Stanley Hauerwas waxes analogical; once again proves brilliance

I have a particular kind of admiration for theologians who aren’t known for their sugarcoating. The reason, of course, is that I myself am no sugarcoater. Being someone who speaks the truth a bit more from the hip than I perhaps should at times, I have sometimes found myself wondering about my calling: can a person of faith not have the “warm fuzzies” all of the time? Can they be openly critical of the Church at large and still hope to find the place where they are needed in some ministry capacity? If I want to write a book, what will become of me? Have you ever been to a Christian bookstore? I ask you this, because for some reason even though we are grown-up women, Lifeway in particular seems to think that all books authored by and/or geared toward women must, and I mean *must* have a pink or red cover. I am here to tell you that if I wrote a book and the two options were the one just mentioned or to remain unpublished, I would surely remain unpublished. See what I mean? Not. A. Sugarcoater.

All of this to say that I found an interview by Hauerwas just now in which he defended being a pacifist in a way I thought just brilliant.

I, too, think that all Christians necessarily should be pacifists. I think that the Just War Theory is too often used as a justification after the fact and not in the way that it was intended to be utilized: as a tool before war begins, but that is neither here nor there. I am absolutely against war. If God tells you to go to war, I am uncertain whether your issue is one of discernment or of mental health, but my theology leads me clearly to a place where war does not fit in with the instructions that I am to follow.

Here is a brief excerpt from the interview with Hauerwas. You may not appreciate his reasoning, and that’s fine. He is not someone that people are typically on the fence about: I know which side of the fence I am on where he is concerned.

Q:What should be the church’s role in the debate over Afghanistan?

A:Let’s start with people in our congregations who are connected with the military, and ask them how they can justify that. Let’s start there. I have high regard for people in the military, but very seldom are they asked to justify what they’re doing.

Q:So every Christian is called to be a pacifist?

A:Yes, absolutely.

Q:So how do you respond to people who say that’s unrealistic?

A:Try lifelong monogamous fidelity in marriage. Do you think that’s realistic? Yet we do it. I’m not terribly cowed by the idea of being unrealistic.

For the full interview, click here.


4 thoughts on “Stanley Hauerwas waxes analogical; once again proves brilliance

  1. Hauerwas is definitely not a sugarcoater, but one has to wonder if that Texas-in-your-face-pacifist-f-u tone translates well to the parish that his students are being trained for. I’ve heard many horror stories of young, radical Hauerwasians in their first church offending so many people right off the bat that their future effectiveness in ministry there was in question. Sure he is prophetic, but does this make for the best pastors? That cackle and those f-bombs won’t play out well in a local church (though seminarians who need to feel empowered will eat it up).

    Someone described Willimon to me as “Hauerwas applied to a Church,” and I’ve taken that advice to heart and found Willimon much more useful to me in my own growth.

    All that being equal, I think you have an even harsher view of Just War than Hauerwas does. Of course, Hauerwas was himself once a just war guy (before his discovery of a then-obscure Yoder). But he also respects what he views as a well-articulated (read: Christian) Just War tradition. Case in point: he wrote the introduction for the reprinting of Paul Ramsey’s massive The Just War.

    But then, most Hauerwasians have never really taken Just War seriously, because they’ve only encountered it through pacifists. (Kind of like condemning the free market based solely on reading Das Kapital.)

    Just War doesn’t tell any “one” to go to war; as Ramsey argued (following Augustine), war is a matter of statecraft, not simply a checklist. The “you” is always a corporate “you,” a government looking for guidance on how best to work for peace with justice for its citizens.

    One final note: Hauerwas’ work on virtue and friendship in community makes his answer, “start with the military in the congregation” understandable. But practically this is silly. Most soldiers aren’t asked how they justify their actions because they don’t need to know, it’s above their pay grade. It’s a bit like asking an average layperson to justify the view of the sacraments that their church holds: they don’t care, they just go up front when the pastor/priest invites them. And besides, any answer that the Christian soldier in the pew is going to give won’t be satisfying to a Hauerwas, who takes pleasure in eviscerating anyone that isn’t Yoder, Barth, or MacIntyre (or one of a growing number of theologians that share his assumptions).

  2. Oh, and I forgot to say that I didn’t know they read Hauerwas at Campbell Div. I used to live in Harnett County and it doesn’t seem very pacifist-friendly…

    That being said, Hauerwas wouldn’t approve of your invocation of Tillich elsewhere on your blog (he was one of those nasty ‘liberal protestants’.

