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Volume 11, No. 6September 2001
"IMAGINE JAMES CARVILLE AS A THEOLOGIAN." THAT'S HOW the Princeton religion professor Jeffrey Stout describes Stanley Hauerwas. And it's true that Hauerwas has that same mischievous face, youthful and almost serene even as he says the most bilious things. His accent is Ross Perot's, but the timbre is gentler. He is also, according to the Catholic University theologian John Berkman, "perhaps North America's most important theological ethicist." He has twice been nominated to be president of the Society of Christian Ethicsand has lost each time to a less controversial figure. He laughs hard and often at his own jokes. He is ribald; the novelist and literary critic Frank Lentricchia calls Hauerwas "the commander of the only unself-conscious foul mouth in the professoriat."
Hauerwas sits in his office at the Duke Divinity School, which, like Hauerwas, is at least nominally Methodist. He is surrounded by walls of books, and he wears a green shirt with a Nautica crest and a tie covered in psychedelic animals. I'm hoping to learn the origins of his Christian pacifism. Or to discover if it's true that he once said divorced people shouldn't be buried in Christian cemeteries. Or to hear about the time he scandalized the world of theology by saying "goddamn" in a Newsweek article. (Hauerwas defends himself: "I was the only one in the article who mentioned God, and I did it twice!")
Hauerwas, who is sixty-one years old, is telling me about his boyhood in Pleasant Grove, Texas, where you went to church on Sunday morning and got saved in the revival that evening. "But I was never saved," he says. "And I was thirteen or fourteen years old and finger-fucking the girls, and I was confused. So I decided to be a minister. That's what my parents thought I was going to college for, to be a minister. My father was the only person in his family to graduate from high school. He wanted to go to college, but it was the Depression. Those hammers over there on the wall, those are his. He was a bricklayer."
In 1958, Hauerwas left home for Southwestern University. There, he apprenticed himself to a professor named John Score, who taught him religion and philosophy and took him to Dallas to see art and film. He then went to Yale Divinity School, where he learned the Yale approach to theology, which emphasized the importance of tradition; it resisted, at least somewhat, the 1960s trend to think of the church as a malleable instrument of social justice. Even still, Hauerwas says, "I went to Yale thinking I was going to be a liberal Christian."
That's liberal in both senses: politically liberal, but also a contributing, supportive member of the liberal nation-state, someone for whom Christianity never conflicted with the American project. Hauerwas, like all theologians of that era, was reckoning with the recent memory of fascism; he suspected that only American democracy, perhaps aided by a free-thinking, social-justice Christianity, could prevent its recurrence. "I didn't see how you could believe in the Resurrection," he says. "And I thought all theology at that time had to be done in light of the murder of Europe's Jews. I figured it was the liberal Protestants who had stood up to the Nazis. But guess whatit was not the liberal Protestants who stood up to the Nazis. It was the evangelicals."
Hauerwas took this insight to his first teaching job, at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Though Augustana is a religious school, affiliated with the Lutheran Church, it was not a good fit for Hauerwas, who lasted only two years there. In a faculty discussion, Hauerwas defended affirmative action by saying, "We hire mediocre M.A. whites every year, why can't we go out and hire mediocre M.A. blacks?" Augustana's president, Hauerwas says, immediately resolved to fire him.
From Augustana, Hauerwas moved to Notre Dame, where he stayed for fourteen years. He learned to admire Roman Catholic tradition and the Thomist writings. He even began to take instruction toward converting, before his first wife threatened to leave him if he continued. At the same time, he also deepened his interest in the pacifist writings of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.
During Hauerwas's tenure, Notre Dame hired Father Richard McBrien to lead its theology department. Hauerwas and McBrien did not like each other, and they still don't. Hauerwas left happily for Duke University, where he has been since 1984. In that time, he's become very famous, as theologians go. His writings fill almost thirty books. His preferred form is the essay, and he picks deliberately provocative titles like "Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christians Are Doing It" and "Why Gays (as a Group) Are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group)." His many essay collections, from Vision and Virtue (1974) to A Better Hope (2000), address topics like marriage, euthanasia, abortion, the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, murder, Texas, the novel Watership Down, and baseball.
