Sunday, September 02, 2007

Burke Lecture: Stanley Martin Hauerwas: Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Truth & Politics

Watch the Lecture HERE.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is well known for his heroic opposition to the Nazis. Dr. Hauerwas' lecture examines Bonhoeffer's understanding of lying and why it's approporiate to hold politics to a higher standard of truthful speech. This relationship between truth and politics is a particular challenge for democratic regimes. Series: Burke Lectureship on Religion & Society.

Stanley Hauerwas is one of the men that really connect with as a writer. He has sort of replaced Hunter s. Thompson in my pantheon of heroes. I would put him at the top of my list of favorite theologians supplanting even george E. Tinker, a Native American/Christian theologian with my utmost respect and admiration. The thing is that
Stan is funny. He is a funny dude. There is something about a stinging wit and sense of humor that alongside true wisdom is the epitome of Godliness. In my imagination I imagine God's personality as a perfect blend of elements of Stanley Hauerwas, Kurt Vonnegut, Sitting Bull, Sun Tzu, Joseph Campbell, Joan of Arc, Maya Angelou, Winona LaDuke, William Butler Yeats and Noam Chomsky. Of course there is no head actually... because afterall God is invisible, eternal and niether man nor woman.
I am reminded of the National Lampoon parody of the Desiderada known as the Deteriorata which says;
... Therefore make peace with your God whatever you conceive him to be,
Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin...."

I keep wanting to picture God as a living fractal as opposed to a hairy, thronesitting hurler of thunderbolts... but then I have to try and picture an INVISIBLE, living fractal that is transcendent of the time- space continuum. It gets to be mindbending

Anyhow one of my favorite Stanley Hauerwas statements is that he is a pacifist in hopes that others we keep him from killing someone (with whom he strongly disagrees about the nature of Christianity). I can relate my man. I can relate.

Watch the Lecture HERE.

General in a small army: Hauerwas battles for pacifism
___By Jason White
___Religion News Service
___WASHINGTON (RNS)--Less than two years after Time magazine named him America's best theologian, Stanley Hauerwas may well be the nation's loneliest.
___Hauerwas is a pacifist, a rare breed in today's world. He believes the only proper Christian response to aggression, even terrorism, is a non-violent one.
___In a season of renewed threats of war and orange alerts, that is no small cla

Stanley Hauerwas
im. For where Hauerwas' pacifism once was considered quirky or even quaint, it is now, in a post-9/11 world, thought by some to be dangerous. A few even call it immoral.
___So why persist?
___"I am a pacifist because I cannot imagine being anything other than a pacifist in light of the gospel of Christ," said Hauerwas, a professor of theology at Duke University.
___Hauerwas draws his pacifism from Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is one resource. Another is the example Jesus set on the cross, where he chose to undermine evil by giving up his life.
___All Christians, as followers of Jesus, must live this way too, Hauerwas said. Christians, in other words, should be more ready to die than to kill.
___The fact most Christians think this claim is crazy, that most would rather kill than be killed, is for Hauerwas a sign they may not take following Jesus seriously enough.
___"I fear that one of the reasons non-violence isn't given the time of day is because so many American Christians think they can have a relationship with Jesus that doesn't have immediate implications for their lives," he said.
___For a nation threatened by a shadowy network of terrorists, these are fighting words. In some cases, they've served to marginalize Hauerwas, even imperiling old friendships.
___One such strained friendship is with Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and editor of First Things, a journal of religion and public life. Until recently, Hauerwas was a member of the journal's editorial board. But when First Things took an increasingly hard-line stance in the war on terrorism, Hauerwas felt his beliefs were no longer respected. So he resigned.
___"I admire much of what they stand for, but I found their position about the war so antithetical to anything that I could even begin to identify with, I just finally thought I should resign," Hauerwas said.
___Neuhaus said he wished Hauerwas had stayed on.
___"It was his decision, not mine," Neuhaus said. "Stanley's a good friend, and we've argued these things for many, many years."
___As a just-war theorist, Neuhaus disagrees with Hauerwas over whether Christians should ever fight in a war. Neuhaus thinks they can, and that in the case of the U.S. war on terrorism, they should.
___Neuhaus said he does, however, respect Hauerwas' pacifist stance for its toughness. Unlike the humanistic pacifism that informs the anti-war statements of the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church and even the secular peace movement, he said, Hauerwas' non-violence is grounded in a realistic and skeptical view of human nature.
___"Stanley's not a utopian. He's not a sentimentalist. He doesn't believe that going over and hugging Saddam Hussein is going to resolve this crisis. Whereas many others seem to believe that if only we'd be nice to the Saddam Husseins of the world, they'd love us back and we'd all get along peachy."
___Raised the son of a bricklayer in Pleasant Grove, Hauerwas is as feisty and combative as intellectuals come. This bald and bearded professor has the mind-set of an NFL cornerback, with ever-alert eyes and hard-hitting tackles. He sometimes curses like a sailor--even in the classroom. Little about him suggests the meekness or gentleness so often associated with pacifism.
___William Cavanaugh, a friend and fellow theologian, has this to say about Hauerwas' tough nature: "Indeed, of all the great Christian pacifists over the centuries--Hippolytus, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King--Stanley Hauerwas is the one I would want on my side in a bar fight."
___Hauerwas himself says one reason he so loudly proclaims his non-violent ethic is that others might keep him from killing someone.
___Despite an obvious passion for debating these issues, Hauerwas is a reluctant activist. At heart, he's an intellectual, more comfortable discussing the finer points of St. Augustine's "The City of God" than President Bush's foreign policy. Yet an activist is exactly what Hauerwas has become.
___"A lot of people don't think worshipping Jesus requires non-violence," he said. "I understand that, and that's the reason why I recognize that this is a long-haul business. ...
___"I've sort of become the pacifist voice. And I think of myself as so inadequate to do that. Yet I have to do it. I can't suddenly decide to get academic about this, because too much is at stake."

