The Hauerwasian Mafia

The Hauerwasian Mafia April 10, 2008

One of the many things that was cut from my book was a chapter called “Chaplain to the Culture?”  (It was cut because it’s too “inside baseball.”)  Here it is, rough and unedited.  I imagine that it will provoke some response in some corners, so please remember that I’m being (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek.

While in seminary in the early 1990s, I was heavily influenced by a group of theologians that I now refer to as the Hauerwasian Mafia (HM). The HM consists of an ever-expanding group of Christian thinkers who have been influenced by Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University Divinity School.

The influence of “Don” Stanley on the American theological landscape can hardly be underestimated. In 2001, TIME declared him “America’s Best Theologian” (he responded by saying that “best” isn’t a theological category), and in his years at Duke, scores of pastors and professors have trained under him. At some seminaries, whole theological faculties are now committed to furthering his work. Thus, the HM.

Hauerwas’s two most significant influences are John Howard Yoder and Alasdair MacIntyre. The former was a Mennonite theologian and pacifist whose masterpiece was The Politics of Jesus (1972). The latter is a Catholic moral philosopher who argued in his break-out book, After Virtue (1981/1984), that a recovery of the virtue ethics of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas is the answer to what ails modern America.

What each of these men claims, in his own way, is that the Christian faith is a self-enclosed system of language and practice—one that cannot necessarily be understood by those who stand outside of the system. Aristotle was the granddaddy of this thinking when he said that those who live inside of one polis (city-state) cannot pass judgment on the laws and morals of those inside another polis. That’s because the moral system in a polis has developed around a certain set of virtues that is intrinsic to that polis.

For his part, MacIntyre argues that we live in a society that is fractured by radical pluralism, and thus no one is using a coherent set of beliefs when arguing their moral positions. Exhibit A for MacIntyre is death penalty advocates and foes screaming at each other across the street from a prison on the day of an execution. Both groups may be shouting in English, he says, but they are using different moral languages—his phrase is “morally incommensurate.” For instance, while one is using social contract theory (“We’ve got to think about the individual rights of the prisoner! This is cruel and unusual punishment!”), another is relying on utilitarianism (“It’s better for more people in society if this murderer is put to death so that he won’t be a danger to our society any longer!”).

MacIntyre’s solution is a return to a virtue-bound society, one in which we come to consensus on the virtues that bind us and then work out a group of practices that facilitate those virtues. So, for instance, if we decided that honesty was a core virtue, then we’d rally around those patterns of life that rely upon honesty (and we’d naturally do away with less-than-honest practices like funding political campaigns with “soft money”).

Yoder comes from a different angle, that of a Mennonite, a tradition with an understandable predilection toward cultural withdrawal: they were heavily persecuted during the Reformation for leaving the state churches of Europe and proclaiming that true Christians wouldn’t fight in wars between governments. Yoder continued in this pacifist tradition and argued that the church itself is a political stance in society. The church’s problems, he argued, are a result of “Constantianism,” a reference to the Roman emperor who made Christianity the de facto religion of the Empire in 313. A church in bed with government, according to Yoder, is a church that’s lost its nerve and forgotten who it’s supposed to be.

Standing on the shoulders of MacIntyre and Yoder, Hauerwas makes proclamations like, “Christians shouldn’t run for political office.” The thinking behind a statement like that is that politics is a dirty business and necessarily full of compromise, and a whole-hearted Christian is in no position to compromise on core Christian principles. (Notice, for instance, that the U.S. Senators who really get things done are rarely the ideologues who carry the standards of the far left and far right, but the moderates who realize that you’ve got to negotiate and compromise to get legislation passed.)

This is much related to what moral philosophers call the “problem of dirty hands”—the difference between a theory about government and the actual workings of government is that those who run the government inevitably get their hands dirty. They’ve got to decide when to drop a bomb or which welfare program to cut in order to balance the budget. These are decisions that cannot be avoided—dirty hands are what differentiate real politicos from mere poly sci majors.

So the question becomes, what relationship should a follower of Jesus have with public life? Should Christians be involved with politics?

The HM advocates an ecclesiological solution: the church should be a counter-polis, a self-enclosed system that can serve as a model to secular systems (governments, corporations, etc.). In reading the HM literature, you’ll run across many references to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, especially the part about being a “city on a hill.” The church, the HM claims, is just such a city, shining the light of its moral rectitude for all the degenerate world to see and emulate. And you’ll find HM book titles like, Resident Aliens and A Peculiar People, promulgating this tendency, a tendency that has been dissed by critics as “sectarianism” and “Christian enclave theory.”

The chickens came home to roost for me on this issue many years ago, when I became a pastor, but I was only reminded of it last week. A member of the HM, and a friend of mine, was in my minivan, driving around Minneapolis. Hanging from my rear-view mirror is my Edina Police identification badge on a lanyard (yes, it gets me out of tickets). He asked about it, and I told him that I’m a (volunteer) chaplain for the Edina Police Department—that’s the department for my suburb of about 50,000 on the southwest border of Minneapolis.
Edina has about 50 sworn officers and about as many support personnel. And, Edina has four police chaplains: a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, a rabbi, and me (“So, a Lutheran pastor, a Presbyterian pastor, an emergent theologian, and a rabbi walk into a bar…”).

So, I was driving my HM friend around (I’ll call him “Geoff,” because that’s his name—he’s a “street boss” in the HM), explaining what I do with the Edina cops. For one thing, I told him, the chaplains offer assistance at difficult calls. Earlier this week, for instance, I was called in to the department (we’re each on call one week per month). A 20-year old woman had drowned in a metro area lake, and the sergeant-on-duty and I were dispatched to the family’s home to make the death notification.

As you might guess, cops hate doing death notifications, so most of them were exceptionally happy when a few of us initiated the chaplain program in 1997. We’re also available to help them on suicide calls and other times when community members might need comfort or advice.

But that’s only half of what we do. As chaplains, we also make a point to be available to cops who need a pastoral ear. Like anyone in a stressful job, cops tend to internalize their emotions regarding what they see on a daily basis (one cop told me that her average 8-hour shift is 99% absolute boredom and 1% sheer terror). So if an officer goes through a traumatic situation or suffers the death of a loved one, one of the chaplains will make sure to drop a note in his box or ride along on one of her shifts next week. We try to do the same for the 911 dispatchers and office workers, and we feed the entire department every winter at a chili feed and every summer at a cook-out.

As I was explaining all of this to Geoff in the car, it occurred to me that the HM wouldn’t approve of my role as a police chaplain. They’d probably consider it “complicity with the militaristic Constantinian empire,” or something like that. Geoff smiled sheepishly and nodded, “Yeah, something like that.”

In fact, I then remembered reading a book by HM member “Capo” Rodney Clapp years ago that warned against just this kind of involvement with the government. In a civilization that no longer considers Christianity central to its identity, “obsolete” and often “feckless” chaplains serve only to prop up the sponsoring authorities by offering the faint flavor of sacredness, or so says Clapp.  The chaplaincy—whether it be in a hospital or the Senate or a local police department—is the very epitome of what’s wrong with American Christianity according to the HM.

In fairness, Don Stanley is up to something good when looked at from the leftward flank. His critique is of the mainline church in America in the 20th century, and it’s a well-deserved critique. At the dawn of the 20th century, the church was confronted with the modern dilemma: a bi-polarity. On the one hand, growing out of 19th century German biblical scholarship and the “quest for the historical Jesus” was the burgeoning American liberalism. On the other hand, and in reaction to this, was fundamentalism—a thorough retreat from society that often included handling snakes in the backwoods. (Modern evangelicalism wouldn’t come into its own as a third alternative until the 1940s.)

Given these two options, most thoughtful Christians chose liberalism, and some were so confident in their choice as to name the 20th century the “Christian Century.” Looking back, however, it seems that the liberal church sold its birthright for a pot of porridge. Capo Clapp’s justifiable criticism is that the mainline church became an unwitting chaplain to governmental and commercial enterprises that weren’t the least bit Christian. The ecumenical movement of the last century, for instance, became a lowest-common-denominator affair in which theological distinctives were watered down in order for all parties to work together for the common good. What was left, after all robust talk of theology was bracketed out, was called the “social gospel.”

