Monday, 30 March 2009

Living gently in a violent world: Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier on the witness of L'Arche

Speaking of L’Arche, IVP recently launched a new series, Resources for Reconciliation. The first volume discusses justice and reconciliation. The second volume in the series is a dialogue between Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (IVP 2008). Their dialogue explores the prophetic witness of L’Arche to the church and to society. “In a world determined to cure those who cannot be cured, Christians should refuse to do anything other than be with those Jesus taught us to be loved by – that is, those we ‘help’ by simply being present” (p. 56).

Vanier writes: “Today in France they are saying that within a few years there will be no more children with Down syndrome because they will all have been aborted…. The heart of L’Arche is to say to people, ‘I am glad you exist.’ And the proof that we are glad that they exist is that we stay with them for a long time. We are together, we can have fun together. ‘I am glad you exist’ is translated into physical presence” (p. 69).

And Hauerwas writes: “Long story short: we don’t get to make our lives up. We get to receive our lives as gifts. The story that says we should have no story except the story we chose … is a lie. To be human is to learn that we don’t get to make up our lives because we’re creatures…. Christian discipleship is about learning to receive our lives as gifts without regret” (p. 93).

And in a concluding reflection, John Swinton observes: “L’Arche reminds us that time is not simply a commodity to be wasted, spent, saved or used but is rather a gift given…. The people living in L’Arche have recognized that time is a gift…. L’Arche lays down a marker in the fabric of time, a marker reminding us that in Jesus, time has been redeemed for the practices of peace” (pp. 104-5).

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