Stanley Hauerwas: Conviction & Candor

Tonight I went to a lecture by Stanley Hauerwas at St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta, Georgia.

Hauerwas is professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. In 2001, he was recognized by Time Magazine as "America's Best Theologian." To that he respectfully replied, "Best is not a theological category."

He is the author of numerous books and articles, including:
A Community of Character
The Peaceable Kingdom
Resident Aliens (with William Willimon)

Here are some of the highlights from his lecture:

The "Project of Modernity" is the attempt to produce a people who believe the story that they have no story except the story that they chose when they had no story.

Such a view has devastating effects on the church, for the church does not believe that. Rather the church believes that we are creatures of a good God who has "storied us" through engrafting us to the people of Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians do not believe we get to choose our story, but rather we discover that God has called us to participate in a story not of our own making. A church so formed cannot help but be a challenge to a social order built on the contrary presumption that I get to make my life up.

Americans have rarely bled, sacrificed, or died for Christianity or any other sectarian faith. Americans have often bled, sacrificed, and died for their country. What is really perceived as true in a society is that which is citizens may be compelled to sacrifice their lives for. Therefore, in American, the flag garners more allegiance than the cross.

We are told that others hate us because they despise our freedoms, but it may be that others sense that what Americans call freedom is bought at the expense of the lives of others.

The difference between "war" and "terrorism" is determined not by the act (it's the same act), but by the size of the army performing the act.

I cannot avoid the reality that American Christianity has been less than it should have been and that the church has failed to make clear that America's god is not the God we worship as Christians - the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ironically, the feverish fervency of the religious right in America to sustain faith as a necessary condition for supporting democracy cannot help but be a strategy that ensures the faith that is sustained is not the Christian faith.

I can sum up ethics in two words: don't lie.

We long for the day when Christians learn not to kill each other. That comes from theological education that causes people to see that in the middle of our faith is a cross.

In America hospitals have become our cathedrals and physicians are our priests. Accordingly medical schools are much more serious about the moral formation of their students than divinity schools - as if the Hippocratic Oath were more important than the Apostle's Creed. They are so because Americans do not believe that an inadequately trained priest may damage their salvation, but they do believe an inadequately trained doctor can hurt them. The fact that many Christians care more about who their doctor is than who their priest is should give us an idea about which story we embody as true.

Related Posts:
Jesus and the 4th of July


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