Today and tomorrow, I'm at a conference sponsored by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) with Stanley Hauerwas and Romand Coles. They have recently written a book entitled Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary. I'm posting my notes from the conference. They are out of context, but mostly quotes from Hauerwas that I find interesting. I'll do the same with Coles tomorrow. If any of them agitate you to think, to anger, to agreement then please post a comment so that we can converse and learn from each other.
IAF Seminar w/Stanley Hauerwas
22 Sept. 2008
Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary
* Beautiful Ghost -- Murder Mystery Novel
o "you're in a world that is not based of facts"
o "People here live by truths not by facts"
o "to truly learn you must turn your back on what you know"
* Hauerwas has tried to get us to reclaim the oddness of Christian language
o If the world has been redeemed then it takes a lot of training to see the world that way because it must be a world always open to miracle
o therefore you can not anticipate what will be
* Radical Ordinary is
o Hauerwas is being in conversation that will open up possibilities that would not exist otherwise.
o Hauerwas was shaped by mainline protestantism identified with Reinhold Niebuhr
o R. Niebuhr wanted the church to support the democratic order
o Influenced by John Yoder, S.H. realized that christian language had been domesticated by Niebuhr
o Niebuhr had made Christians modest killers, he wanted posted above the State Department doors "when in doubt, kill as few as possible"
* S. H. believes that we should not be killers at all
o Therefore we must see the truths not the facts
o "The first task of the church is not to make the world more just, but to make the world the world."
o We must articulate the world. We must articulate how the world has us by the short hairs and impedes us from imagining Resurrection.
o Niebuhr, despite his modesty tries to defeat violence by the politics of glory (America is the name of the politics of glory)
* Goal of the book:
o We only understand what politics means through the slow hard work of Relationships
o Christianity is not good for democracy. Christianity is good because it is true and it helps us live in the world of small achievements.
* Hauerwas contribution to the book
o Will Campbell understands the role of memory in politics and that America has not come to terms with what it means to be a slave nation
o There is nothing that can be done to make slavery right, but must be remembered.
o S.H. Lifts vanier's work with l'arche to tell us that we must take time in a world that says we have no time
o We have the time to discover the goods we have in common, the common good
o By Gregory Nazianzus S.H. tries to show that who we are will be determined by how we treat the "poor and the lepers"
* The state is justified by moving people from citizenship to consumers
o the power of the modern state and modern medicine are relatives in that they help us deny reality specifically the reality that none of us gets out of life alive.
o security becomes all in the modern state, therefore our imagination becomes blunted and domesticated
* Counter to this idea is the state centered around a "lepersorium connected to the university"
* This requires a training in the language of the faith that makes the familiar odd
o Christian language has been domesticated in America to accept things the way they are as opposed to imagining the way things could be.
* Church sets about making the world the world by the practices that create the Will Campbells, the Ella Bakers, and the Martin Luther Kings
Responses to comments and questions by organizers
* What is the status of the claim "Jesus is Lord"
o Jesus is very God and very Man
o If we say Jesus is Lord then we must rethink what we mean when we say God
o Most people think when they say the God that they know what they are talking about, Christians do not.
o Orthodoxy is radical business it does not state a given it articulates a radical commitment to the recognition that to worship the God that will show up in the belly of Mary will always upset what I mean by the notion of God.
o Christian under construction
o Politics is always about speech. The ability to speak truthfully is the ability to not say more than should be said. It is the attempt to shut you up before that which you do not know.
o There is assumption in the book that unless we get better at small achievements then we won't have the communities that are able to resist the temptations of empire/totalitarianism
o There is an ethos in America that we should not be held accountable for the actions we take when we don't know what we are doing.
+ This allows an amnesia that allows us to act without memory
+ this allows the illusions that we choose our story when we have no story. that we choose who we are even when we have no clue
+ this allows us to be sheep but not follow the Great Shepherd rather follow the spiritual forces of empire blindly.
o IF the church does not give you meaningful work to do, then where will we get the people to do the meaningful work?
o Engage the world to teach the lesson that we need each other in order to survive.
o When Christians are no longer angry then you know they are just Americans.
o Christianity is about learning to be forgiven without regret. Learning to remember the shit that we do with repeating it. We do not forgive, we are the forgiven.
o Any moral commitment works in so much as the people around you help you live it, because you certainly won't be able to on your own.
o God has promised to show up at the Eucharist, which should scare the hell out of us, but God is not limited to showing up there.
* When he says "the first task of the church is to make the world the world" does he have a different meaning for the word world for each usage of the word in that sentence? If so, what does he mean by each usage?
* His notion of story recognises a fault in the American Dream.
o American dream despite your past, you may leave it behind and make yourself into anything you want.
o Problem this denies the role of our history in becoming who we are.
o The narratives of our past informs who we are and provide meaning to our possible future
o We are not without agency; however our agency is bound to our relationships and if we exercise our agency without respect for these boundaries we are own the path to self-destructive/self-harming behavior.
* Problem with America is the great experiment in protestant social formation. And the agony is that Christian has become synonymous with American and that has left the church castrated and impotent to maintain a discipline of offering an alternative community.
* The religious symbol in American life is the American Life.
o Book Book Nation what is true is what you are allowed to kill for. We are not allowed to kill for the cross, but we are for the flag.
o part of being the church is to offer an alternative to the account that we should sacrifice our children's natural hesitancy to kill for the sake of what we think is our greatest good.
o We allow our kids to choose whether they want to be Christian, but we do not allow them to choose whether they want to be American
* Submission is imperative to christian spirituality
o We must be submissive to the vulnerability of our brothers and sisters because they may tell us a much different story then what we think we hear from God.
o The community tests the call
+ Hauerwas did this right in front of us
* We need to get over as Christians the habit of assuming that I understand you but you do not understand me.
* The deepest enemy of Christianity is not atheism rather it is sentimentality
o specifically people's desire to have children so that their children won't have to suffer for their convictions
o However the example of Jesus on the cross is that we should be willing to die for our convictions, but never kill for them.
* We must become separate from the idea that we [the church] are the chaplains to the American Society
* The church is a group of people that are about formation.
* Charity is Sin when it is enacted out of relationship with the people we serve.