This past Tuesday here on the blog, I wrote about a Kansas City address by Stanley Hauerwas (pictured below), one of the best-known and important theologians of our era. He's a professor of theological ethics at Duke University.
Today I want you to know about his new book, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir. For anyone who either knows of Hauerwas' work or cares about issues of contemporary Christian theology, this is a must read. (Caring about theology today and not knowing Hauerwas, by the way, would be like caring about technology and not knowing Bill Gates.)
I don't want to rehash here his growing up years in Texas, his learning to be a bricklayer, his seminary years at Yale Divinity School and other events -- including a terribly difficult marriage -- that helped to shape the theologian he has become.
You can read about all of that in the book.
Rather, what I want to lift up is the remarkable man who emerged from all of that -- a man at once on the cutting edge of theological insight and a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.
Hauerwas, who turns 70 this year, stands as a living witness against the bogus notion that people with a brain necessarily reject adherence to a faith tradition because such a commitment flies in the face of the wisdom of the enlightenment -- a considerably overrated wisdom, if you ask me. In other words, Hauerwas is an argument against the idea that smart, well-educated people in this post-modern world have nothing to do with God.
This alone makes Hauerwas frustratingly difficult to label, to categorize. So, too, does the fact that although he's a Methodist he draws liberally from Catholic and Anabaptist traditions to form his approach to theology. And so, too, does his willingness to try to help Christians differentiate themselves from the nations in which they dwell.
The era of Christian identity with the ruling powers of Europe has long ended, he says, and is coming to an end in the United States. As he says, with considerable satisfaction, "Christianity has lost. We don't have to run the world." He says that we Christians should, instead, think of ourselves as "peasants," whose ultimate commitment is not to the secular lord of the region but to the crucified and risen lord, Christ Jesus.
It is this commitment that allows Christians to live joyfully in a fallen and broken world, Hauerwas says: "How to remember wrongs that are so wrong they can never be put right is what the cross is all about."
Parts of this memoir may be a bit slow going for lay readers because of the nuanced issues of theology with which they deal, but Hauerwas ultimately rescues all of that by regularly helping readers understand how and why such theological considerations help to shape a life.
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PUSHING THE ISLAMIC ENVELOPE
A Muslim beauty queen in a bikini? Aren't Muslim women supposed to dress modestly? Hmmm. Well, it turns out that the new Miss U.S.A. is, indeed, a Muslim in a bikini. And Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today's religion editor, has some interesting information about all of this on her blog. It raises the old question of where the limits are in religious traditions and how far adherents can go in testing those limits.