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The Holy No
Worship as a Subversive Act
Adam Hearlson
Foreword by Brian D. McLaren

POD; Published: 7/10/2018
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7385-9
Price: $ 27.99
198 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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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. 

Brian D. McLaren
“As brilliant an exploration of the act of worship as I’ve ever seen.”
Luke A. Powery
Duke University Chapel
“This book is a refreshing look at worship as political practice. Adam Hearlson is provocative, poetic, and prophetic. He 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.”
Thomas G. Long
Candler School of Theology
“In this creative and provocative book Adam 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.”
Liz Theoharis
Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary
“I thank Adam Hearlson for The Holy No: Worship as a Subversive Act and 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.”
Charles L. Howard
University of Pennsylvania
“If there ever was a time in our national or global history when individuals of faith needed to raise their voices, hearts, and fists and offer a ‘Holy No,’ it is now. This brilliant, prophetic book helps readers do just that.”
Jerusha Neal
Duke Divinity School
“Hearlson’s Holy No is a timely call to hope. His delightful descriptions of faithful subversion in worship have given me a whole new army of heroes! These unexpected men and women risked respectability for resurrection, and Hearlson lets their stories sing.”
Cleophus J. LaRue
Princeton Theological Seminary
“In this marvelous work Hearlson articulates with frankness and candor what the privileged and powerful can learn from the subversive worship of marginalized faith communities. His lucid style of writing is rich, inviting, and convincing as he helps us to see what often goes unnoticed right before our eyes—the work of God in unexpected places from unexpected people.”
Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)
“In his eloquent and convincingly argued debut, Hearlson, a minister in the United Church of Christ, exhorts readers to reconsider Christianity’s subversive nature. . . . Hearlson’s enjoyable book of outsiders will invigorate any reader looking for a fresh take on Christianity.”

Church Times

"In a beautifully written and well-researched seven chapters, this book charges the imagination and restores morale."


"This well researched
and challenging
study is important
for both biblical scholars and theologians. It
is a valuable resource for further study and a
potential text for a graduate class."