His critics complain that he has yet to write a systematic treatise, the "big book" that will tell people what it means to be a Hauerwasian. But there is a term "Hauerwasian," and his critics don't have adjectives made from their names. So perhaps our job is to figure out what "Hauerwasian" means.
"HAUERWASIAN" means, for one thing, funny; it also means both self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating. Hauerwas is often sure he's right, but he wants to fight about it. He doesn't care if his combatants don't have doctorates, whether they're preachers or chimney sweeps. The Ivy League polish never fully took: He still calls himself a "gregarious" reader when he means "voracious," talks about the delightful "shishkah" a Jewish boy is dating, marvels at an athlete's "heighth." He is famous for his rants at conferences; everyone has a favorite story about Hauerwas addressing a crowd of prim evangelical scholars and loosening their girdles with some choice expletives. He calls all his graduate students each year to sing "Happy Birthday." He has a certain degree of humility that comes from being raised poor, being left by a mentally ill wife after twenty-five years of marriage, and leaving his first two academic jobs with his bosses happy to see him go. But he also holds the uncharitable conviction that many Christian theologians of the past hundred years have been wrong most of the time, and he's eager to tell you why this is so.
This is the story he tells. Since the end of the nineteenth century, church has been little more than the place you went so that your neighbors didn't think you were a communist or an atheist. Churched people were seen to be good Americans, and good Americans went to church. That is the role the Protestant mainline auditioned for after World War II: shepherd of American citizenship. President Dwight Eisenhower encouraged the cultivation of religious belief, regardless of creed. As the historian Sydney Ahlstrom wrote of the postwar years, "There seemed to be a consensus that personal religious faith was an essential element in proper patriotic commitment."
In the years following World War II, Reinhold Niebuhr, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was the most famous theologian in America. He was well known for his commitment to economic justice and the protection of human rights abroad. But he disagreed with the Social Gospel, the liberal Christian philosophy regnant since the turn of the century. Adherents to the Social Gospel movement were wide-eyed progressives who believed that social engineering and economic fairness would help perfect the world. They were optimists. But their view seemed untenable after the Depression and World War II, and Niebuhr's "Christian realism" provided a corrective. Niebuhr believed that man's sinful nature required liberal Christians to abandon their Pollyannaish vision and admit the necessity of war and coercion. For a country so recently at war, Niebuhr's stance justified the military-industrial complex, the draft, and the church's participation in the martial state. It was a theology made for Hiroshima.
In the 1960s, mainline Christians accepted the desirability of the American army and state. Christians might still criticize or try to reform the United States, but they did not doubt that as a bulwark against evil, it was doing God's work on earth. During Vietnam and the civil rights movement, even liberal preachers tended to see themselves as working with the government rather than against it. Then, in the 1970s, conservative Christians discovered the perks of joining the political game. Led by groups like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, whose members were inspired by the born-again Jimmy Carter, evangelical Christians shed their outsider status. Conservative Methodist, Southern Baptist, and fundamentalist preachers who had always been apolitical, waiting for the Kingdom of God, awoke to the election cycle. In the 1990s, the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed promised to harness their power to form a more Christian union.
By the time Richard Nixon resigned, it had become standard practice for Christian, Jewish, or ecumenical prayers to open sessions of Congress; for military chaplains to help assuage the consciences of murderers; for football coaches to pray to Jesus before games. Christians, according to Hauerwas, now served the Man: openly, avowedly, surely. Christianity had become patriotism.
Today, the Christian remains loyal to the nation-stateand that's idol worship. The church needs to stop serving the Man and begin serving the Son of Man. Hauerwas believes that the true Christian ought to live on the social and political margins. The true Christian, recognizing that the story of the Cross requires pacifism, might refuse to fight the capitalist's wars. He also might find the world of market capitalism so inhospitable, so hostile to the formation of virtue, that he opts outinto separate schools and summer camps and circles of friends. He is a resident alien. He witnesses.