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S. Starr said...

'America's best theologian' walks pacifist road
April 20, 2003 1:09 am

WASHINGTON--As a theological ethicist, Duke University Divinity School professor, and writer cruising through his 40s and 50s, Stanley Hauerwas enjoyed the twin blessings of personal achievement and professional obscurity.

Then, in 2001, the assessors of talent at Time magazine declared him "America's best theologian." Oprah Winfrey gave him air time. Invitations to talk, exhort, and entertain poured in.

Hauerwas, a Texan who speaks in twangy cadences and is adept with folksy barbs and jibes, guffaws when recalling the praise from Time: "Best is not a theological category! Faithful or unfaithful are the right categories. The last thing in the world I'd want to be is the best."

By the measure of fidelity to his Christ-centered beliefs, Hauerwas is steadfast, whether as an intellectual trading in the nuanced language of theology, or as a member of his local Durham, N.C., parish that comes together for the succor of liturgy, community, and prayer.

"I am a Christian pacifist," he says. "Being Christian and being a pacifist are not two things for me. I would not be a pacifist if I were not a Christian, and I find it hard to understand how one can be a Christian without being a pacifist."

That puts Hauerwas in a distinct minority. When countless Christian leaders--from popes, cardinals, and Jesuits to assorted divines stretching from Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell to Jesse Jackson--say that wars can be just, if not just dandy, and when pacifists are denounced as cowards and misfits on the nation's airwaves and op-eds, Hauerwas' voice seems to come out of an increasingly vast wilderness.
Making our lives 'vulnerable'

It doesn't bother him, as it never bothered Dorothy Day, A. J. Muste, Emily Balch, the Berrigans, David Dellinger, Arthur Laffin, and a long list of others for whom pacifism--active pacifism, which has nothing to do with passivity or appeasement--was both a spiritual creed and a political philosophy.

"I say I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch. I'm a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I've got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it's too passive," he says. "But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what I know is true but that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.

"That's part of what nonviolence is--the attempt to make our lives vulnerable to others in a way that we need one another. To be against war--which is clearly violent--is a good place to start. But you never know where the violence is in your own life.

"To say you're nonviolent is not some position of self-righteousness--you kill and I don't. It's rather to make your life available to others in a way that they can help you discover ways you're implicated in violence that you hadn't even noticed."

Hauerwas, the son of a Texas bricklayer, has articulated the case for Christian pacifism for more than three decades now. He taught at Notre Dame from 1970 to 1984, and he's been at Duke ever since. He speaks at public forums ranging from the Air Force Academy to a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Silk Hope, N.C.

He is part of the minority Christian community operating under the consistent life ethic that calls for alternatives to the violence of war and militarism, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These, and other issues involving public morality and personal ethics, have been at the core of Hauerwas' writing and teaching.

In mid-February, Hauerwas spent the day in dialogue with an audience of 200 at the Servant Leadership School in Washington, a group that has ties to the Church of the Savior. It is a longstanding ecumenical congregation located about a mile from the White House that practices works of mercy and rescue in programs ranging from low-income housing to literacy tutoring.

Few parishes in Washington take the Gospel as seriously. An hour before his morning talk, I had some time with Hauerwas. He began with a wisecrack, a benign one about George W. Bush being a Methodist "who was raised an Episcopalian, which is that form of Christianity that the upper middle class uses in America not to take Jesus seriously. I say that as someone who is now going to an Episcopal church!"

On Bush's frequent references to religion and faith, Hauerwas said that the president's "personal relationship with Jesus doesn't seem to have anything to do with Jesus' teaching."
Americans good at killing

In his talk to the Servant Leadership audience, Hauerwas recalled that Bush, after urging Americans to go shopping, immediately proclaimed, "We are at war." Hauerwas explained that peculiar juxtaposition this way: "We are frightened and, ironically, war makes us feel safe. The way to go on in the face of 9/11 is to find someone to kill. Americans are, moreover, good at killing. We often fail to acknowledge how accomplished we are in the art of killing. We now conduct war in a manner that only the enemy has to die."

In his lecture, he also took on just-war theory. Later, he expounds on his critique.

"As far as just war is concerned, I think it's a terrific theory," he tells me. "Unfortunately, it has no purchase in reality. For example, I note that the reason people think the theory can be used in Iraq is because we have the capacity (and the 'we' means the United States) to fight a war in Iraq.

