Tag Archives | Stanley Hauerwas

The Peaceable Kingdom | Stanley Hauerwas

The cover of Hauerwas' The Peaceable KingdomWe often think of Christian ethics in response to a concrete problem. Did that politician abuse his power when he dated that intern? Is it ethical for a rape victim to have an abortion? Is it permissible to lie in order to serve the greater good? Where can we go to find the resources to answer these questions?

Many Christians, especially of evangelical stripe, go to the Bible—Hauerwas goes to church. It’s not that Hauerwas doesn’t value scripture, but he knows that scripture was written by and formed within the church. Scripture is best read together, within the context of the church. It is in the community of the baptized that believers grow in virtue. It is in the church that Christians learn their place in God’s story and have their imaginations freed to think truly and ethically.

The entire book centres around chapter 5, “Jesus: The Presence of the Peaceable Kingdom” (72-95). The story of Jesus (not Christological reflection) is “meant not only to display [Jesus’] life, but to train us to situate our lives in relation to that life” (74). The life of Jesus is characterized by nonviolent love.

Thus to be like Jesus is to join him in the journey through which we are trained to be a people claiming citizenship in God’s kingdom of nonviolent love—a love that would overcome the powers of this world, not through coercion and force, but through the power of this one man’s death. (76)

The church embodies an alternate reality—true to reality. The church the place where nonviolent love reigns and thus bears witness to the world that Christ is present. (Or at least it should be thus. Violence and disunity threaten the witness of the church to its core.)

When it’s time to make difficult moral and ethical decisions, we will have been apprenticed by the church into the life of Christ and will have become the sort of people capable of making those hard choices.

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002 (1983).

I “Just” Pray | Stanley Hauerwas

Most “spontaneous prayers” turn out, upon analysis, to be anything but spontaneous. Too often they conform to formulaic patterns that include ugly phrases such as, “Lord, we just ask you …” Such phrases are gestures of false humility, suggesting that God should give us what we want because what we want is not all that much. I pray that God will save us from that “just.”

—Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 255.

Meek & Mild | Stanley Hauerwas

We cannot try to be meek or gentle in order to become a disciple of this gentle Jesus, but in learning to be his disciple some of us will discover that we have been gentled.

—Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 39.

Hannah’s Child | Stanley Hauerwas

The cover of Hauerwas's Hannah's ChildHauerwas is an unlikely theologian. Can you connect the dots between a potty-mouthed bricklayer from Texas who is completely unsure of whether or not he is a Christian to the esteemed professor of Christian Ethics from Notre Dame and Duke Universities? In Hannah’s Child, Stanely Hauerwas does just that.

This memoir contains everything that makes an interesting life and compelling story. On the one hand, you have his trademark blunt intelligence. On being notified that he was Time magazine’s “best theologian in America” in 2001, he replied, “”Best’ is not a theological category” (ix).

On the other hand, he shows us how his life and teaching (including his prolific written output) is punctuated with having to care for his son while living with his mentally ill wife.

If you’ve read Hauerwas’ books, you should read his memoir. It’s a blunt, funny, tragic, and hope-ful look at the personal life of one of the “best” theologians around.

—Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).

Performing the Faith | Stanley Hauerwas

Hauerwas is always challenging and thought-provoking. This work on Bonhoeffer is no different.

In Performing the Faith, Hauerwas uses Bonhoeffer’s life to show how Christians can be creative in their practice of non-violence (of course, that’s an extremely reductive summary). Here are some examples of the sort of brilliance you’ll find:

No account of the Christian life is adequate that ignores the beauty of God’s creation as well as the beauty created in response to that creation we sometimes call art. (22)

Good performers of the Christian faith, like good musicians, are those who have refined the art of allowing themselves to be played by the work even as they perform it. (102)

The failure to live with humility, a failure common to Christian and non-Christian alike, results in a distorted understanding of the way things are. (127)

Insights, even about the human condition, are a dime a dozen. People seldom, and rightly so, are willing to risk their lives or even make a small sacrifice on the basis of an “insight.” (139)

I am a pacifist because I think nonviolence is the necessary condition for a politics not based on death. (201)

The most profound chapter in the book was his pacifist response to 9/11. For Hauerwas, the whole response to the terror attacks were derailed when President Bush first brought up the term “war”. That galvanized and misled the entire response to date.

I do have one major frustration with this book, though. It’s not about Bonhoeffer, and it’s not one logical unit. It’s a collection of essays of various levels of academic writing around the theme of non-violence. Bonhoeffer, whose picture and name grace the cover of the book, is only given a two-part essay comprising 39 pages.

Once you understand that, you can give your mind and heart a work-out with these incisive essays.

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