That is what a Hauerwasian believes Christians should do. Stand apart and witness. For thirty years, Hauerwas has been telling other Christians that they have become tools of late-modern capitalism and neglected their unique message. He thinks that a church founded by the great radical outsider has, on the right and the left, forgotten its peasant past and become drunk on the Georgetown party circuit. He thinks most preachers have been abetted by Christian theologians in thinking their job is to help people be slightly less bad American consumers rather than better Christians. He believes there is much worth dying for but nothing he'll kill for. He has lots of enemies, but he believes they're the right ones.
HAUERWAS has been influential in part because his views haven't changed much. As the Creighton University theologian R.R. Reno says, Hauerwas "has the virtue of never saying anything different." To begin with, he has always been a strong opponent of "quandary ethics." To Hauerwas, the question has never been "What shall I do if presented with this dilemma?" but rather "What kind of person shall I be?" The ethicist's job is not to provide answers to discrete moral problems, as in The New York Times Magazine column The Ethicist, but to figure out how to build a person who will naturally incline toward the right answers. Like Aristotle or the Duke philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, whose work has profoundly influenced him, Hauerwas is concerned with virtue. He believes that ethics inheres in character and that good character is formed by discipleship to traditions and apprenticeship to good people. Just what the "good" virtues are can be debatedHauerwas says that they are hope and patiencebut the premise must not be. Contrary to the wisdom of the liberal tradition from Immanuel Kant through John Rawls, the ethical cannot be codified in abstract principles.
A virtue ethicist believes that good people will be built differently by different groups, and for the Hauerwasian Christian that means retreating from commitments to America and its economy. In Hauerwas's graduate seminar on Yoder, I listen as one student, John Nugent, discusses the Christian community he and his wife are moving to Long Island to found. Hauerwas interrupts with some advice on how to keep the community holy: "How about if you say, 'If you join our community, you can't leave without our permission? That means if the company moves you to New Jersey, we'll pay to keep you here and keep you going until you get another job.'... I mean, if our salvation really depends on our bodily presence, then can we leave?" (When Hauerwas was offered his present job at Duke, he told his fellow members of the Broadway United Methodist Church in South Bend, Indiana, that he would stay if they told him to.)
Later, he offers another suggestion to the future preacher, who wonders how his planned Christian community can enforce tithing and economic justice in its ranks. "Whoever joins the church, make sure everyone else knows what he makes," Hauerwas says, pleased to have solved the problem.
Hauerwas's influence over his students is considerable. When I had lunch with his doctoral students, all eight of them identified themselves as pacifists. They're moved by passages in Hauerwas's writing such as this one: "Surely, the saddest aspect of the [Gulf] war for Christians should have been its celebration as a victory and of those who fought it as heroes.... The flags and yellow ribbons on churches are testimony to how little Christians in America realize that our loyalty to God is incompatible with those who would war in the name of an abstract justice."
THINK FOR A moment how strange the Hauerwasian world is beginning to look. It's a world in which the churches consider war so great a human failing that they refuse to honor returning veterans; in which the churches insist that you publicly disclose your income to keep you honest in matters of tithing and charity; in which your congregation might ask that you not leave without the church's permission, since it is the endurance of community over time that builds character and nurtures virtue.
It is, above all, an illiberal world. What costs Hauerwas the most friends, besides his foul mouth, are his aversion to liberalism and his preference for, as he puts it, "all the things about tradition-formed virtuous people." Tradition means memoriesmemories that persist over generations because parents dare to indoctrinate their young. Memories are chauvinist: They imply that our ways are better than their ways. But they are not intrinsically militaristic. It is only when memories fail that force is needed to hold people together.
As a chauvinist, Hauerwas is not impressed by liberal arts pedagogy. Teachers who pretend to have no opinions train students who have no opinions, and Hauerwas would rather see diversity among schoolsDuke training students to think Methodist; Brandeis training students to think Jewish; Notre Dame steeping its kids in Catholicismthan diversity within schools, which typically results in professors afraid to believe anything important for fear of offending people. "Universities," Hauerwas says, "teach you not to buy paintings of tigers on black velvet. You're supposed to buy van Gogh prints. It's teaching you how to be a tasteful capitalist.... I asked one of my colleagues at Duke, 'If you could somehow get Maimonides or Aquinas back, would you hire them for the religion department?' He said, 'No, because they're confessional'"meaning they confess beliefs rather than profess facts.