Although some theological heavyweights, like the Neibuhr brothers, tried to bolster liberalism, it was collapsing by the lattermost quarter of the century. Mainline Protestants were hemorrhaging members and churches and being eclipsed by Evangelicals and Pentecostals. The denominational fights over homosexual ordination of today are equivalent to the remote Japanese soldiers who were still on patrol in 1946, not knowing that their government had surrendered to the Allies months earlier. The battles may go on, but the war has been lost. There is no future for conventional theological liberalism.

Don Stanley saw this and marshaled the forces of Don Yoder and Don MacIntyre to develop a new way forward for the liberal tradition. Instead of watering down their distinctives to the point of meaninglessness, the church should close ranks and develop an internal coherency that would serve as an example to the world.

Having been persuaded by this thinking while in seminary, my assistant at the church didn’t understand when I went catatonic after checking my voice mail. I had only been on the job as a pastor for a couple months, and I received the offending phone message from the most unlikely source: the mom who was putting on the Cub Scout banquet. That’s right, from the seemingly innocuous mouth of a Den Mother came the Siren’s Call of collaboration with the militaristic state: she wanted me to say the opening prayer at the annual banquet.

In catatonia, I searched my soul. What would I be doing there, if I did accept? Surely, I would be granting the imprimatur of the Deity on the purely secular proceedings that would follow. I had been told in no uncertain terms by the HM that accepting invitations just like these and lending the gloss of religiosity to secular occasions is exactly what has led to the impotency of the American church. The HM angel on my shoulder told me to call the Den Mom back and respectfully decline on the grounds that God wasn’t for sale (or, in this case, for rent along with the church’s Great Hall).

But how could I turn down the Den Mom and several dozen little boys in kerchiefs? Maybe it would be great outreach opportunity, said the devil on my other shoulder. Maybe it would be a sign of hospitality and grace that would entice one of the little Cubs and his family to visit the church for worship. Maybe I’d have a good conversation over dinner with a spiritual “seeker.”

I said yes. I prayed at the Cub Scout banquet and enjoyed a meal of rubber chicken kiev with a family that I never saw again. And I said yes the next fall when the Edina Athletic Hall of Fame called for the same purpose. I invoked God’s blessing on that truly pagan event. And I went on to serve on several city-wide commissions, always as the “Edina Religious Representative.” Was I asked to fill a quota? Surely. But, I tend to believe it did some good as well.

And I didn’t always say yes. Another year, I was asked by a church member to be the keynote speaker at the annual banquet of Junior Achievement, an organization that teaches kids about economics and free market enterprise. “Will you speak on self-esteem?” he asked me, “You seem to have a pretty strong sense-of-self.”
“Far too strong, according to my wife,” I answered. “Seriously, I’d be happy to, but I’ll have to talk about Jesus, since he’s the source of much of my self-esteem.”

“Well, you can surely talk about the importance of faith,” he told me, “But there are folks of several religions involved in JA, and we’d like to avoid any talk that’s specifically Christian.”

“Then I’ll have to decline,” I said, “Cuz for me to talk about self esteem without talking about Jesus would be disingenuous.”

“I’ll check with the rest of the board and call you back,” he said.

He didn’t call back.

I think it’s these very experiences that have led me to appreciate philosophical pragmatism more than the neo-Artistotelianism of the HM (although pragmatism is also rooted in the thought of Aristotle). The pragmatists argue that there can be no uniform rule that dictates actions in all endeavors. Instead, we must become as wise as possible and then make the best decisions that we can. It’s important to remember, however, that all these decisions are made on an ad hoc basis.

Like a jazz musician, followers of Jesus Christ must learn to improvise, and in order to improvise, we must first train ourselves to be keen observers.

So, another HM friend of mine named Jimmy “The Teacher” asked me how I maintain my Christian particularity as a police chaplain. “How do you keep from watering down what you believe so that you won’t offend anyone?’

I thought about the dozens of police calls that I’ve been on in the past decade and I said that it usually comes pretty naturally. When I’ve made a death notification to a Somalian family which was obviously Muslim, I didn’t take out my Bible as they keened in the living room. Instead, I stood quietly by and waited for an appropriate time to tell them about how dead bodies are handled by funeral directors in the U.S. And when I arrived on the scene to find the deceased’s sons laughing about which rabbi they would call, I offered to read the 23rd Psalm and pray the Shema with them. And when the family I’m visiting has crosses on the wall and a Bible on the kitchen table, then I’m a little more confident in talking about the Christian faith.
The point is, there’s no “one way” to be a police chaplain. Instead, you get some training and then you start going on calls. With each call, I’ve become a better chaplain. But as I stand in front of the door of a nice suburban home, knowing that the person on the other side of that door is about to have a life-shattering conversation, I don’t have any grand strategy to protect my Christian particularity. I know who I am.

Instead, as I reach for the doorbell, I pray that God will guide me and that God will comfort whoever’s about to answer the ring.

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  • So Tony, am I to understand that you’re a burgeoning member of the rival Volfian Family clan?

  • Great read! I look forward to starting your book in about two weeks. As an ex-fundy on the run, be careful of the hitmen.

  • I have had the same inner conversation twice when asked to open the state senate with prayer but to NOT invoke the name of Jesus since that would offend… sigh.

  • Tim

    Hmm….me wonders (having read some of the HM material) if this should affirm my belief in the danger of being reactionary in one’s theology and philosophy (not that this can be completely avoided). At any rate, I’m not sure where I stand on this one. While sympathetic with the cry “Let the church be the church!” there is another part of me that always asks “And what the *@#$ does that mean?”, especially if the church is always incarnational.

    Look forward to seeing you at the Tattered Cover tonight.

  • good post tony. great questions asked, few answers given – i suppose that’s the ideal theo-philosophical stance. “in the world but not of it” – we remain caught in the branches of that dichotomy and stuck in the midst of these aporias we are still required to act. so we leap out in faith hoping against hope that the great god approves. scary! i always prefer law to grace with any ethical dilemma! just TELL ME WHAT TO DO GOD!!!

  • Kickass. 🙂 Good on ya, Chaplain Jones.

  • Tony,

    I am a Mennonite pastor formed by the writings of Yoder and Hauerwas. Perhaps that puts me in the HM, though as a pacifist, not a hitman. I just wanted to thank you for the pragmatic questions and to let you know that I recently met a fellow Mennonite pastor who is also a police chaplain. This has indeed raised a few eyebrows in the denomination, but there is not doubt that he is doing kingdom work.

  • Nice. I liked that. I liked it a lot.

  • Thanks for this post. I think it makes sense of the Hauerwasian school rather well. I really appreciate their emphasis on the Church not watering itself down, but I have a hard time seeing them engage in the world in a way that isn’t sectarian. Having spent a while in Stout’s Democracy and Tradition I imagine myself entering the pragmatist position as well. I like the Volfian clan Jason mentions. That would describe me. Probably have to throw Wolterstorff in there too. I like what Volf says about Hauerwas: that he’s a good critic for much of the Church, but for those leaning towards sectarianism, he can push them over the edge.

  • Barry

    Dude, I really liked this, mostly because it was so well written. Got me a thinking in ways I havent thought before

  • it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t able to be in the book. i’m in constant dialogue with myself about that dilemma (i.e. idealism v. pragmatism and so on). thanks for posting!

  • Great thoughts. I’ll have to re-read this a few times to understand, lots of new theologians and theological stances. However, as a former youth pastor now entering the business world I feel the tension you are describing. I think there’s alot of truth in your statement “nstead, we must become as wise as possible and then make the best decisions that we can. It’s important to remember, however, that all these decisions are made on an ad hoc basis.”

    This may sound like nothing but a slippery slope to moral relativism to a conservative bible college student. However, give them a few years in the “real world” and I think they’ll realize it’s what we all do. It’s the best we have.


  • now as a ‘street boss’ for the Hauerwasian Mafia, as I read this I couldn’t help but feel the need to snap my fingers while I dance down the street in the midst of the emerging church version of the (Mid)West Side Story.