"Did 'we' get that capacity on just-war grounds? No, the United States got that capacity on the grounds of political realism shaped by the Cold War. So, just warriors need to get serious and tell us what would a just-war foreign policy, shaped by an equally just-war Pentagon, look like."

As with many who are committed to nonviolence, Hauerwas has found himself asked what are his alternatives to bombing Afghanistan and Iraq. "Such questions," he replies, "assume that pacifists must have an alternative foreign policy. My only response is I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better--a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill."

Except it's a small church, one that is well apart from the large denominations--Catholicism, Methodism, the Baptists, Lutherans--and their frequent complicity with Caesar and the Pharaohs.

In his book "The Peaceable Kingdom," Hauerwas writes: "The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere better revealed than in the upsurge of religious conservatism. While appearing to be a resurgence of 'traditional' religious conviction, some of these movements in fact give evidence of the loss of religious substance in our culture and in ourselves. Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the 'American way of life.' Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being 'a good American.'"
Early church offers example

To understand Hauerwas the theologian and his emphasis on the church as a community--a people with a common unity--a knowledge of the early pre-Augustine, pre-Constantine church is helpful. It was a band of mostly dissidents who organized around a troublemaking rabbi. The Acts of the Apostles portrays the early Christians as people who pooled what little wealth they had, risked their lives to the point of martyrdom, resisted violence, and realized that on this Earth they would never really be home.

As Phillips Brooks, a Protestant pastor in the late 19th century, wrote: "In the best sense of the word, Jesus was a radical.His religion has so long been identified with conservatismthat it is almost startling sometimes to remember that all the conservatives of his own times were against him; that it was the young, free, restless, sanguine, progressive part of the people who flocked to him."

Hauerwas consistently draws large numbers of students to his classes. Earthy, gregarious, and often light-hearted, he is devoted to his students, returning their papers quickly, mentoring them into pastorates around the country, and relishing the mĂȘlee of theological debate. Something of a cusser, he told Newsweek: "God is killing the church, and we goddamn well deserve it." According to a friend, Hauerwas defended this low-grade blasphemy by saying, "At least I mention God's name twice."
Idolatry and power

Days before Hauerwas visited Washington, politicians, lobbyists, generals, and assorted court reverends convened for the annual national prayer breakfast in the ballroom of a local hotel. Head-bowing presidents and vice presidents rarely miss showing up.

Unsurprisingly, Hauerwas has an opinion on these events. Like Amos, the Hebrew prophet who thought little of the rich Israelites who were publicly pious while privately greedy, Hauerwas says: "The God that's prayed to [at the breakfasts] is such a vague God that it's very hard for me to see how it avoids idolatry.

"It's dangerous for Christians to think that the state is sponsoring their faith. Is it really about prayer? Or a display of piety? Prayer breakfasts are just parading the piety to ensure a kind of righteousness that isn't commensurate with confessional sin. You'd never catch me at one."

Hauerwas believes that Christianity, to be authentic, must take a stand. In a 1991 interview, he said: "If you ask one of the crucial theological questions--why was Jesus killed?--the answer isn't 'because God wants us to love one another.' Why in the hell would anyone kill Jesus for that? That's stupid. It's not even interesting.

"Why did he get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be. The church is a political institution calling people to be an alternative to the world. That's what the cross is about."

If, as Gandhi often stated, nonviolence is a creed for the brave and the bold--"its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being"--then Hauerwas may not be our best theologian, but he is one of our bravest and boldest.

COLMAN MCCARTHY is a syndicated columnist and editorial-page writer for The Washington Post. He teaches at Georgetown University and founded the Center for Teaching Peace. This article first appeared in the April issue of The Progressive magazine.

S. Starr said...

For God, Not Country: The un-American theology of Stanley Hauerwas

Culture/Society Extended News Editorial Keywords: HAUERWAS: A LEADING THEOLOGICAL ETHICIST
Source: Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life
Published: September 2001 Author: Mark Oppenheimer
Posted on 08/21/2001 20:09:30 PDT by shrinkermd

IMAGINE JAMES CARVILLE AS A THEOLOGIAN." THAT'S HOW the Princeton religion professor Jeffrey Stout describes Stanley Hauerwas. And it's true that Hauerwas has that same mischievous face, youthful and almost serene even as he says the most bilious things. His accent is Ross Perot's, but the timbre is gentler. He is also, according to the Catholic University theologian John Berkman, "perhaps North America's most important theological ethicist."He has twice been nominated to be president of the Society of Christian Ethics—and has lost each time to a less controversial figure. He laughs hard and often at his own jokes. He is ribald; the novelist and literary critic Frank Lentricchia calls Hauerwas "the commander of the only unself-conscious foul mouth in the professoriat."

Hauerwas sits in his office at the Duke Divinity School, which, like Hauerwas, is at least nominally Methodist. He is surrounded by walls of books, and he wears a green shirt with a Nautica crest and a tie covered in psychedelic animals. I'm hoping to learn the origins of his Christian pacifism. Or to discover if it's true that he once said divorced people shouldn't be buried in Christian cemeteries. Or to hear about the time he scandalized the world of theology by saying "goddamn" in a Newsweek article. (Hauerwas defends himself: "I was the only one in the article who mentioned God, and I did it twice!")