Today's teachers, Hauerwas believes, divorce students from honorable and nurturing narrativeslike Judaism and Christianity, or perhaps Marxism and Rastafarianismand give them the Enlightenment narrative of reason, but with the lie that it's not a narrative. "The story that liberalism teaches us," he writes in A Community of Character, "is that we have no story." Hauerwas prefers indoctrination to the arrogance of objectivity. When David Toole, a Duke graduate student who had come late to Christianity, was about to become a father, Hauerwas offered some advice: "I said, 'David, are you going to have the baby baptized?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'David, I know I have power over you because I'm your director. You know me, I love you. I don't think you ought to do to your baby what you won't do to yourself. You ought to be baptized.'" Toole was baptized, and Hauerwas and his second wife, Paula, are the child's godparents.
Still, Hauerwas is not a typical proselytizer. He dislikes what passes in America for evangelism, the television preachers and stadium exhorters. He prefers the Mennonites' mission model: Send people forth to live good lives in far-flung places and hope others wonder what they're up to. The nearest he's come to soul saving is when he suggested that the ex-Catholic Frank Lentricchia speak to a priest. "I was surprised (still am) that I wasn't able to resist Stanley's suggestion," Lentricchia has written. Hauerwas sent his student Father Michael Baxter to talk with Lentricchia, and soon Lentricchia was on a retreat at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, praying the liturgy daily, the one he had known as a child.
"My deepest criticism of liberalism is the loss of memory," Hauerwas says while driving back from Greensboro College, a small Methodist school in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he has just given a talk titled "Why Cheating Is Worse Than Murder in Universities." "America," he explains, "in some ways stands for the utopian dream that you can shape a people who share nothing in common into some kind of workable social order if you just have enough money and fair legal procedures. And therefore, you get to describe your life as a free individual, and, Oh, by the way, I just happen to be African American, I happen to be Jewish, I happen to be Czechoslovakian. Americans keep saying, 'What the fuck do these blacks want? You can move to the suburbs, have three TVsI mean, what's a little slavery between friends?'"
AS HAUERWAS sees it, the point is commitment. He likes observant Jews and Catholics; one of his closest friends at Duke is the professor of religion Vincent Cornell, a convert to Islam. To be committed requires training and discipline. Discipline builds virtue, as MacIntyre argues, and Hauerwas shares MacIntyre's love of crafts: Both men talk about activities like baseball, bricklaying, wood hewing, and chess. Hauerwas loves the Durham Bulls and is a familiar face in the baseball bleachers.
Practice under the great ones, Hauerwas believes, and you will learn to be great. The goal is not great acts but great men. Although Hauerwas believes that Chris tianity entails pacifism, he admires the military. True, they are willing to killbut they are also willing to die. They have some sense of sacrifice, the way Jews and Palestinians do. It's exactly what cosmopolitan man lacks. Urbane city preachers joined the Nazi Party; pious, pacifist Jehovah's Witnesses refused to be conscripted and were sent to the camps with Jews.
That emphasis on suffering and sacrifice also informs Hauerwas's work in medical ethics, which constitutes much of his writing. He shares the Catholic comprehensive pro-life position: against the death penalty, war, abortion, and euthanasia. But when he writes about the need to carry fetuses to term, or care for the infirm and handicapped, he does not sound like the typical religious moralist. The Aristotelian in him takes over, and he focuses on the virtue that a practice of caregiving might instill in a community of givers and receivers alike. What kind of people are we, he asks, that we structure child rearing and care of the elderly around our material needs, aborting and warehousing those who might keep us from worry-free vacations or late-model cars? Jerry Falwell keeps talking about the babies' souls; Hauerwas worries about ours.
