Monday, January 24, 2011

I like Stanley Hauerwas

I don't like theologians or philosophers because of what they stand for. I like them for the people who they are and who they have become. Who they have become does not refer to their station or their position in the realms of academia, but refers to the place they have grown towards in their own personhood. To simply like theologians or philosophers for what they stand for, is not to like them at all, but to like their ideas. This is pretty superficial, for ideas change, situations change and you will find yourself inevitably disagreeing with everyone from time-to-time.

During the past few weeks I have been savouring Stanley Hauerwas' memoir: "Hannah's child: A theologian's memoir". I say that I have been savouring it, because it is like a piece of Belgian chocolate, to be enjoyed for as long as possible, leaving the person feeling and hoping that it will never end. And so, by reading this phenomenal book, I have grown in my liking of Stanley Hauerwas, who happens to be a theologian, ethicist, philosopher and Christian. There are some natural things that draw me to Hauerwas. First, he did not come from a family of academics, but from a family of bricklayers. Same here, except that I grew up in a mining town where my destiny was to follow in my paternal ancestor's footsteps to descend into the black hole on a daily basis. There is a ruggedness in his character, vocabulary and thinking that makes me feel at home. Secondly, he is a Barthian. Enough said.

His passion for following Jesus is inspiring. His criticism of Christianity and of religious Christians, are at times quite scathing, but for Hauerwas one thing is clear: "Jesus is Lord, and everything else is bull[expletive]". There is an honesty in his character where no presumptuous piety can find a place to linger. For instance, in his book, he recounts his experiences at Augustana:

"They were in a generalized way Lutheran, which meant in some vague way that they thought they were Christian. At least one of the missions in Augustana was to reinforce that vagueness. Or as I learned to put it - our task was to give the parents the impression that by sending their daughters to Augustana they would not lose the virginity they had already lost in high school. I had not been at Augustana long before I was drawn into a controversy about whether the doors of coeds could be shut during the times Augustana males were allowed to visit in the women's dorms. A reporter for the campus newspaper asked me what the new Christian ethicist's views might be about this crucial issue. Drawing on my experience as a Texan, as well as having just come from Yale, I responded: 'Well, I guess it's a good way to avoid getting grass stains.' I was quoted in the weekly edition of the paper. I later came to understand that such an observation was not well received by the administration."

I must confess, I read the above passage above in church while listening to a sermon. How I didn't burst out laughing out loud is a due solely to divine grace. This honesty breaks the power of pretense - very refreshing in a world where Christians are not supposed to be human.

Thank you, father Stanley! Must just put in one moment of bragging: Prof. Hauerwas owns one of Dion and my books! One day, if I get the chance to ask him whether he liked it, I hope he will not respond as Barth did to Brunner (?) by saying: "It has a nice cover".

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