Hauerwas, who is sixty-one years old, is telling me about his boyhood in Pleasant Grove, Texas, where you went to church on Sunday morning and got saved in the revival that evening. "But I was never saved," he says. "And I was thirteen or fourteen years old and finger-fucking the girls, and I was confused. So I decided to be a minister. That's what my parents thought I was going to college for, to be a minister. My father was the only person in his family to graduate from high school. He wanted to go to college, but it was the Depression. Those hammers over there on the wall, those are his. He was a bricklayer."

In 1958, Hauerwas left home for Southwestern University. There, he apprenticed himself to a professor named John Score, who taught him religion and philosophy and took him to Dallas to see art and film. He then went to Yale Divinity School, where he learned the Yale approach to theology, which emphasized the importance of tradition; it resisted, at least somewhat, the 1960s trend to think of the church as a malleable instrument of social justice. Even still, Hauerwas says, "I went to Yale thinking I was going to be a liberal Christian."

That's liberal in both senses: politically liberal, but also a contributing, supportive member of the liberal nation-state, someone for whom Christianity never conflicted with the American project. Hauerwas, like all theologians of that era, was reckoning with the recent memory of fascism; he suspected that only American democracy, perhaps aided by a free-thinking, social-justice Christianity, could prevent its recurrence. "I didn't see how you could believe in the Resurrection," he says. "And I thought all theology at that time had to be done in light of the murder of Europe's Jews. I figured it was the liberal Protestants who had stood up to the Nazis. But guess what—it was not the liberal Protestants who stood up to the Nazis. It was the evangelicals."

Hauerwas took this insight to his first teaching job, at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Though Augustana is a religious school, affiliated with the Lutheran Church, it was not a good fit for Hauerwas, who lasted only two years there. In a faculty discussion, Hauerwas defended affirmative action by saying, "We hire mediocre M.A. whites every year, why can't we go out and hire mediocre M.A. blacks?" Augustana's president, Hauerwas says, immediately resolved to fire him.

From Augustana, Hauerwas moved to Notre Dame, where he stayed for fourteen years. He learned to admire Roman Catholic tradition and the Thomist writings. He even began to take instruction toward converting, before his first wife threatened to leave him if he continued. At the same time, he also deepened his interest in the pacifist writings of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.

During Hauerwas's tenure, Notre Dame hired Father Richard McBrien to lead its theology department. Hauerwas and McBrien did not like each other, and they still don't. Hauerwas left happily for Duke University, where he has been since 1984. In that time, he's become very famous, as theologians go. His writings fill almost thirty books. His preferred form is the essay, and he picks deliberately provocative titles like "Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christians Are Doing It" and "Why Gays (as a Group) Are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group)." His many essay collections, from Vision and Virtue (1974) to A Better Hope (2000), address topics like marriage, euthanasia, abortion, the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, murder, Texas, the novel Watership Down, and baseball.

His critics complain that he has yet to write a systematic treatise, the "big book" that will tell people what it means to be a Hauerwasian. But there is a term "Hauerwasian," and his critics don't have adjectives made from their names. So perhaps our job is to figure out what "Hauerwasian" means.

"HAUERWASIAN" means, for one thing, funny; it also means both self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating. Hauerwas is often sure he's right, but he wants to fight about it. He doesn't care if his combatants don't have doctorates, whether they're preachers or chimney sweeps. The Ivy League polish never fully took: He still calls himself a "gregarious" reader when he means "voracious," talks about the delightful "shishkah" a Jewish boy is dating, marvels at an athlete's "heighth." He is famous for his rants at conferences; everyone has a favorite story about Hauerwas addressing a crowd of prim evangelical scholars and loosening their girdles with some choice expletives. He calls all his graduate students each year to sing "Happy Birthday." He has a certain degree of humility that comes from being raised poor, being left by a mentally ill wife after twenty-five years of marriage, and leaving his first two academic jobs with his bosses happy to see him go. But he also holds the uncharitable conviction that many Christian theologians of the past hundred years have been wrong most of the time, and he's eager to tell you why this is so.

This is the story he tells. Since the end of the nineteenth century, church has been little more than the place you went so that your neighbors didn't think you were a communist or an atheist. Churched people were seen to be good Americans, and good Americans went to church. That is the role the Protestant mainline auditioned for after World War II: shepherd of American citizenship. President Dwight Eisenhower encouraged the cultivation of religious belief, regardless of creed. As the historian Sydney Ahlstrom wrote of the postwar years, "There seemed to be a consensus that personal religious faith was an essential element in proper patriotic commitment."

In the years following World War II, Reinhold Niebuhr, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was the most famous theologian in America. He was well known for his commitment to economic justice and the protection of human rights abroad. But he disagreed with the Social Gospel, the liberal Christian philosophy regnant since the turn of the century. Adherents to the Social Gospel movement were wide-eyed progressives who believed that social engineering and economic fairness would help perfect the world. They were optimists. But their view seemed untenable after the Depression and World War II, and Niebuhr's "Christian realism" provided a corrective. Niebuhr believed that man's sinful nature required liberal Christians to abandon their Pollyannaish vision and admit the necessity of war and coercion. For a country so recently at war, Niebuhr's stance justified the military-industrial complex, the draft, and the church's participation in the martial state. It was a theology made for Hiroshima.

