This intersection is a place where hopefully you and I both can come and reflect, vent, ask questions and share doubts and experiences without judgement.
It’s also a place where you get to be a bit of a guinea pig: rough drafts of passages that will appear in future books of mine tend to make their first appearance here.
Finally, this intersection is a place where on occasion I take notes on things that I’m reading that I don’t want to forget. I may not have anything profound to say about them at the time—maybe never—but these things are memorable enough for me to want to remember them and record them here for the future, with the expectation that I’ll one day use them in some way in my own work. Today’s post is in this genre, upon completion of Stan Hauerwas’ wonderful memoir Hannah’s Child. Here are some memorable quotes:
The Meaning of the Cross
Yoder forced me to recognize that nonviolence is not a recommendation, an ideal, that Jesus suggested we might try to live up to. Rather, nonviolence is constitutive of God’s refusal to redeem coercively. The crucifixion is “the politics of Jesus.” (p. 118)
Truthful, Not Defensive Theology
I think “ethics” depends on developing the eye of the novelist. If my work is compelling, I suspect it is so to the degree I am able to write like a novelist. If I have a novelist’s eye, it is not accidental. I have, after all, spent many years reading novels. Reading novels will not necessarily make one better able to see without illusion, but it can help. My ability to see, moreover, depends on how I have come to understand what it means to be a Christian. I fear that much of the Christianity that surrounds us assumes our task is to save appearances by protecting God from Job-like anguish. But if God is the God of Jesus Christ, then God does not need our protection. What God demands is not protection, but truth. (p 115)
Creation and Eschatology
The world simply cannot be narrated—the world cannot have a story—unless a people exist who make the world the world. That is an eschatological claim that presupposes we know there was a beginning only because we have seen the end. That something had to start it all is not what Christians mean by creation. Creation is not “back there,” though there is a “back there” character to creation. Rather, creation names God’s continuing action, God’s unrelenting desire for us to want to be loved by that love manifest in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. (p. 158).
Beyond Realism: Contingency and Imagination
To say that our lives are contingent is to say that they are out of our control. Being “out of control” is the central image that runs through The Peaceable Kingdom and much of my work. Certainly that image described my marriage to Anne, but I do not think this image is autobiographical. In fact, I think the image came to me because of the influence of [John Howard] Yoder, who taught me to think that following Jesus means you cannot anticipate or ensure results. Learning to live out of control, learning to live without trying to force contingency into conformity because of our desperate need for security, I take to be a resource for discovering alternatives that would otherwise not be present. In this case, the notion of being out of control is one that stands as an alternative to Niebuhrian realism. The problem with “realism” is that it can shut down the imagination. (p. 137)
On Church Growth Strategies
Hauerwas shares these views in the context of (years back now) the new appointment of a young Duke divinity school graduate to shepherd the flock of Aldersgate Methodist where Hauerwas was once a member:
The outreach and pastor-staff committees were called together to hear [the new pastor's] plan for the future. She had been to a church-growth seminar. She told us she knew how to make the church grow. First, we needed two services. We would have a contemporary service at nine and a more traditional service at eleven. Second, we would have a phone-a-thon, during which we would call 20,000 people at random. That would ensure that the church would attract two hundred new members. Sociologists had confirmed such a result. New people who came to the church might feel strange. Accordingly, we needed to get used to being a congregation in which people did not know one another well. Most new people would be attracted to the church because of the activities and pastoral services the church could provide, not because of a sense of belonging to a community…I waited a few days and made an appointment with the pastor. I told her that what she was proposing was against everything I was about. She accused me of being against evangelization. Surely I wanted to bring people to Jesus. I hate that kind of pious language. But I told her the problem was not that she wanted to bring people to Jesus, but that she wanted to do so with means shaped by economic modes of life incompatible with the gospel…Our conversation went nowhere. Her sail was set…I told her that we would not be back. (pp. 258—259)