    Now as to my so called sheepish answer concerning what the HM would think, it came from the sense that even if the great dons of the HM would frown on it, I didn’t think I would, just because I knew Tony was doing it missionally rather than out of patriotic motives.

    But concerning pragmatism, I think this is an insufficient characterization of the HM as purists. The HM is primarily against political and economic liberalism and its national political focus, but it is very much for local politics and the possibilities of transformation. See the recent collaboration by hauerwas and coles, “Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary” where hauerwas advocates the project of radical democracy.

  • Cam

    Thanks, Tony.

    Somehow, I got the impression that all emergents were part of the HM, and that talk of being missional and incarnational (a la GOCN) couldn’t apply in the context of military chaplaincy.

    Nor was I aware that Volf & Wolterstorff had founded a ‘rival clan’. (Though, I was deeply struck by Volf’s observation in The End of Memory that we are all both victimised and victimisers: there is no escaping complicity.)

    Please keep this conversation going!

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  • I tried to comment but it didn’t go through. Excuse this attempt.

  • A few comments from a new doctoral student at Duke Divinity School where Hauerwas, Yoder and MacIntrye are highly influential. I have read a few of their books but am surely not a Hauerwasian, Yoderian or MacIntyrian yet!
    First, a few Hauerwas audio links for people. Note: Hauerwas tends to use 4-letter words – you’ve been warned.
    1. I remember listening to all of the Hauerwas MP3’s from the 2003 Emergent Village Theological Conversation but I only see one currently listed at the EV podcast site. (Sorry couldn’t get link to come through in comment.)
    2. There is audio (www.dukesocraticclub@blogspot dot com). from a last week when Stanley Hauerwas read from his memoirs that he is currently writing.
    3. There is a link to audio of Hauerwas on a panel last month about war at the Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Wesleyan Theological Society joint meeting. (www.andyrowell dot net)

    I don’t know where Hauerwas, Yoder, and MacIntyre would come down about Tony being a police chaplain but my bet would be they would be ok with it because of the good way you are theologically reflecting on the issues. You are not accommodating theologically to the culture but rather trying to serve as a light in the midst of it.

    Still, you are right that Hauerwas objects to Christian communities endorsing the actions of the state. For example, as he said to some youth pastors,
    *How many of you worship in a church with an American flag? I am sorry to tell you that your salvation is in doubt.
    *How many of you worship in a church in which the fourth of July is celebrated? I am sorry to tell you that your salvation is in doubt.

    The Princeton Seminary Bulletin 28:2 (2007)
    Why Did Jesus Have to Die?: An Attempt to Cross the Barrier of Age by Stanley Hauerwas
    (Available online)

    Hence, it is pretty ironic that he is America’s Best Theologian. 🙂
    To add to your description of MacIntyre: MacIntyre has become a Roman Catholic. He ends After Virtue this way,
    “the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us . . . we are waiting for a . . . another . . . St. Benedict.”
    Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (3d. ed.; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007, 263.
    So he is calling for little communities to live out their traditions (i.e. the Bible and Christian tradition) because public discourse and politically correct relativism in the academy is so useless.
    All of that to say, I think the emerging church conversation – seeing faithful little communities embodying the gospel meshes well with MacIntyre’s vision to a great degree. Hence the buzzword “practices” (After Virtue p. 187). However, MacIntyre’s vision can also be used to reinforce closed fundamentalist communities that purposefully ignore the outside world. Many of the professors at Duke Divinity School (including Hauerwas) grew up in United Methodist and Presbyterian churches in which they only learned about being good American citizens and were never exposed to the authority of Scripture and the importance of the congregation becoming disciples of Jesus. Thus, the Duke professors in reaction to that upbringing use (a) MacIntyre’s philosophy along with (b) Karl Barth’s theology (Yoder’s teacher), and (c) “Yale School” thinkers Hans Frei and George Lindbeck to recover (1) Scripture, (2) the Great Tradition (i.e. Patristics, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley), and (3) the importance of the congregation. For those of us from evangelical backgrounds, we may never have lost Scripture or the importance of the congregation, but we may need to recover the the great theological tradition (and its practices as Tony and others want to help us do). Furthermore, another relevant aspect for evangelicals is that patriotism that is uncritically strapped on to evangelical theology needs critical examination. Tony is right though that MacIntyre and Hauerwas are particularly helpful for those in churches influenced by liberal theology.
    Finally, I would add that I think there is huge potential in the theology of John Howard Yoder for the emerging church conversation. I would NOT start with the Politics of Jesus which is on Brian McLaren’s bookstand at the Everything Must Change events. (Or if you do, just read the first chapter). POJ is dense ethical, biblical studies arguments on the book of Luke. Rather start with Yoder’s Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World, The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiastical and Ecumenical, and For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public. Here is someone who is a great theologian, multi-disciplinary (history, ethics, theology and biblical studies), and a writer who is easy to read. Here is someone who is a free church theologian. In other words, anyone from a Baptist, nondenominational, interdenominational, evangelical, Mennonite, Quaker, or Plymouth Brethren will find themselves saying, “Yeah, that is what I believe.” My United Methodist friends here love him as well.
    Yoder’s passion is to see faithful thriving congregations rooted in Scripture. This, it seems to me, is precisely what the emerging church movement is hoping to see. Yoder believes that these faithful communities will be attractive to the watching world. Though there are slight differences in the ways Lesslie Newbigin and Yoder see things – particularly related to the word “translation” which Yoder associates with Rudolph Bultmann (i.e. “The challenge to the faith community should not be to dilute or filter or translate its witness” (Yoder, FTN, p. 24) and which Newbigin more benignly associates with Bible translation from one language to another (“communication [of the gospel] has to be in the language of the receptor culture” (Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, p. 5). But beyond these differences in vocabulary, both see the faithful Christian congregation as missional. Newbigin calls it “The Missionary Congregation” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 234) and Yoder calls it, “The New Humanity as Pulpit and Paradigm” (FTN, 41).
    Grace and peace,
    Andy Rowell
    Doctor of Theology Student
    Duke Divinity School
    Durham, NC
    Blog: http://www.andyrowell dot net

  • “Like a jazz musician, followers of Jesus Christ must learn to improvise, and in order to improvise, we must first train ourselves to be keen observers.”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    glad to have found your blog and I look forward to interacting with your thoughts in more depth as time passes…

  • This is an interesting take on Dr. Hauerwas. I appreciate the somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach. But I would suggest just a few things to give him (and those he has influenced) a fair hearing:

    — In addition to MacIntyre and Yoder (who Tony focused on) as well as Barth (who Andy mentioned), Dr. Hauerwas has also been significantly influenced by linguistic philosophy, particularly through Wittgenstein. The weakness of the pragmatist option is that it does not take into account the way in which the available options are determined by the cultural grammar available to the person seeking to make moral judgments. A Christian may say, “I have the grammar of Scripture and the Church.” And that may be true. But the way in which Scriptural reasoning is shaped is determined significantly by the surrounding cultural grammar that is (almost always) taken for granted. Particularly for conventional evangelicals, who can sometimes have a difficult time separating faith from patriotism, the notion of a cultural grammar is extremely important.

    — I think Tony makes a good critique of the Protestant Liberal tradition. But he does not take into adequate account the Post-liberal tradition that has also critiqued Protestant Liberalism. Dr. Hauerwas is one figure in Post-Liberalism, but there are many others. And it is probably not fair to suggest that the only options are either Evangelicalism, the Hauerwas critique of Protestant Liberalism, or (presumably) the Emergent movement. The work of George Lindbeck in, The Nature of Doctrine, framing religious conceptions in terms of cultural-linguistic systems, is not only dependent on the aforementioned linguistic philosophical work of the last century, it is also the basis for a whole lot of theological development that is not easy to dismiss with a casual wave of the hand and an unfortunate penchant for labeling. It may well be that Post-Liberal thought is, even now, developing the resources that will allow the church to thrive in our increasingly post-Christian culture.