  3. I appreciate your comments, and I must say that I respectfully disagree. I take the rules of Just War very seriously and considered myself opposed to war before I found myself, to my own surprise, a student of theology. Though I could not put a finger on it, it seemed absolutely oppositional to what the way of Christ exemplified. In Augustine, Yoder, Hauerwas, et. al. and in a wonderful book that synthesizes a lot of scholarship, ‘Kingdom Ethics’ by Stassen and Gushee, I found not support for what I wanted the text to say especially in the Biblical text but I found some answers that challenged me, a lot of opportunities to delve deeper into my original and surface explorations on the topic, and entrypoints into Scripture where I could look first without my mind made up.
    Theologians and laypersons only frighten me when they go to Scripture with their mind made up on what the answer is and then go to Scripture to find support of their opinion. To me, this is abuse both of Scripture and of the mystery of God. It seems to say that they know all of the answers; so why do we need to commune with a God who we deem all-knowing in the first place?
    I tend to try to listen very hard to what I feel, as in the sinking pit in my stomach when speaking of war or mistreatment of a particular people group or Proposition 8. Though for many years “feelings” have been written off entirely and logic has been championed, I don’t deem the two mutually exclusive. I consider my “gut feeling” the first indicator of my discernment, and for what it’s worth it has served me pretty well. This is not to say that I stop there – rather the opposite. Once that alarm has sounded I pursue rigorous answers from the great thinkers of the past who have gone before me; invoking anyone from Aquinas to Augustine to Hegel to Heidegger. I consider them all part of the same conversation of which we must be part (a la Tillich, and I think it ridiculous that any theologian would entirely write off another because they are in one camp or another; that is certainly not a charitable reading [Augustine] and in the end the person that they hurt is themselves).

    To say that a layperson in the church should not know the reason or the theology enough to justify their view of the sacraments is, I’m sorry, silly. I don’t know what kind of person just wholeheartedly accepts something from a person claiming to be a necessary middleman from God when other denominations have none, and does not look into, say, the doctrine of transubstantiation. That’s wacky to me. I know why I am a Baptist (Raushenbush) and I know my Four Fragile Freedoms. Further, I know why I no longer am a Southern Baptist ( I know too many big words and wear shoes, ha) though it breaks my heart the way that the Southern Baptists disintegrated. The reason my Baptist-ness is so very important to me, sometimes, is that like Martin Luther, I feel at times I could do no other. I am all for catholicity, but it is through learning about other denominational practices and beliefs that I have become more certain of my thorough Baptist beliefs. To say, then, that other people should not know of their own beliefs, is incorrect. It has nothing to do with anything regarding religion. It is indicative of a general myopic view, of a general laziness that is pervasive in our culture. It is not surprising that people don’t know squat about their particular religious history; the average US citizen can name but two of the Supreme Court justices.

    On nearly anyone’s spectrum, I would fall on the same side as Tillich, as a “nasty liberal protestant.” I feel that be the issue ethical purchasing or just war we absolutely can and are called to examine our parts in the current situation. To call into question a soldier’s actions are not out of line. When I read the Beatitudes that is clearly what I see going on there – Jesus is looking for people of faith to look at the attitudes about their actions and examine, examine, examine them. This is not an activity that is ever done, so I am not at all saying that I am more complete in my process than anyone else; we are all beginners here. For that reason, however, we should absolutely have no shame in compelling one another toward a life of accountability when we see what the rewards could be.

  4. I’d be curious on the reading you have of Augustine on war that puts him beside the likes of Yoder and Hauerwas…that being said, you are more charitable than I. I’m willing to dismiss fundamentalists, and to some extent liberationists (and others), out of hand because I think that they start from the wrong premises. If step one is wrong, it is unlikely that following the yellow brick road will prove valuable.

    And I’m not saying laypeople and soldiers *should* not know why they do what they do, I’m simply saying they generally don’t and likely won’t. For Hauerwas to expect the average enlisted soldier to give a theologically rigorous (read: defensible on Hauerwas’ level) answer to why he/she is fighting is asking too much.

    That being said, your discussion of the ‘rules’ of just war is precisely the problem. As Ramsey argued (and Hauerwas has addressed), just war is not merely a set of rules; it is a tradition that goes to the heart of statecraft, to the political habits of a state and its practices. The criteria are important, but just war goes much deeper than that. This is true in the same way that, I believe, nonviolence at its best has more to say a simplistic rule against warfare.

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