Monday, August 10, 2009

Hauerwas on Politics

I would have thought that by now the charges of "sectarianism" levelled against Stanley Hauerwas would have abated, especially in light of his recent work. But I keep hearing the charge, especially from "public theologians"--including those with whom I'm spending the first six months of 2010. Hauerwas, they say, wants to disengage the church from the public for the sake of preserving the church's holiness. This would be to "sell-out" the project of the new South Africa which churches struggled to make possible.

But the recent collaborations between Hauerwas and Romand Coles (Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations Between a Radical Democrat and a Christian) and Jean Vanier ("Living Gently in a Violent World") should put the "sectarian withdrawal" accusation to rest for good. Hauerwas is not talking about faithfulness as being "apolitical" or "unconcerned" about social transformation. Rather, he wants to talk about the kind of politics that Christians and those "others" who know that liberalism is incapable of forming robust political subjects can honestly collaborate on.

Here's a wonderful quote from Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary:
“If I have a basic conviction, it is that people matter. Politics names for me the practices required for the formation of a people in the virtues necessary for conversations and conflicts to take place if goods in common are to be discovered. These goods are not abstract but draw on the stories of failures and successes that make a people recognizable to one another. Vulnerability must be at the heart of such a politics just to the extent that living well requires readiness to learn from the stranger. I should like to think that vulnerability is at the heart of what it means to be Christians, because through worship we are trained to have our lives distrupted by that strangest of strangers—God.” (112)

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