    — It is easy to caricature Dr. Hauerwas and those he has influenced, simply because their significance makes them a large target. You could say the same thing about the Emergent movement, which I have heard critiqued – perhaps not unfairly – as participating in a particularly insidious form of market-oriented Christianity that cherry picks from the tradition as appetite dictates. A good source of engagement between Hauerwas’ understanding of the constitution of Christian faith communities and the Emergent movement would be through the Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics that he co-edited. I think that it adequately responds to some of the Emergent movement’s liturgical challenges.

    I do thank Tony for this post. This is a good conversation.

  • Korey

    Wonderful thoughts and conversation. When it comes to what I might do with myself, it can be difficult to earnestly assess the various categorical statements and rubrics that emanate from the Christian tradition and apply them with integrity and care. The emerging conversation opens up a space for Christians to engage in these theological and ethical discussions in a spirit of friendship recognizing our intellectual and lived imperfections. I’m reminded that discernment is the fundamental aspect of my decision making. It summarizes my desire to weigh my choices each day in the light of everything that influences me.

  • For those of us who consider ourselves engaging Postmodernism, it is important to remember the large impact Stan Fish has had on Hauerwas (When he taught at Duke they became good friends). Fish’s interpretative communities should play a more central in Hauerwas’ project for the emerging conversation, then is his work with MacIntrye.
    Perhaps this is case of someone even being too postmodern for Tony Jones?

  • Sean

    I am not one of Hauerwas’ doctoral students, but I do talk to him quite regularly and I am a PhD student in the graduate program in religion at Duke in Theology (which, Jason Byasee’s recent mischaracterization in the Christian Century nonwithstanding, does still produce scholars who care about God). I came to Duke from Yale Divinity School, where I became close with Miroslav Volf and I am Christian Reformed Neo-Calvinist influenced by Nick Wolterstorff, and so I was somewhat wary at first. But I found Hauerwas not only engaging and interesting, but also very, very well read. I discovered within the first week that when he makes blanket statements, he always knows better (something that may or may not be true about Tony’s “Hauerwasian Mafia”, which I know very little about). I gave him a paper I wrote in which I portray Kant positively as an Augustinian (due to John Hare’s influence), and Hauerwas, though not without criticism, and shared that Kantians, not Kant, are the locus of most of the problems, and that he welcomes attempts to bring Kant closer to the gospel. His challenges were backed up by extensive quotes (which he always read aloud) from his very worn copy of Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason. I have found through multiple other situations that he is much more complex than a portrayal like Tony’s suggests; he is, despite sometimes strong indications to the contrary, inimitable. Much of what I read about him, by both critics and followers, seems flat to me.

    I echo what Andrew says about Wittgenstein, and I would like to add to other major influences: Herbert McCabe and Marx (the latter is unsurprising on a number of levels, not least because McCabe is a Wittgenstenian Thomist Marxist). I do not think it is right to portray Hauerwas as thinking that languages are finally self-enclosed. He is an Augustinian that thinks that God makes all languages finally public, and the beginning of this final publicity is revealed to us in Christ and will be brought in its fulness in a future that no effort or immanent historical teleology can bring about.

  • Dan

    Like the Red Scare of the 1950’s, let me say first of all that I am not sure that this HM actually exists in the way you are portraying it. More likely, its an over generalization and caricature based on sounds bites taken from various lectures or reproduced in the mouths of some of Hauerwas’ more naive students.
    You might be interested to know that Hauerwas recently published a book (Christianity, Democracy and the Radical Ordinary) with Rom Coles, an aporetic political philosopher deeply indebted to the thought of, of all people, Derrida. Not exactly a move toward sectarianism, I think.
    Lastly, you might find that the real opponents to your present position and your affirmation of pragmatism are not so much the HM (if indeed this does exist) but the critics of the society of discipline–meaning the students of Foucault and Deleuze, and the critics of colonialism–like Mignolo and Mbembe. Have you ever considered the role that the police play in a society of discipline, especially when it comes to maintaining control of an increasingly classist (read racist as well) culture? The pragmatist answer to this question has always seemed to me to be lacking real force when it comes to encountering the real problems of modernity. (One simply need take a glance at Jeffery Stout’s Democracy and Tradition to see this). If wisdom does function similar to Jazz, one question might be, “Can one learn Jazz without entering into the deep experiences of African-American life from which this genre of music was birthed?”
    This is all to say that while you’re right “there is no one way to be a police chaplain,” persons who take their faith in Christ seriously must continue to ask themselves these questions. They must consider that their very position might require them to stand up to the police at any given moment.

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  • Dave

    John Flett (your fellow Ph.D. colleague at PTS) wrote his masters thesis on this at the University of Auckland: “Centre, System or Margin? Barth, Lindbeck and Hauerwas on the Church’s Public Character.”

  • kns

    Tony writes… “I think it’s these very experiences that have led me to appreciate philosophical pragmatism more than the neo-Artistotelianism of the HM (although pragmatism is also rooted in the thought of Aristotle). The pragmatists argue that there can be no uniform rule that dictates actions in all endeavors. Instead, we must become as wise as possible and then make the best decisions that we can. It’s important to remember, however, that all these decisions are made on an ad hoc basis.”

    MacIntyre writes…”It is my contention that such a protagonist will even so lack the resources to explain the peculiar predicaments of contemporary philosophy and to provide an intelligible account of how and why, given its starting-point and its direction of development, to be trapped within these predicaments was inescapable. Thomism enables us to write a type of history of modern and contemporary philosophy which such philosophy cannot provide for itself.” (‘First principles, final ends, and contemporary philosophical issues’)

    The crux, I think, lies somewhere here. Do the “pragmatist paparazzi” have one up on the HM? I’m not convinced.

  • Great stuff.
    I really can’t wait to read the whole book.

  • This chapter should have been in the book. Hardly scandalous.

    I got some chatter from HMers when I agreed to do the invocation and benedictions at commencement services where I served as a campus minister. (State University) I also got beef from fundie Baptists for not lacing my parts with Jesus sales-pitches.

    Those commencement services were some of the best things I remember doing. I used my time to speak blessing and empowerment to students who have the chance to change the world. Where else are you given the space to say something to 5000 students at once.

    I became a favorite among the administration because I was able to speak without being sectarian and obnoxious.

    Church-people who believe the church can prosper by closing in and drawing clearer boundaries have not spent any time outside of the church getting to know the “Others.” They know parodies of the un-churched, but they haven’t befriended any of them.

  • ceejay

    Sorry this chapter was cut from the book. After being introduced to the idea of Binitarians, this chapter fits perfectly right before it. Isn’t the whole point to be fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and immediately obedient to His direction? Sure goes a long way in eliminating all the formulas, i.e. if this happens, say THIS, and if THAT happens do thus and such. As a Pentecostal believer, I thought your book was basically describing US. 😉 And if we are called to be salt and light, we are called to be INVOLVED with the world. The trick is to influence the world by our “beautiful Christianity” (thanks for another lovely concept, Tony!), without being influenced BY this world.

    Thanks for posting the extra chapter — just finished the book tonight and it was icing!

  • As the Teacher of whom you wrote, I’d like to congratulate you on your embodiment of Hauerwas in your story of declining the Junior Achievement speech on ‘self-esteem.’ I think you’re more of an embodiment of Hauerwas thought that you may feel comfortable with. You’re right, you really would have to talk about Jesus and that would be a ‘no, no’ so I think you’re coming along nicely.

    And while your chapter used your role as a volunteer police chaplain as the jumping off point (admirable work indeed) for the discussion, I’d like to suggest that my work as a special education teacher qualifies me as a counter-example to your implication that Hauerwasians suggest we barricade ourselves inside the Church. On the contrary, as one who has been raised with the grammar of the Church, I dove head long into public education and am intimately involved in the lives of kids that nobody really cares about, in the role of a public school teacher because I was compelled by the Christian story to do just that. They are tomorrow’s headline stories, perhaps even some of the homes you may visit one day as a police chaplain.
    Lastly, you and I well know that, in our public service roles, shaped by the Church as we have been, we are not the only ones in America with that same story. . . . . we have been compelled by Christ. . . .

