Christian Witness on the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon: Narrative, Nonviolence, and the Formation of Character
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This dissertation analyzes the theological and ethical convictions that led the people of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon to shelter thousands of refugees between 1939 and 1945. It does so by examining the themes of narrative identity, hospitality, character formation, nonviolence, and the contextual witness of church tradition. Though a number of studies have been published about the rescue activity in this region of France during World War II, none have thoroughly analyzed the theological nature of this activity. Using the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon as a case study in theological ethics, the dissertation draws on historical sources as well as the work of contemporary theologians and ethicists to understand, interpret, and analyze the witness of this community. After situating its rescue and resistance work within the Huguenot narrative of persecution and exile, I examine the theological convictions of the Reformed pastor of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, André Trocmé, who played a key role in making the Plateau a place of refuge during the Holocaust. The study highlights the importance of narrative in the actions of this community and discusses the relationship between narrative, character, and ethics. It then examines the nonviolent commitments of key leaders of the rescue effort, using this analysis as a springboard to engage in broader theological reflection about the ethics of nonviolence. After examining the radical hospitality practiced on the Plateau in light of biblical narratives and Reformed history, I investigate the counter-cultural nature of Christian hospitality. The study concludes by analyzing the nature and witness of the church in light of the legacy of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon. The dissertation suggests that increased academic and ecclesial attention be given to the relationship between narrative and character, the counter-cultural shape of Christian hospitality, and the active nature of nonviolence. It presents an in-depth analysis of the theological and ethical convictions of the people of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon, arguing that their witness has ongoing significance for communities of faith as they grapple with how to form disciples, relate to the wider society, welcome strangers, and communicate God's shalom in a world of violence.