In the 1960s, mainline Christians accepted the desirability of the American army and state. Christians might still criticize or try to reform the United States, but they did not doubt that as a bulwark against evil, it was doing God's work on earth. During Vietnam and the civil rights movement, even liberal preachers tended to see themselves as working with the government rather than against it. Then, in the 1970s, conservative Christians discovered the perks of joining the political game. Led by groups like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, whose members were inspired by the born-again Jimmy Carter, evangelical Christians shed their outsider status. Conservative Methodist, Southern Baptist, and fundamentalist preachers who had always been apolitical, waiting for the Kingdom of God, awoke to the election cycle. In the 1990s, the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed promised to harness their power to form a more Christian union.

By the time Richard Nixon resigned, it had become standard practice for Christian, Jewish, or ecumenical prayers to open sessions of Congress; for military chaplains to help assuage the consciences of murderers; for football coaches to pray to Jesus before games. Christians, according to Hauerwas, now served the Man: openly, avowedly, surely. Christianity had become patriotism.

Today, the Christian remains loyal to the nation-state—and that's idol worship. The church needs to stop serving the Man and begin serving the Son of Man. Hauerwas believes that the true Christian ought to live on the social and political margins. The true Christian, recognizing that the story of the Cross requires pacifism, might refuse to fight the capitalist's wars. He also might find the world of market capitalism so inhospitable, so hostile to the formation of virtue, that he opts out—into separate schools and summer camps and circles of friends. He is a resident alien. He witnesses.

That is what a Hauerwasian believes Christians should do. Stand apart and witness. For thirty years, Hauerwas has been telling other Christians that they have become tools of late-modern capitalism and neglected their unique message. He thinks that a church founded by the great radical outsider has, on the right and the left, forgotten its peasant past and become drunk on the Georgetown party circuit. He thinks most preachers have been abetted by Christian theologians in thinking their job is to help people be slightly less bad American consumers rather than better Christians. He believes there is much worth dying for but nothing he'll kill for. He has lots of enemies, but he believes they're the right ones.

HAUERWAS has been influential in part because his views haven't changed much. As the Creighton University theologian R.R. Reno says, Hauerwas "has the virtue of never saying anything different." To begin with, he has always been a strong opponent of "quandary ethics." To Hauerwas, the question has never been "What shall I do if presented with this dilemma?" but rather "What kind of person shall I be?" The ethicist's job is not to provide answers to discrete moral problems, as in The New York Times Magazine column The Ethicist, but to figure out how to build a person who will naturally incline toward the right answers. Like Aristotle or the Duke philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, whose work has profoundly influenced him, Hauerwas is concerned with virtue. He believes that ethics inheres in character and that good character is formed by discipleship to traditions and apprenticeship to good people. Just what the "good" virtues are can be debated—Hauerwas says that they are hope and patience—but the premise must not be. Contrary to the wisdom of the liberal tradition from Immanuel Kant through John Rawls, the ethical cannot be codified in abstract principles.

A virtue ethicist believes that good people will be built differently by different groups, and for the Hauerwasian Christian that means retreating from commitments to America and its economy. In Hauerwas's graduate seminar on Yoder, I listen as one student, John Nugent, discusses the Christian community he and his wife are moving to Long Island to found. Hauerwas interrupts with some advice on how to keep the community holy: "How about if you say, 'If you join our community, you can't leave without our permission? That means if the company moves you to New Jersey, we'll pay to keep you here and keep you going until you get another job.'... I mean, if our salvation really depends on our bodily presence, then can we leave?" (When Hauerwas was offered his present job at Duke, he told his fellow members of the Broadway United Methodist Church in South Bend, Indiana, that he would stay if they told him to.)

Later, he offers another suggestion to the future preacher, who wonders how his planned Christian community can enforce tithing and economic justice in its ranks. "Whoever joins the church, make sure everyone else knows what he makes," Hauerwas says, pleased to have solved the problem.

Hauerwas's influence over his students is considerable. When I had lunch with his doctoral students, all eight of them identified themselves as pacifists. They're moved by passages in Hauerwas's writing such as this one: "Surely, the saddest aspect of the [Gulf] war for Christians should have been its celebration as a victory and of those who fought it as heroes.... The flags and yellow ribbons on churches are testimony to how little Christians in America realize that our loyalty to God is incompatible with those who would war in the name of an abstract justice."

THINK FOR A moment how strange the Hauerwasian world is beginning to look. It's a world in which the churches consider war so great a human failing that they refuse to honor returning veterans; in which the churches insist that you publicly disclose your income to keep you honest in matters of tithing and charity; in which your congregation might ask that you not leave without the church's permission, since it is the endurance of community over time that builds character and nurtures virtue.

