Monday, 12 June 2006

For the love of God (13): Why I love Stanley Hauerwas

A guest-post by Kim Fabricius

I have never met Stanley Hauerwas, but a colleague who has describes him as a thoroughly unpleasant man. Another colleague tells of Hauerwas at Cambridge dismissing Jürgen Moltmann as “full of shit.” And Hauerwas himself admits to a violent streak.

As a New Yorker I am inclined to snipe: “What else do you expect from a Texan?” But then Hauerwas also happens to be an Episcopalian layman and one of the church’s most outspoken apostles of non-violence. Gandhi would not be surprised: the violent, he said, often make the best pacifists.

Rowan Williams
I love because he’s so humble and irenic; Stanley Hauerwas I love because he’s such a rootin’ tootin’ gunslinger. He stands in the venerable tradition of the rabies theologorum that can be traced back to the vitriolic Paul, via the hot-headed Luther and the ruthless Augustine.

Theologically, I like the way Hauerwas keeps his work seamless: dogmatics and ethics (Barth), doctrine and narrative (MacIntyre), character and action (Bonhoeffer), church and world (Yoder). The accusation of sectarianism is preposterous, as Hauerwas roars his counter-cultural critiques in the fora. The professor’s The Peaceable Kingdom (1983) will issue in the public intellectual’s Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11 (2003). Here Hauerwas declares: “I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better—a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill.” He also says: “If we do not think it possible to love our enemies then we should plainly say Jesus is not the messiah.”

The Sermon on the Mount obviously resources Hauerwas’ theology, but the ultimate source is the God who is our friend. Indeed “friendship” lies at the heart of Hauerwas’ understanding of the Christian life, and informs his thinking not only on peacemaking, but also on sexuality, abortion and—a special concern—the mentally handicapped. Indeed, the recent Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words (2004) is more poignant than polemical.

Hauerwas may be a son-of-a-bitch—but he is our son-of-a-bitch.

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