  • AWESOME! loved getting to meet and hang out this week!

  • Dude, this is some potent smack. You need to be saving some of this for your “inside baseball” book.

  • Honestly, this post seems weak. I think it poorly characterizes (from worst to best) Hauerwas, Aristotle, MacIntyre, and Yoder [which of course makes sense…if you get M and Y wrong and base your account of H on them, that account will be even worse].

    “…his phrase is “morally incommensurate.”…MacIntyre’s solution is a return to a virtue-bound society, one in which we come to consensus on the virtues that bind us and then work out a group of practices that facilitate those virtues.”

    MacIntyre doesn’t talk much about incommensurablity after After Virtue. It should be noted that the question of translation becomes more important and incommensurability less so as his work progresses. His major point is that talk of virtue (or virtues themselves) does not make sense except as a traditioned discourse. I’m not sure that your characterization of “coming to a consensus on the virtues” and then rooting around for practices is correct either.

    “Aristotle was the granddaddy of this thinking when he said that those who live inside of one polis (city-state) cannot pass judgment on the laws and morals of those inside another polis. That’s because the moral system in a polis has developed around a certain set of virtues that is intrinsic to that polis.”

    At best this is partially true, at worst, simply incorrect. When considering the foreigner, Aristotle can appear dismissive much as he initially might when discussing women and slaves. Even here though, such comments can be ameliorated. Dobbs and Frank are right to argue that Aristotle takes human nature not as an unchanging foundation, but as something in flux, capable of being shaped by political and other practices, such that no indisputable hierarchy on Aristotle’s account can exist. “Aristotle’s distinction between Greeks and certain non-Greeks, it turns out, rests not on nature as something immutable, not on his conviction that Greeks were superior to foreigners, but on his observations about the (political and nonpolitical) behaviors of those foreigners..” So, when Aristotle quotes Euripides saying, the community of the non-Greeks “consists of a male and a female slave. That is why our poets say ‘it is proper for Greeks to rule non-Greeks,’ implying that non-Greek and slave are in nature the same,” this is not an inalienable description, but one made on specific observable phenomena. Just as there may be socially malformed and irresponsible individuals (natural slaves) who would benefit from the direction of others, if foreigners act in a slavish manner, they might benefit from Greek rule. Aristotle observes in the Politics that…

    …[t]he village…grows naturally out of a number of primitive households; the political community (polis) in turn grows out of several villages. The spontaneity of these eruptions suggests that the same natural impulses responsible for the existence of the primitive household also exposes the limits of this partnership by pushing beyond the primitive household for its more complete realization…In the most definitive sense…nature is not so much that which is manifest at nativity but ‘that which each thing is when its coming into being is perfected’ (1252b32-33).

    Some would claim that there are no slaves by nature. However, this sort of absolutism worries Aristotle because he thinks such a claim is tantamount to saying that all forms of rule are equal, that all politics equally bring about the possibility of human perfection. “Aristotle reiterates that the proper determinant with regard to slavery is not foreignness but worthiness or character, itself a function of activity.” Thus, Aristotle occasionally mentions barbarian cultures in contexts that “highlight examples where supposedly model Greeks behave like the worst of the barbarians and the best of the barbarians serve as models for the Greeks.” This does not swell into a sophomoric relativism as Aristotle maintains space to denounce certain ways of life.

    Many pragmatists wouldn’t be far from this. They’d agree that there is no neutral place to stand from which to judge, but precisely the places where one stands makes possible judgments about more or less compelling options.

    “A church in bed with government, according to Yoder, is a church that’s lost its nerve and forgotten who it’s supposed to be.”

    You should read Yoder’s unpublished, “Religious Liberty and the Prior Loyalty of the People of God” and his “The Christian Witness to the State,” if you have not. Without using the term, you’re getting very close to the unsustatinable charge that Yoder and Hauerwas are sectarians. Nothing could be farther from the truth (especially if you’ve read the above).

    “the church should be a counter-polis, a self-enclosed system that can serve as a model to secular systems (governments, corporations, etc.).”

    Hauerwas would never use “self-enclosed” and it would be unfair to characterize him as espousing such. There is no place to retreat to when the world surrounds you and cuts through your breast. Hauerwas is aware that traditions are diffuse at their boundaries and that the interpenetration that takes place is where learning takes place (MacIntyre’s epistemological crisis). That he’s been the only theologian on the AAR panels on radical democracy should signal something, not to mention his latest book with Romand Coles.

    If you wanted better critiques of Hauerwas than you have provided, you could look to Stout’s “Democracy and Tradition” or his article “The Spirit of Democracy and the Rhetoric of Excess” and Cornel West’s short section in “Democracy Matters.”

    You mischaracterize everyone you discuss in this post and do so under the clever but uncharitable guise of ‘mafia;’ if I were to be equally uncharitable I’d have to chalk it up to stupidity, but know that is not the case. I assume therefore that it is simply a failure of rigor in the study of your subject matter. You’re smart, you can do better.

  • Galen

    You mischaracterize everyone you discuss…

    Par for the course, really. Another name for the Emergent Reformation: the Battle of Straw Men.

  • Korey

    I have a bachelor’s degree in biology. I work for a pharmaceutical company. This conversation is a hobby, albeit one I find far more interesting than work. I love to read in theology, philosophy, science, and religion. But I am untrained and erratic and haphazard. I know far less than many here and likely have significantly less familiarity and rigor in these subjects, though maybe more than your average person on the street.

    With that said, I feel like this emerging conversation draws so many more into this discussion of how theology and practice can come together for everyday chumps like me. I enjoyed his tongue-in-cheek thoughts and I really enjoyed his book and zipped right through it. It’s clear that he stereotyped and caricatured to make a point that I think has substance in the real world. And I think he did so without discrediting or impugning Hauerwas, or Yoder, etc. By all means, his comments should be subjected to critique and rejection and assessment. But I do think there is some truth in the difficulty to actual live principles as they are sometimes articulated by their authors, but more often probably disciples of authors. It cannot always be done as some might think it should and application of principles isn’t always straightforward. Life is complex and the best choices in a particular context are not always obvious. A choice that seems to go against a particular philosophy/principle might seem weak-minded compromise, but it’s possible that it is sometimes subtle and deeper wisdom. That was his point as I perceived it.

    And maybe he really misrepresents these thinkers and misses the nuance in their positions? In any event, I still really admire Hauerwas and have been highly influenced by what I’ve read of him and of Yoder. And yet, I think there is truth in Tony’s narrative. And I appreciate all the thoughts shared, even the rebukes.

  • Korey: “And yet, I think there is truth in Tony’s narrative.”

    Alright, let’s walk through the narrative (paragraph by paragraph).

    Tony was influenced by Stanley Hauerwas.

    Stanley is influential. [“Whole theological faculties are now committed to furthering his work,” really? Where? And so what? The Dominicans have whole faculties who read Aquinas all day long.]

    Dr. Hauerwas’ two most significant influences are Yoder and MacIntyre. [Sort of. What about Thomas and Barth?]

    All of them claim “the Christian faith is a self-enclosed system of language and practice.” [This is grossly overstated, which is important because the whole narrative hinges on this being true.]

    MacIntyre argues that no one is using a coherent set of beliefs. [MacIntyre’s argument is not so much about coherence as modernity’s flight from tradition.]

    Yoder argued that the church itself is a political stance in society. [This much is true, but does not entail the view that the Christian faith is a self-enclosed system of language and practice.]

    Hauerwas is worried about dirty hands. [The politics example is misused. The problem with running for, let’s say, national office isn’t the problem of being involved (or the problem of dirty hands through involvement) but the problem of formation. For Hauerwas, the Church’s task is to form people who look like Christ. The kind of formation that one would have received over a lifetime in politics might undercut the formation that the Church is about. One has to concede that this might be the case. Really, Hauerwas’ rhetorical excess is what is at fault here.]