It is, above all, an illiberal world. What costs Hauerwas the most friends, besides his foul mouth, are his aversion to liberalism and his preference for, as he puts it, "all the things about tradition-formed virtuous people." Tradition means memories—memories that persist over generations because parents dare to indoctrinate their young. Memories are chauvinist: They imply that our ways are better than their ways. But they are not intrinsically militaristic. It is only when memories fail that force is needed to hold people together.

As a chauvinist, Hauerwas is not impressed by liberal arts pedagogy. Teachers who pretend to have no opinions train students who have no opinions, and Hauerwas would rather see diversity among schools—Duke training students to think Methodist; Brandeis training students to think Jewish; Notre Dame steeping its kids in Catholicism—than diversity within schools, which typically results in professors afraid to believe anything important for fear of offending people. "Universities," Hauerwas says, "teach you not to buy paintings of tigers on black velvet. You're supposed to buy van Gogh prints. It's teaching you how to be a tasteful capitalist.... I asked one of my colleagues at Duke, 'If you could somehow get Maimonides or Aquinas back, would you hire them for the religion department?' He said, 'No, because they're confessional'"—meaning they confess beliefs rather than profess facts.

Today's teachers, Hauerwas believes, divorce students from honorable and nurturing narratives—like Judaism and Christianity, or perhaps Marxism and Rastafarianism—and give them the Enlightenment narrative of reason, but with the lie that it's not a narrative. "The story that liberalism teaches us," he writes in A Community of Character, "is that we have no story." Hauerwas prefers indoctrination to the arrogance of objectivity. When David Toole, a Duke graduate student who had come late to Christianity, was about to become a father, Hauerwas offered some advice: "I said, 'David, are you going to have the baby baptized?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'David, I know I have power over you because I'm your director. You know me, I love you. I don't think you ought to do to your baby what you won't do to yourself. You ought to be baptized.'" Toole was baptized, and Hauerwas and his second wife, Paula, are the child's godparents.

Still, Hauerwas is not a typical proselytizer. He dislikes what passes in America for evangelism, the television preachers and stadium exhorters. He prefers the Mennonites' mission model: Send people forth to live good lives in far-flung places and hope others wonder what they're up to. The nearest he's come to soul saving is when he suggested that the ex-Catholic Frank Lentricchia speak to a priest. "I was surprised (still am) that I wasn't able to resist Stanley's suggestion," Lentricchia has written. Hauerwas sent his student Father Michael Baxter to talk with Lentricchia, and soon Lentricchia was on a retreat at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, praying the liturgy daily, the one he had known as a child.

"My deepest criticism of liberalism is the loss of memory," Hauerwas says while driving back from Greensboro College, a small Methodist school in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he has just given a talk titled "Why Cheating Is Worse Than Murder in Universities." "America," he explains, "in some ways stands for the utopian dream that you can shape a people who share nothing in common into some kind of workable social order if you just have enough money and fair legal procedures. And therefore, you get to describe your life as a free individual, and, Oh, by the way, I just happen to be African American, I happen to be Jewish, I happen to be Czechoslovakian. Americans keep saying, 'What the fuck do these blacks want? You can move to the suburbs, have three TVs—I mean, what's a little slavery between friends?'"

AS HAUERWAS sees it, the point is commitment. He likes observant Jews and Catholics; one of his closest friends at Duke is the professor of religion Vincent Cornell, a convert to Islam. To be committed requires training and discipline. Discipline builds virtue, as MacIntyre argues, and Hauerwas shares MacIntyre's love of crafts: Both men talk about activities like baseball, bricklaying, wood hewing, and chess. Hauerwas loves the Durham Bulls and is a familiar face in the baseball bleachers.

Practice under the great ones, Hauerwas believes, and you will learn to be great. The goal is not great acts but great men. Although Hauerwas believes that Chris tianity entails pacifism, he admires the military. True, they are willing to kill—but they are also willing to die. They have some sense of sacrifice, the way Jews and Palestinians do. It's exactly what cosmopolitan man lacks. Urbane city preachers joined the Nazi Party; pious, pacifist Jehovah's Witnesses refused to be conscripted and were sent to the camps with Jews.

That emphasis on suffering and sacrifice also informs Hauerwas's work in medical ethics, which constitutes much of his writing. He shares the Catholic comprehensive pro-life position: against the death penalty, war, abortion, and euthanasia. But when he writes about the need to carry fetuses to term, or care for the infirm and handicapped, he does not sound like the typical religious moralist. The Aristotelian in him takes over, and he focuses on the virtue that a practice of caregiving might instill in a community of givers and receivers alike. What kind of people are we, he asks, that we structure child rearing and care of the elderly around our material needs, aborting and warehousing those who might keep us from worry-free vacations or late-model cars? Jerry Falwell keeps talking about the babies' souls; Hauerwas worries about ours.

Of the retarded, Hauerwas writes: "But in our joys and in our sufferings they recognize something of their joy and their suffering, and they offer to share their neediness with us.... We are thus freed from the false and vicious circle of having to appear strong before others' weakness, and we are then able to join with the retarded in the common project of sharing our needs and satisfactions. As a result we discover we no longer fear them ...."

