Perhaps America’s most prized possession is freedom. We call it “liberalism.” Stanley Hauerwas contends that “liberalism is a political philosophy committed to … a social order and … government … formed on self-interest and consent.” Notice those two terms: self-interest and consent. Nothing threatens us more than those two terms.Â Not that I don’t value them, but …
If anything comes home to me as I continue to study the Bible, serve in the Church, and ponder theology, it is this: we need a community of faith — no matter what kind of church you participate in — to follow in the way of Jesus. What do you think? Is our liberal society a threat to the communal way of life taught by Jesus? Doesn’t the church conflict with a society based on self-interest and consent?
Hauerwas argues that the “moral adventure” in liberalism is to develop a culture that leaves the individual to his or her own desires by ending the coercive nature of the State. Three terms now: self-interest, consent, and the danger of coercion. What many fear the most is governmental interference in our self-interests without our consent. Fine. I, too, want to be left alone.
But being left alone is the breeding ground of anti-kingdom.
Here’s the deconstructive moment for how Hauerwas undermines liberalism: parodoxically, “the most coercive aspect of the liberal account of the world is that we are free to make up our own story. The story that liberalism teaches us is that we have no story, and as a result we fail to notice how deeply that story determines our lives.”
And here’s a stunning observation: “In teaching us to ‘flee’ from all moral authorities other than the self, liberalism actually leads toward the self-deception of those enslaved to slogans and simulacra in the name of ‘freedom’ that actively undermines our capacity to seek the good truthfully.”
Hauerwas adds it up: self-interest, consent, fear of coercision, self-deception.
All citations from The Hauerwas Reader and the essay in that book about him by Michael G. Cartwright (p. 636).