June 22, 2002
STANLEY HAUERWAS is a good friend of my father's, and my father thinks he's pretty smart. I've been "aware" of his work for a long time, but I'm not really that deeply familiar with it: I leave the theology to my pa. The statements made by Hauerwas in this article are so profoundly idiotic -- and worse yet for a philospher, incoherent and contradictory -- that I find it hard to believe that he said them as reported. On the other hand, I seem to recall my father saying that no one could be a good enough Christian to satisfy Stanley, and suggesting that such demandingness misconstrued the point of Christianity. That view certainly shines through in this article.
UPDATE: Reader Telford Work writes:
I agree that in that National Catholic Reporter article, Stanley Hauerwas sounds like an idiot.
But Hauerwas is not an idiot. I studied with him (though not as my dissertation advisor) at Duke. The coherence of his position follows from the ramifications (as he sees them, anyway) of taking the lordship of Jesus Christ more seriously than anything else. The NCR article bypassed this and neglected needed theological background, in favor of stringing together a list of quotations made all the more provocative for being, er, "lightly contextualized."
I don't agree with Hauerwas on everything, but I do agree that proper Christians will be faithful to the teaching and reign of Jesus above all else -- even country, family, and cultural plausibility structures if necessary -- and this will lead Christians to engage in practices that don't make sense to people who put their ultimate priorities elsewhere, or who pay lip service to Christian faith but haven't let the logic of the cross challenge their deepest beliefs.
The article mentions a Time article on Hauerwas by Jean Bethke Elshtain. This is a much better introduction.
Yeah, he's not an idiot. Though I think he's a bit too williing to play the provocateur in ways that tend to make him sound like an idiot, such that the distinction may become a rather fine one at times.