    Hauerwas advocates an ecclesiological solution: the church should be a counter-polis, a self-enclosed system that can serve as a model to secular systems. [I’ve already said this is overstated. One must also remember that Hauerwas’ goal is not to solve the problem of dirty hands, nor to prevent Christians from being engaged in political life. It is worth noting, for example, that Hauerwas, Romand Coles, Jeffery Stout and Cornel West have all been involved in non-ideologically-based grassroots organizing through IAF (see: ). Hauerwas’ goal is to pry the imagination of Christians in North America (notice I didn’t say American Christians) out the ‘self-enclosed’ prioritization of nationalism in terms of political identity.

    Story about chaplains and a friend used as a somewhat unfortunate representative of Hauerwas’ thinking. [Again, it is hard to argue from a Christian standpoint that it wouldn’t be preferable for Christians and their churches to be lending comfort and pastoral care to those in traumatic situations (whether Christian or not) without the need for them to be hired to do so.]

    Dr. Hauerwas “is up to something good when looked at from the leftward flank… There is no future for conventional theological liberalism.” [Dr. Hauerwas would argue the same about conservative Christians as well. Both are children of the same whored ecclesia mater. It’s here that one would want to see Hauerwas returning to Thomas, unfortunately Tony states Hauerwas “saw this and marshaled the forces of…Yoder and…MacIntyre to develop a new way forward for the liberal tradition. Instead of watering down their distinctives to the point of meaninglessness, the church should close ranks and develop an internal coherency that would serve as an example to the world.” Again, it’s a return to tradition, not necessarily coherency. MacIntyre functions as a reminder of the importance of tradition, but isn’t where Hauerwas turns to in the tradition. One would have to look to Thomas, Barth, and Yoder, here. Sadly, the first two don’t get mentioned.]

    Tony doesn’t turn down the Den Mom but wasn’t a yes-man either. [This wouldn’t be problematic from Dr. Hauerwas’ standpoint. He would be opposed to praying vacuous prayers to a vacuous God, as if we were not aware that God brought the Jews out of Egypt and raised Jesus of Nazarath from the dead. He would have no problem with you praying as a Christian in public.]

    Tony appreciate philosophical pragmatism more than the neo-Artistotelianism. [This may be obvious given his uneven reading of Aristotle.] Why?: “The pragmatists argue that there can be no uniform rule that dictates actions in all endeavors. Instead, we must become as wise as possible and then make the best decisions that we can. It’s important to remember, however, that all these decisions are made on an ad hoc basis.” [Oddly enough, that doesn’t put Tony very far from Dr. Hauerwas as Dr. Hauerwas is very close to the tradition of American pragmatism. This is precisely for what Hauerwas argues when he argues that all ethics are ad-hoc theological decisions which require wisdom.]

    Like a jazz musician, followers of Jesus Christ must learn to improvise, and in order to improvise, we must first train ourselves to be keen observers. [Hauerwas would argue that we learn how to see by learning how to say. Also, didn’t Sam Wells (surely a good candidate for membership in the ‘Hauerwas mafia’) write a book entitled Improvisation?]

    I appreciate what Tony is getting at, but most of his best points are actually in line with Hauerwas’ thinking. I enjoyed the playful use of mafia — even if better analogies than a criminal syndicate could probably be found.

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  • Great chapter and discussion. A few thoughts.

    1. Aristotle was a pragmatic moral scientist. He moved away from Plato’s idealism to look at the way things are. Out of this comes a developmental moral paradigm. We grow into the virtues. They aren’t political positions. They are the forces of character that give strength to human community in the polis.

    2. Is the church an institution or a moral community? If the former, then it can choose to be isolationist, separating itself from the messy dealings of secular human interaction. Is that not what this poligamtist sect did? Why not the rest of Christendom?

    If the latter, then, the church is dispersed cultural presence that acts to restrict the worst inclinations of human community and to ignite the best. Look honestly at the reaction to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. While the politicians fought over who is responsible, the church without fanfare filled the gap. The institution of churches exists to serve this moral community that is only as strong as the virtues resident in the people.

    3. I have a great concern about how we approach politics as Christians. We live in a media saturated culture that treats politics as a zero-sum game. If the Republicans win the Democrats lose. If the Democrats win, the Republicans lose. Is this an accurate picture? I don’t think so. However, many Christian writers on politics would lead us to think so. If pragmatism is appropriate for how Christians work in society, then it is suited to how we function politically. And what this means is that we must resist the political impulse to divide by ideology, and instead find common ground with those with whom we disagree. Being more pragmatic will make us less susceptible to political speak that tells us precisely what we want to hear.

  • michaeloneillburns

    I like how Tony post these polemical and utterly uninformed post from his self-induced seat of superiority and then fails to respond to people’s critiques. What is the point of leaving comments open on your blog if you don’t take them seriously. I would literally dare him to respond to Dan’s previous post.

    Not to be too rude, but emerging types look up to this guy and take a lot of what he says seriously and that scares the shit out of me; mostly because he’s wrong.

  • To slightly ameliorate the comment of ‘michaeloneillburns’, a couple things may be said. Tony is right insofar as what he presents is often what you get from people that have an appreciation for Dr. Hauerwas but not a very robust understanding of him. To my mind, this doesn’t save Tony from his skewed overviews of some of the people discussed, but it is certainly possible to differentiate between the nuance and care of which Dr. Hauerwas is capable and those who mimic his rhetoric but do not have the theological or cultural grounding which made that rhetoric possible in the first place. [As an aside, there are times that certain rhetoric is useful, and others when the same rhetoric can be considered excessive. People may enjoy reading Jeffrey Stout’s piece from theJournal of Religious Ethics entitled, “The Spirit of Democracy and the Rhetoric of Excess” (2007).] All I did was point out some problems of interpretation in Tony’s account, and argue that the DA doesn’t have a case against the Don. If Tony was talking about the HM and not Dr. Hauerwas himself (something which gets a little difficult to determine in the post), then he’s right to want to challenge these faint and distorted echoes of Hauerwas’ theology.

    [By way of disclaimer, I did study under Dr. Hauerwas (and Dr. Stout, for that matter), but wouldn’t consider myself part of the Hauerwasian mafia, if such a ‘organized’ family existed.]

  • Michael, you were rude. So I find your comment disingenuous.

    I have corresponded privately with Dan because I found his comments thoughtful, and his tone somewhat rude, too. But we’ve found common ground. I’ve also corresponded privately with a couple of other folks who’ve thanked me for bringing a thoughtful — if brash — phenomenological critique to the idealism of the Hauerwasian position. In fact, just today I had lunch with a leader in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa about this post. Both he and I have been greatly influenced by Hauerwas, but we’ve also become convinced at the shortcomings of his conclusions. Intriguingly, we both came to this by way of police chaplaincy and parish ministry.

    Of course, Hauerwas’s position is much more nuanced than this post portrays. This is a blog, people. It’s not a monograph. If you’re wondering whether I can be nuanced, well, trust me, I can. Plenty of my academic work is posted here, so look back through the archives and be wonderstruck by my nuance!

    Finally, I don’t participate in the comment section in my own blog (this, of course, is an exception). Some bloggers do, but I don’t. (Other bloggers don’t allow comments.) I say what I want to say in the post, then I generally watch the conversation progress as the comments come into my reader. I rarely delete a comment, and I rarely edit my posts. If I make a sloppy mistake, said something offensive, or just came off as an ass, I’ll let the record stand.

    Finally, Michael, how dare you lump all “emerging types” in together? If you don’t like me or my blog, or if my ideas “scare the shit out of you,” here’s some advice: stop coming here. But, no matter what, don’t fall into the guilt-by-association trap that just because I’m off the mark that my friends are, too.

  • Rodney Clapp

    Actually, if Stanley Hauerwas had come of age three decades later than he did, he would’ve been a hellacious blogger. He’s a master of the epigrammatic, provocative one-liner. And, as the Rev. Jones protests on his own behalf, Stanley can also do nuance. He’s answered the sectarian charge thoroughly and repeatedly.

    I also tried to head off that tired charge in A Peculiar People, without, as seen here, total success. Which can be frustrating. Nonetheless, the Rev. Jones’s ribbing is salutary to the degree it and its kind may occasion soul-searching and restraint on behalf of any–“Hauerwasian” or otherwise–who too glibly dismiss any church engagement whatsoever with governmental politics.

