I recently finished reviewing Stanley Hauerwas’s newest book War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity for Sojourners magazine. I won’t rehash my whole review here, as it will be available in due time, but I will say that the most striking thing about the book was his turn toward the local church congregation in the third and final part, a direction in which his work has made gestures in the past, but has never gone as far as he does here.
The finest essay in the collection, is entitled “A Particular Place,” and while I was writing my review I stumbled upon a video of the talk that Hauerwas gave at Cambridge, which would be polished into this essay in the book. In this piece, Hauerwas drives home the point that:
[For John Howard Yoder,] the alternative to Constantinianism was not anti-Constantinianism, but locality and place. According to Yoder, locality and place are the forms of communal life necessary to express the particularity of Jesus through the visibility of the church. Only at the local level is the church able to engage in the discernment necessary to be prophetic. The temptation to denounce “paganism” in general or to decry the “secularization” of culture as an inevitable process without doing the work necessary to specify what “pagan” or “secular” might mean in the concrete. The church’s prophetic role in Yoder’s words must always be in “language as local and as timely as the abuses it critiques” (The Royal Priesthood, 250).
Imagining local churches as the heart of the reconciling work that God is doing in the world is a fundamental piece of the Slow Church vision that we are describing, and this talk from Hauerwas articulates well why local churches are of the utmost significance.
This is a long video, and unfortunately, we are not able to embed it, but it is well worth your time and reflection! (ALSO, the video quality is not superb, so you will probably be better off just listening to it…)
CLICK HERE to watch…