression and violence of the ruling power. It is the courageous critique of the present and its claims of immutability."

Hearlson draws widely from Christian history to uncover ways the church has used its traditional practices--preaching, music, sacrament, and art--to sabotage oppressive structures of the world for the sake of the gospel. He tells the stories of particular subversive strategies both past and present, including radical hospitality, genre bending, coded speech, and apocalyptic visions.

Blending history, theory, and practice, The Holy No is both a testament to the courage of Christians who came before and an encouragement to take up their mantle of faithful subversion.

“[...] Hearlson invites us to consider how faithful worship is also subversive worship, saying ‘yes’ to God’s coming reign by saying ‘no’ to all that stands in the way. Voices as diverse as Olivier Messiaen, Dorothee Sölle, Nick Hornby, Abraham Heschel, Michel de Certeau, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Ellison, and ‘Red’ in The Shawshank Redemption reverberate off the walls of this volume, making this an exciting and stimulating reading experience.” — Thomas G. Long, Candler School of Theology

“I [..] recommend it to all who are interested in worship that defies the confines of conformity to the power structures and celebrates communities of resistance. Such resistance is necessary—and, in fact, is commanded by our sacred traditions and texts.”— Liz Theoharis, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary

“This book is a refreshing look at worship as political practice. [...] [Hearlson] reveals that worship is more than rites but can be righteous through its subversive nature. He calls us to enter the transformational milieu of doxological subversion to be formed to say a ‘holy no’ to oppression and injustice, which is actually a ‘holy yes’ to God.”— Luke A. Powery, Duke University Chapel

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