    A more important point: The postliberal critique does not challenge only mainline, “liberal” churches and theologies. U.S. evangelicalism, as post-9/11 and Iraq 2003-to-present events have all too painfully confirmed, has been deeply captive to its American cultural identity. Whatever Tony Soprano–uh, I mean Jones–and others in the emergent movement make of various chaplaincies, I hope they register the dangers of subordinating baptismal to national allegiance.

  • Tony,
    Thanks for the response, and sorry for being a bit of an ass about that. Although I still whole-heartedly disagree with your Hauerwas critique, me lumping all emergent’ish people in what is is unfair. Apologies.

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  • Jason Byassee

    A fair reading of my article on the new Duke ThD program will show Sean’s comment 24 to be misleading. My remark about Duke is simply that the PhD has no necessary theological component, the new ThD does. The piece contains no commentary on whether Duke’s PhD program “still produce[s] scholars who care about God,” it inarguably does, among whom I count myself.

    February 26, 2008
    Bridging the gap
    by Jason Byassee
    A Ph.D. student in religion veered off from his friends one morning to head toward the divinity school chapel. “Where are you going?” one of his colleagues asked. “To chapel for the Lord’s Supper,” he replied. His friend thought for a moment before responding with the critical distance beloved in the academy, “Well, that’s problematic.”
    The divide between academic study and everyday life seems especially wide in religion. Doctoral programs in religion study faith from the outside, like a mortician tending a corpse. Those who want to serve the church as pastors follow a different track in less rigorous M.Div. or D.Min. programs. Meanwhile seminaries struggle to find professors for their “practical” posts—teaching positions in preaching, liturgy, Christian education, evangelism—who combine both practical know-how and rigorous academic training.
    A number of academic programs have tried to close this gap in theological education. Boston University has had a Th.D. program for a decade, and Emory and Vanderbilt have launched interdisciplinary and ecclesially minded Ph.D. programs. The newest such effort, the Th.D. program which was started two years ago at Duke Divinity School, seeks to make student conversations like the one above—well, problematic.
    “The difference between the Ph.D. and the Th.D. students,” one Duke said, “is that we have to care about the church.”
    Duke’s Th.D. program has 16 students, each of whom is committed to a program that is as rigorous as any Ph.D. student’s. Two years of residency are required, and students must pass language exams—unlike with the D.Min. program. Yet students’ course of study and dissertation must also be aimed at a practical dimension of church life.
    “We want these projects to be in service to the church,” said associate dean and program director Laceye Warner. “And we want to form current and future leaders in the church.”
    Among Duke’s students, Warren Kinghorn, a medical doctor, is studying Christian responses to illness. Rebekah Eklund is working toward the qualifications for teaching scripture but specifically aims at “teaching scripture in and for the church.” Students are expected to bring ministerial experience to the program and to head back into church service in some fashion after completing their studies. This goal naturally affects conversations between students: “When I read books, when I talk with teachers and colleagues, inevitably it comes back to ‘What does this mean for the church?’” said Jeff Conklin-Miller.
    Warner said students in the program have already altered the atmosphere in the seminary courses at the divinity school, where the church-oriented Th.D. students serve as assistant teachers: “The students ask important questions and get the faculty excited,” she said. —Jason Byassee
    Jason Byassee is a Century assistant editor.

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  • Brett

    Dan Morehead hits the nail on the head. Re-read his posts.

    I encourage you all to run out and actually read Hauerwas before you run out and buy and read Tony’s book, if the latter is a thin mischaracterization of other people’s thoughts, as this article suggests it might be.

    You should read Hauerwas himself because he represents a type of theological formation undergone at the feet of Augustine, Aquinas, and others. He thinks deeply for and with the church. Before Tony or me or you or anyone else has anything to say, ask yourself whether we have been trained well and drink robustly from the founts of the church, as Hauerwas has. That doesn’t make him right, but it makes him more trustworthy.

  • Chaplainscott

    Many of us military chaplains struggle with the same issues, and usually end up with Tony’s pragmatic conclusions. Notifying a wife of her husband’s death in combat, without using explicit Jesus-language, doesn’t take away from the awesome sacredness of the event, for example.

    Admittedly, the Army Chaplain motto, “For God and Country,” can be problematic, but critically thinking (and acting) chaplains tend to face the challenge and continue to provide quality ministry to soldiers and family members (our “parish”) regardless of their spiritual identities.

    Incidentally, I devoured Yoder in Seminary and studied Ethics for an STM under an HM.

    Great article (I found it linked from ESA’s e-newsletter).

  • Joel

    I’m confused. What is your point about HM? You did provide a small anecdote at the end: subjectivism. And if personal experience is the point trajectory point, why would you be critical of HM or theological liberalism? You identify yourself as an “emergent pastor”; how is it that an emerging pastor would be against HM? If so, it sounds like a “new fundamentalism” but a fundamentalism that separates itself from biblical inerrancy and classical foundationalism–not the world.

  • dlw

    a couple of thoughts.

    1. Thinkers do progress over time and so it’s perhaps over-simplifying to characterize SH, AM or JY.

    2. Authors are responsible for how others use their texts. And so if many “followers” of SH did act like Tony describes then it would be good for Stanley to reprove such actions.

    3. If we moved our political system to a system where third parties were able to gain foot-holds on power so they could hold the main parties accountable and make them more dynamic then I think that Christian discipline within the Church and within the third parties would be generally more complementary.


  • Pastor Dan

    Your article was sent to me by one of the members of my church.

    I’ve been a Volunteer Police Chaplain for 15 years. I have had lots of calls and have spent many hours in a police cruiser with officers. I have never had them tell me that I can’t talk about Jesus.

    As a matter of fact, after building relationships with the officers they often ask me directly about Jesus and it leads to great conversations. I’ve even had the opportunity to lead an officer to Christ in the cruiser while sitting on the side of the road. Oh, and his sergant asked me to ride along with him because his uncle, a fellow officer, had been killed in the line of duty the week before.

    When I go to a home, I survey the surroundings and do my best to bring comfort to a family in grief. I ask if I can pray with them and for them. I ask if they have a church home that I can contact to offer further help. I’ve also done lots of follow-up with families well after the event.

    Again, I have yet to find anyone offended by my faith or my sharing Christ with them. I believe that’s because I’m sensitive to their situation, there to offer help and as time goes on they are then curious about why I would do this type of work.

    I pray that more Christians would see that they can make a difference in their communities by being involved. But never water down the Gospel. Never take a responsibility where they tell you that you can’t declare Christ.

    Be aware that most people in a time of crisis are looking for someone who cares. When they find that person, they then want to know why you care. That leads to the easiest conversation about “your story” (testimony) and people hear the gospel.

    You don’t have to hit them up alongside the head with the Bible, you just need to be a living example of the Gospel and that will speak volumnes.

  • Micah Weedman

    I think the real burden of proof is to provide examples of what kind of racket this particular (or should we say peculiar) mafia is running? Isn’t that what mafia’s do? Run rackets? Break knuckles, cut off fingers, make offers we can’t refuse? How much, gross, do you think the HM pulls in every year? The odd grad department at small, no-named third tier schools?

    I think the real mafia, in my personal, anecdotal experience, is run by the rough street-minded I-Got-Over-Hauerwas-After-I Graduated-From-Seminar- Folks. They are constantly offering me theological protection that I don’t need and can’t afford.

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  • Gus

    Hehe – I saw this article a couple of days ago and it made me laugh. The title made me wonder how many roles Hauerwas’ll take over the coming years. Thought I’d share it with you

    What Would Pope Stanley Say?

