Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hauerwas is like a fine wine

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
His dad's name was Coffee for crying out loud!
He gets better with age. The Australian Broadcasting Company's always-excellent Religion and Ethics website has posted what I think may be Hauerwas' most succinctly argued essay which covers the broadest range of topics he's tackled over the years. It's long but oh dear is it worth the time...

The politics of the church and the humanity of God

One big point that's been a hallmark of his work is highlighting the story of modernity, including the accommodated church's complicity in modernity and its dire consequences. There's this nugget:
(David Bentley) Hart observes when Christianity passes from a culture the resulting remainder may be worse than if Christianity had never existed. Christians took the gods away and no one will ever believe them again. Christians demystified the world robbing good pagans of their reverence and hard won wisdom derived from the study of human and non-human nature. So once again Nietzsche was right that the Christians shaped a world that meant that those who would come after Christianity could not avoid nihilism.
This is paired with the critique of constantinianism, which he picked up from John Howard Yoder (and which people consistently miss when they accuse him of wanting a "theocracy"). He also spends a good bit of time talking about Barth, which helps keep his political and ethical comments theologically rooted (which sometimes gets missed in his episodic writings, and which he also gets accused of downplaying). His pacifistic, non-coercive theological understanding also finds voice in respect to topics he's tackled before:
The humanity of that God Christians believe has made it possible for a people to exist who do in fact, as Nietzsche suggested, exemplify a slave morality. It is a morality Hart describes as a "strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness" expressed in the ability to see as our sisters and brothers the autistic or Down syndrome or disabled child, a child who is a perpetual perplexity for the world, a child who can cause pain and only fleetingly charm or delight; or in the derelict or broken man or woman who has wasted their life; or the homeless, the diseased, the mentally ill, criminals and reprobates... Such a morality is the matter that is the church. It is the matter that made even a church in Christendom uneasy.
Virtue, language, and narrative also get small treatment. To cut off my temptation to elaborate further, I'll simply let the snippets here speak and hope that a few people take the time to think of the huge implications for the Christian faith if Hauerwas is correct (and I continue to think he is, in large measure, correct on a good number of things).

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