All the familiar Hauerwasian tropes are in that passage: the pacific call to intentional weakness; the joining in a "common project"; the construction of the kind of community that breeds virtue. One can hear in the phrase "the false and vicious circle of having to appear strong before others' weakness" echoes of Hauerwas's descriptions elsewhere of capitalism's ability to "produce shitty people." "Greed has always existed," he has written, "but this is the first time the system encourages it as a virtue."

By laying abortion and euthanasia at the door of market capitalism and not drugs or feminism or rock and roll, Hauerwas alienates the jingoist Christian right. ("In Texas," he says, "it was unclear whether the Southern Baptist pastors started looking like Texas politicians, or Texas politicians started looking like Southern Baptist preachers.") But he also offends the religious left. He believes, after all, that the Bible is true—though the way he construes "true" is slippery: "When I say Christianity is true," he explains, "I mean that I'm willing to die for it." He honors concepts like commandment and sin in a way that can lend comfort to those who want women to keep their silence in churches (1 Cor. 14:34) or who believe that "if a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death" (Lev. 20:13). He's not a biblical literalist—he does not say, for instance, that homosexuals will go to hell—but with his talk of resurrection and sin, he often sounds like one.

Jeffrey Stout, whose book Ethics After Babel is a classic plea for the kind of liberal worldview Hauerwas abhors, thinks Hauerwas puts a seductively radical veneer on a basically conservative message. "The secret of Hauerwas's vast influence in the church," he speculates, "may lie in the comforting thought that the strength of one's sentimental identification with the church can by itself secure non-complicity with the evils of the world at little cost to the Christian. That's not the message he intends to communicate, of course, but that's what's coming across at the subliminal level. Hauerwas's central practical teaching is absolute pacifism. But in an era when the U.S. has ended military conscription, what exactly does this pacifism demand? Hauerwas gives his followers the feeling that they are doing something brave and costly. But I haven't heard him prescribing any form of action that would disturb the routine of your average well-to-do suburbanite."

Stout is saying—and this is a common charge—that a Hauerwas disciple, for all her pacifist convictions and devotion to a countercultural church, will not end up living very differently from a fundamentalist mother homeschooling her children. Both women will think of themselves as brave exemplars of religious integrity while doing nothing about poverty, war, or female genital mutilation. They may achieve a kind of Amish authenticity—but then again, the Amish mostly take care of their own without worrying much about the health of the polity.

Stout is right that Hauerwas has not produced a systematic treatise of resistance, but Hauerwas does offer a thousand little schemes of subversion—some of them quite risky. For a Christian to stand up in a small Southern town and denounce the Gulf War and its veterans—that would take some chutzpah. Or imagine the reaction of the chamber of commerce if one hundred people in a company town gave their church veto power over job transfers. In Resident Aliens, co-written with Duke chaplain William Willimon, Hauerwas questions the project of church day-care centers, noting that they often exist to make life easier for materialistic two-career couples. A pastor who voiced that view would risk losing many congregants; those who stuck by her could create real problems for the American way of life. One does not have to subscribe to Hauerwas's messianic faith to imagine that such witnessing in our midst could make us better, or at least very different, people.

If some critics ignore the possibilities of Hauerwas's project, it's in part because of his aggressive certitude. "In our time," Hauerwas says, "Christian humility cannot but help appear as arrogance." Hauerwas's own arrogance, often expressed with cuss words, has consequences for how people respond to his theology. Richard Mouw, president of the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary, says that most ethicists take Hauerwas "very seriously" despite his habit of contesting "views that he disagrees with in the language that he learned when he was a bricklayer." And yet, Mouw says, "there are some ethicists who have been stung by his way of debating and find him difficult to take. Stanley has to take responsibility for those assessments of his style and content."

Amy Laura Hall, Hauerwas's junior colleague in theological ethics at Duke, is a Methodist minister who taught herself Danish for her Kierkegaard dissertation at Yale while raising a small daughter and organizing graduate students into a union. If anyone can handle the Hauerwas brio, it's Hall. "When I met Stanley," she recalls, "he said, 'I'm a ball scratcher.' I said, 'Stanley, if I had 'em, I'd scratch 'em, too.'" Hall is also from Texas, and she can play his game but doesn't like to. "I've tried to get him to see what 'fuck' sounds like in the ears of some women," she says. "The gender stuff with him is so tricky—and at his best, Stanley knows that."

Hall thinks that Hauerwas is all too eager to prove that the Christian theologian is no docile egghead. "Christian character will at times be mistaken as weakness, and that's okay," she says. "And that's something we don't do enough at Duke—cultivate a willingness to look weak." Hall worries about the prospect of pacifists carrying themselves more like Navy SEALs than like humbled Christians. And she's right that there seems to be a paradox. No matter how much Hauerwas talked about peace, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd want him on my side in a bar fight. He almost agrees: "First of all," he explains, "I describe myself as a pacifist because I'm obviously a violent son of a bitch. I hate the language of pacifism because it's so passive. If you are nonviolent, you'd better be ready for a lot of conflict."