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  • Tim Peebles

    Jones’ chapter offers a decent summary of one part of the substantive core of the Hauerwasian/Yoderian position–that the church be a contrast society/polis, with its own language, practices, virtues, etc.–but not so good, I think, on how this is embodied in particular “border crossings” between church-polis and host-polis (or other polei within the capitalists/consumerist/globalist/pluralist host-polis). The term “border crossing” comes from the title of a book by Rodney Clapp, one of the “Hauwerwas Mafia” that Jones cites, and I use it to simply suggest that the “improvisational” or “pragmatic” negotiations between first- and second-cultures is one that at least some of the Hauerwasian Mafia recognize and endorse. As I recall, Clapp (a friend of mine) likes what Walter Brueggemann says (“The Legitimacy of a Sectarian Hermeneutic,” in Interpretation and Obedience) about the Old Testament story (2 Kings 18-19) in which the representatives of Judah have to negotiate with the Assyrian forces that had Judah under siege. As Brueggemann puts it–and endorsed by Clapp, I think–the people of Judah had to know the language of Yahweh, spoken “behind the wall,” as their first language, but had to also know the language of “international diplomacy” “outside the wall” in order to, not only survive as a sectarian contrast society, but also to bear truthful witness to their god in the surrounding societies. This bilingual conversation is essentially a pragmatic/improvisational encounter along the lines suggested by Jones, and it is reinforced in other places in the OT (e.g. the story of Daniel, cited by Clapp in “Peculiar People”). So at least with respect to Clapp I am very suspicious of Jones’ particular reading of the Hauwerwasian view of the encounter between church culture and other cultures. It may work as a rhetorical attempt for Jones to position himself and some emerging churches in relation to the Hauerwas/Yoder project, but not as a substantive and accurate description of that project in practice.

    From another point of view, it seems clear to me–an emerging church Mennonite–that robust Mennonites, including many in my congregation, are both fully conforming to the Hauerwas/Yoder view of the church, even as they have been involved in various forms of formal and informal “chaplaincy”–formal chaplaincy in hospitals, colleges and even neighborhood police work, and informal chaplaincy as public school teachers, local politicians, social workers, etc.– for at least a half century. In response to this Jones could say either: 1) that such Mennonites are not really conforming to the Hauerwas/Yoder view of the church; or 2) that these Mennonites are conforming to the Hauerwas/Yoder view of the church, but live that out in a manner quite similar to the improvisational/pragmatic sensibilities of emerging churches like Jones’; or 3) Mennonite “chaplains” (whether formal or informal) fall into both 1) and 2). My sense is that 3) is clearly the right empirical answer: some Mennonite “chaplains” (whether formal or informal) have simply assimilated to the surrounding cultures, with their Mennonite identities little more than cultural artifact and window dressing, while others have maintained a clear sense of Mennonite identity and mission, together with a pragmatic discernment of how to do that in various roles outside the church itself.

    It should be added, in this latter respect, that the best place for assessing such polis-to-polis or culture-to-culture engagements is not in the form of global assessments like Jones’, but rather in the form of more concrete (and pragmatic) considerations of local congregations’ processes of “binding and loosing,” that is, those specific discernments a particular congregation makes about what the gospel requires and prohibits in various encounters “over the wall” or “across the boundary” between church-polis and other-polis. This seems to be in agreement with the local orientation of the emerging church ethos, again suggesting that the contrast Jones seems to want–between Hauerwas/Yoder/Clapp church politics and emerging church politics–is not nearly as sharp as Jones’ chapter suggests, if there is a contrast to be had at all.

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  • Rev. David Kenney

    Appreciate this piece very much. Small correction: I think you meant to say Stanley’s contributions cannot be OVERestimated.


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  • Ryan

    I am new youth pastor. I was just asked at a football game the other night to pray at an Eagle Scout meeting and sheepishly said yes with similar hesitations. Not only am I at ease, but at ease with a smile on my face:) Thank you. Many blessings.

  • I appreciated the post. But I am a little nervous about the emphasis on pragmatism, because I think pragmatism is a poor lens to use and tends to lead to compromise of core values. Instead, I would get to a similar place by stressing relationship.

    We are called to be in constant relationship with the Living Christ. listening to that voice in all our decisions, rather than coming up with a list of theological truths and running all our decisions by that (this may be helpful in the process, but shouldn’t be ultimately determinative). This engagement is going to often result in something that doesn’t look like anyone’s purist theology, and maybe like rank pragmatism at times. But it is living as a disciple day by day, being formed and re-formed constantly by the Master.

    Now I suspect Tony’s decisions were not in fact purely pragmatic, but actually at least in large part the product of such engagement. It is this engagement that seems to me to be a central hallmark of the emerging conversation (and “conversation” is apt here because it is conversation with the Spirit of Christ which needs to be central), and why I find it so attractive.

    I can see why some felt Tony was slamming Hauerwas, but I didn’t take it that way. I see it more as provocative conversation with a community that Tony respects – and the respect is a reason why he can afford to be provocative in it.

    I think that the more purist views have an important place in the Christian conversation. They remind us of the potential pitfalls in various roads we may walk down. There are pitfalls in all paths. We can’t get around that, and the best of those who strongly present them (and I would include Hauerwas here) recognize that. The folks who have a call to this role do us a real service in encouraging us to think about where we could go wrong when we respond to genuine calls to do certain things, like the things Tony brings out. The result can be that we live out our call more faithfully, and are less likely to fall headlong into the traps that come with each call.

    I spent most of my life in the Quaker tradition. That tradition is very sensitive to certain pitfalls that often afflict the Christian church. For example, in the use of liturgical practices. Their answer was to throw out those practices entirely. They may play a valuable role in the larger Christian community by being a living example that Christ can work powerfully in an environment without those practices. That doesn’t mean we should all do that. I now realize that the liturgical practices can be powerful in keeping us close to Christ. I think they serve better in that purpose when we are very mindfall of the potential pitfalls. This is just one example of what I mean by the role of the purists.

  • Tony, I am a ‘dinosaur’ who worked as a chaplain for 18+ years serving our Lord Jesus Christ by ‘serving’ our country’s veterans. Initially, I too, struggled w/ separation of church and state; like you, I could only agree to participate if I framed my involvement in light of my personal relationship w/ Christ, not just a generic concept of ‘faith’. I am grateful for your contributions, influence and leadership in the Church; you will remain in my prayers. The

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  • UnityChaplain

    I am a current student at Duke Divinity and I experience the HM for the intimidating, divisive predominantly whitebread, white make bullying it is. HW doesnt claim to believe in God yet makes claims regarding Christian life that are blankets which basically are Stanley’s views on the world. For example Stanley’s claims about marriage are his views and experiences which reject those of others not similar to his own: you always marry the wrong person. Plenty of people do marry the right person but don’t tell Stanley that. His horrifying cult leader mentality “I don’t want you to think for yourselves. I want you to think like me” has turned hordes of students into anything but loving Christians. They are now rude, sexist, elitist and usually misogynist (even the females). I am a 50 year old bi racial female who experiences growth in Christ as the meaning in life but Stanley’s response to meaning (especially non white, non-narrative theological meaning) is “F*&%” meaning. The outrage is that the HM is a cult, contrary to Christian Life and Love, a groups of bullies who attack people who don’t follow Stanley. It is terrifying to submit a non Hauerwasian paper at Duke, for ideas contrary to Stanley’s, though rooted in Biblical veracity, are termed “dangerous”. (A direct quote from one of my professor’s who is a Hauerbot.) The HM discusses Stanley’s view more than God. Again perhaps because Stanley acknowledges that he doesn’t claim to know if he believes in God. Duke is now teeming with young moldable minds being prepared to perpetuate the exclusive cult like and mafioso style Hauerwasian group think that seems to be the antithesis of Christian Life. I can’t imagine calling another Christian a “shitty person” for any reason but those sorts of attacks at the bullets the HM uses. I am baffled that Stanley would encourage attacks on other people because that is a hypocritical act for someone claiming to be pacifist. His non violence stance is also contrary to his actions because spiritual and emotional attacks using words and threats and ostracism is in fact a form of violence. Stanley is a verbal abuser and it saddens me that an abuser has gained a following. The HM reminds me of Scientology. To experience DDS as a mother, grandmother, woman of color, Episcopalian with romantic and Liberal Christian leanings is to be attacked by insecure, elitist, cultist, idolators. Stanley is their golden cafe in a way. Pax Christi.

  • UnityChaplain

    Oh autocorrect….calf…..