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Stanley Hauerwas on Obama (he’s “probably” voting for him)

Stanley Hauerwas on Obama (he’s “probably” voting for him) September 3, 2008

I love it when Stanley Hauerwas shows up in posts at Vox Nova. He’s a theologian that Catholics should become more acquainted with, and better, challenged by. Thanks, Henry, for giving us a great Hauerwas quote today.

Here is another, from a recent appearance Hauerwas made at church in North Carolina. The text is Hauerwas’ response to the question “How should we vote?” He touches on the topics of democracy, abortion, racism, living wage, truthfulness, etc.

First of all, you’ve got to remember that voting is not an end in itself. First of all, if you want to know what coercion looks like, it’s called a democratic election. It’s where 51% get to dominate 49% . . . . Now that’s democracy: Namely, you create the necessity of conversation through which people get to express their differences in a way you simply have to learn to wait. So elections have very little to do with democracy. They’re just a means to try to help you have debates you need to have that you otherwise would not have. …

“As a person that’s committed to Christian non-violence, which means that you basically have an anarchist view of the world, I try to obey all every law I can to show good faith with my citizen brother and sister who are not of my persuasion. So, I have very strong views about abortion . . . .  I don’t mean to say I want Roe versus Wade overturned. What I want, for example, is for some American politician to come along and say, ‘We’re going to give every child that’s born in this society a living wage.’ I mean, let’s start on the positive end . . . .

I do find it hard to vote, but I’m a yellow dog Democrat from Texas. So that is, you know, ‘Democrats from Texas would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican.’ So I tend to vote, but I try not to take it too seriously. I regard it basically as the Roman circus where you’re given entertainment to stop the American people from concentrating on. . . . what really should be at the heart of the political process. Namely, such as, why is it that no one is angry at the inequality of income in this country? I mean, the inequality of income is unbelievable. Unbelievable. Why isn’t that ever an issue of politics? Because you don’t live in a democracy. You live in a plutocracy. Money rules.

I want to be as politically involved as I can, but I try not to take it too seriously. I’m much more interested in how I can be involved in people getting decent wages that clean the buildings at Duke University than I am about what happens in Washington, D.C. Though I understand, Washington, D.C., has finally something to do with people getting decent wages who clean the building at Duke University. So those kinds of connections you have to make . . . .

I’ll probably vote for Obama, if you want to know. Not that it [matters] . . . . I mean, it’s quite an extraordinary symbolic vote, and I care about it because I’m a white Southerner. I understand race. … But the great problem there is going to be the over-expectations that are associated if he wins. … Racism ain’t gonna go away. So how to negotiate those kinds of matters, is, I take it, a constant issue of discernment that needs to be discussed as the Church because one of the things that the Church rarely does is talk about politics, because again that’s made private.

I’m told I’m supposed to be a ’sectarian fideistic tribalist,’ is the description of me, asking Christians to withdraw from the world. I wouldn’t mind withdrawing, but hell, we’re surrounded. There’s nowhere to go. The question is how to just keep going through, and you’re going to take some losses. So we have to be wilely as serpents on these matters. I’m not asking you to withdraw from politics. I’m just asking you to be there as a Christian.

There’s nothing more important in American politics than being able to hold people to truthfulness, and the reason that American politicians are afraid of telling us the truth is because the American people don’t want to know it. Do we want to know that we’re the richest people in the world, raping the rest of the world [so] that we can remain rich? Do we want to know that Iraqi war really is about cheap oil? Do you really want to know that?

Do you really want to be told that, ‘Look, America is a racist country, and the terms keep getting changed to hide that from ourselves?’ Let an American politician run saying, ‘I’m ready to tell you the truth. Are you ready to vote for me?’ Let the church of God be that people that are ready to hold people to the truth, and then you will be the most political people in the world. Do that.


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