Noted Duke theologian Stanley Hauerwas (pictured here) once told me he has a sign on his office door labeled "A Modest Proposal." It says Christians should quit killing Christians.
He makes that point in this essay written for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
When Hauerwas writes about non-violence, about waging peace, about Christians believing that war already has been abolished, about Christians not killing Christians, he does so from within the faith. He turns state's evidence against his own religion. Thus, his is a powerful witness because he's calling his own community to account for some of the misguided ways it is acting.
I'm currently reading Volume 2 of The Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1 was published in 2010, a century after the great writer's death. Volume 2 just appeared a few months ago, and somone who loves me gave it to me for Christmas.
You may know that Twain grew up a Presbyterian, but as he aged he moved further and further away from traditional Christianity. He was a bit reluctant to blast the religion as hogwash while he was alive, but now that he's perfectly dead he's quite willing to rip it up.
In his June 22, 1906, dictation for his 100-years-later autobiography, he says this:
"Within this last generation each Christian power has turned the bulk of its attention to finding out newer and still newer, and more and more effective ways of killing Christians -- and, incidentally, a pagan now and then -- and the surest way to get rich quickly, in Christ's earthly kingdom, is to invent a gun that can kill more Christians at one shot than any other existing gun."
Well, those are damning words and hard for Christians then or now to face, however true they may have been or still are. And remember that they were written before World War I broke out, leading a parade of blood across the 20th Century.
But the words of Hauerwas are more powerful and convicting than those of Twain. Why? First because they come from someone who professes to be a Christian. And second because they come from someone now still alive. Hauerwas doesn't protect himself by speaking from the grave a century later.
I have the same criticism of Twain's biting critique of the Bible, also found in the second volume of his autobiography. He sounds very much like one of the more aggressive so-called "New Atheists" of our day, like Richard Dawkins. Which means he pretends to be (or maybe is) a biblical literalist and offers his criticisms of the Bible based on a literalistic reading of holy writ.
If Twain were around today I'd tell him what I try to tell other atheistic biblical literalists: If you don't understand metaphorical religious language, just be quiet until you do.
(I took the Hauerwas photo here today. The Twain picture came from here.)
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TOWARD CLARIFYING A POPE'S ROLE
New reports suggest that Pope Francis may order the opening of the secret Vatican archives on Pope Pius XII (who served 1939-1958) to see what the records show about how he handled the Holocaust, which occurred while he was pontiff. It would be exactly the right thing to do. Pius has been denounced as "Hitler's Pope" and praised for helping to save Jews from the Shoah. Both can't be true. Let's see what's in the archives and go from there.