Stanley Hauerwas is in Your Face!

We don’t do much theology here at “The Way of Improvement Leads Home.” I consider myself a very amateur theologian at best, but I do read it occasionally and it sometimes informs my work.

The other day I was taken by this short interview with Stanley Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. In 2001, Time Magazine named Hauerwas “America’s Best Theologian.”

This interview on the American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is vintage Hauerwas. Here is a snippet, but I encourage you to read the entire thing:

Q: How would you assess the church’s response to the Iraq war?

A: Awful. Christians—and it started with Sept. 11, as soon as we said we are at war—Christians said “that’s us.” We never asked the hard questions about the war on terror, and that is, I think, why Iraq happened. It has everything to do with the inability to distinguish between the Christian “we” and the American “we.”

Q: So does the church need a service of repentance?

A: The church has lost its ability to be a disciplined community because we’re now, religiously, in a buyer’s market. Christianity has to bill itself as very good for your self-realization, and that’s killing us because we’re not very good for your self-realization. We’re good for your salvation, which is not the same thing. Hopefully God is making sure that we’re not going to survive in the position we’re currently in.

Q: If Obama were to call you for advice on Afghanistan, what would you say?

A: I’d say you have to tell the American some really hard truths, namely that the war on terror was a mistake and we’ve got to start, as Americans, learning to live in a world that we don’t control. That’s not going to make you very popular.

Q: So you’d be politically toxic to the president of the United States?

A: Yeah, I would be. Just like (former Obama pastor) Jeremiah Wright. I hope I’m absolutely as toxic as Jeremiah Wright.

Q: Why?

A: Because I think what I’m saying is what Christians should be saying.

Q: The hard truths?

A: Absolutely.

I am in no position to argue with Stanley Hauerwas. He is smarter than me, he is a theologian, and, well, he is Stanley Hauerwas. Yet there is a part of me that admires his prophetic style.