Hall's point about Hauerwas's swaggering seems sound, and it resembles other criticisms that his style, so direct and clear in both writing and speaking, can make matters a little too simple. "The most troubling and least original aspect of his style is his tendency to assimilate his opponents to a single type, the stereotypical liberal," says Stout. "Stan's a master of hyperbole," agrees Richard John Neuhaus, the former antiwar Lutheran minister, now a Catholic priest, who invited Hauerwas to join the editorial board of his conservative journal First Things.

R.R. Reno says that Hauerwas is doubly reductionist, simplifying the liberal state while idealizing the church. Still, Reno admires Hauerwas; though he says that Hauerwas is "not the smartest guy," he believes that Hauerwas has "a nose for what the real problems are facing the church today." It's a comment that Hauerwas would appreciate, since he often brags that he is "not a thinker," just a theologian trying to help people be better Christians. Hauerwas sees himself as the guileless child or the Shakespearean fool, wise in a way that is both simple and profound.

"His approach is not in line with centuries of moral tradition," says Notre Dame's Father McBrien, a liberal Catholic frequently sought by the media for his willingness to criticize Pope John Paul II. "It's us-against-them sectarianism, Christianity as a zone of righteousness, and we're identified by that story, and we don't care if nobody else can understand the story, and we have no obligation to reach out, dialogue, and adapt." Likewise, Stout blames Hauerwas for encouraging Christians to neglect the American conversation: "The most dangerous element in his thinking is the traditionalist rejection of liberal society.... His influence in the seminaries is partly responsible for the decline of the religious left, a development that has had horrible consequences for American politics generally."

Hauerwas is delighted to note that when Stout and McBrien, men of the left, criticize him, they sound just like the conservatives who dislike him. On the right and the left, the commitment to America is assumed; the quarrel is only about what America should look like. Mormons believe, as a matter of theology, that America is the new Israel. The philosopher Richard Rorty imagines the United States as a kind of secular promised land, its prophets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. Niebuhr's America is a powerful vision. So I ask Hauerwas, "What's wrong with having, instead of commitment to a God and a religious community's narrative, a profound form of citizenship?"

"A thick conception of citizenship?" he says. "Another word for that is 'nationalism.' What is the defining event of America? World War II, because what Americans are dying to have is something worth dying for. War becomes the great event in American life, because that's when we send the young out to die and be killed. To die in wars, to give us the belief as Americans that we think there's something worth dying for—to die for who your democratically elected leader says you should die for, and to protect the sacrifices of the last war.

"It's an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong god—Mars. I admire people for making the great sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill. But it's the wrong sacrifice. Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system. We believe the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and you don't have to repeat it over and over again in the name of nations."

All of this can make sense, of course, if you have messianic faith—if you believe, with Hauerwas, that Christ died on the Cross and that he will return in the end times to announce the Kingdom of God on earth. That belief produces genuine humility, including the observation that the United States is but 225 years old, that Rome, too, was probably pretty arrogant in its youth, and that liberal constitutions haven't kept a country like France from domestic tyranny or wartime impotence. Republics have failed human beings before, but Jesus never has.

I don't believe that, of course. Based on the evidence, I will choose the republican community over the religious one. I don't want to live amid the shells and mortar of Israel or Northern Ireland. Hauerwas admires those two lands, where people are willing to die for their beliefs, and do. I'll take New Haven. But in making that choice, I also remember that Hauerwas has some evidence on his side, too. When he looks for communities that do the best job of handling American freedom without losing themselves to materialism, he sees Mennonites, Jehovah's Witnesses, and ultraorthodox Jews: people who would rather have children than VCRs, who don't send their old and retarded to institutions, and who rarely harm their neighbors. They're not good liberals. They're weird, and they make us uncomfortable, but I suspect that they're much more likely to die for me than to kill me. And if they die for me, it will be to honor their Bible, not my Constitution.

Mark Oppenheimer , a graduate fellow of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale, has written for Harper's and The New Yorker. "Memories of a Lesbian Girlhood," his essay about sexuality at prep school, appears in the Spring/Summer issue of Southwest Review.

S. Starr said...

-- written by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

The Deteriorata:

From the CD: National Lampoon Radio Dinner Album
A Parody of the poem Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and waste,
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
Avoid quiet and passive persons unless you are in need of sleep.
Rotate your tires.

Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself,
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys.
Know what to kiss and when.
Consider that two wrongs never make a right,
But that three lefts do.

Wherever possible put people on "HOLD".
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment,
And despite the changing fortunes of time,
There is always a big future in computer maintenance.
Remember the Pueblo.

Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate.
Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI.
Exercise caution in your daily affairs,
Especially with those persons closest to you;
That lemon on your left for instance.

Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls,
Would scarcely get your feet wet.
Fall not in love therefore; it will stick to your face.

Carefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan,
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch.
For a good time, call 606-4311.

Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your dog
Is finally getting enough cheese;
And reflect that whatever fortunes may be your lot,
It could only be worse in Sioux City.

You are a fluke of the Universe.
You have no right to be here, and whether you can hear it or not,
The Universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore make peace with your God whatever you conceive him to be,
Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin.

With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal,
The world continues to deteriorate.
Give up.

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