Of the retarded, Hauerwas writes: "But in our joys and in our sufferings they recognize something of their joy and their suffering, and they offer to share their neediness with us.... We are thus freed from the false and vicious circle of having to appear strong before others' weakness, and we are then able to join with the retarded in the common project of sharing our needs and satisfactions. As a result we discover we no longer fear them ...."
All the familiar Hauerwasian tropes are in that passage: the pacific call to intentional weakness; the joining in a "common project"; the construction of the kind of community that breeds virtue. One can hear in the phrase "the false and vicious circle of having to appear strong before others' weakness" echoes of Hauerwas's descriptions elsewhere of capitalism's ability to "produce shitty people." "Greed has always existed," he has written, "but this is the first time the system encourages it as a virtue."
By laying abortion and euthanasia at the door of market capitalism and not drugs or feminism or rock and roll, Hauerwas alienates the jingoist Christian right. ("In Texas," he says, "it was unclear whether the Southern Baptist pastors started looking like Texas politicians, or Texas politicians started looking like Southern Baptist preachers.") But he also offends the religious left. He believes, after all, that the Bible is truethough the way he construes "true" is slippery: "When I say Christianity is true," he explains, "I mean that I'm willing to die for it." He honors concepts like commandment and sin in a way that can lend comfort to those who want women to keep their silence in churches (1 Cor. 14:34) or who believe that "if a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death" (Lev. 20:13). He's not a biblical literalisthe does not say, for instance, that homosexuals will go to hellbut with his talk of resurrection and sin, he often sounds like one.
Jeffrey Stout, whose book Ethics After Babel is a classic plea for the kind of liberal worldview Hauerwas abhors, thinks Hauerwas puts a seductively radical veneer on a basically conservative message. "The secret of Hauerwas's vast influence in the church," he speculates, "may lie in the comforting thought that the strength of one's sentimental identification with the church can by itself secure non-complicity with the evils of the world at little cost to the Christian. That's not the message he intends to communicate, of course, but that's what's coming across at the subliminal level. Hauerwas's central practical teaching is absolute pacifism. But in an era when the U.S. has ended military conscription, what exactly does this pacifism demand? Hauerwas gives his followers the feeling that they are doing something brave and costly. But I haven't heard him prescribing any form of action that would disturb the routine of your average well-to-do suburbanite."
Stout is sayingand this is a common chargethat a Hauerwas disciple, for all her pacifist convictions and devotion to a countercultural church, will not end up living very differently from a fundamentalist mother homeschooling her children. Both women will think of themselves as brave exemplars of religious integrity while doing nothing about poverty, war, or female genital mutilation. They may achieve a kind of Amish authenticitybut then again, the Amish mostly take care of their own without worrying much about the health of the polity.
Stout is right that Hauerwas has not produced a systematic treatise of resistance, but Hauerwas does offer a thousand little schemes of subversionsome of them quite risky. For a Christian to stand up in a small Southern town and denounce the Gulf War and its veteransthat would take some chutzpah. Or imagine the reaction of the chamber of commerce if one hundred people in a company town gave their church veto power over job transfers. In Resident Aliens, co-written with Duke chaplain William Willimon, Hauerwas questions the project of church day-care centers, noting that they often exist to make life easier for materialistic two-career couples. A pastor who voiced that view would risk losing many congregants; those who stuck by her could create real problems for the American way of life. One does not have to subscribe to Hauerwas's messianic faith to imagine that such witnessing in our midst could make us better, or at least very different, people.
If some critics ignore the possibilities of Hauerwas's project, it's in part because of his aggressive certitude. "In our time," Hauerwas says, "Christian humility cannot but help appear as arrogance." Hauerwas's own arrogance, often expressed with cuss words, has consequences for how people respond to his theology. Richard Mouw, president of the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary, says that most ethicists take Hauerwas "very seriously" despite his habit of contesting "views that he disagrees with in the language that he learned when he was a bricklayer." And yet, Mouw says, "there are some ethicists who have been stung by his way of debating and find him difficult to take. Stanley has to take responsibility for those assessments of his style and content."
Amy Laura Hall, Hauerwas's junior colleague in theological ethics at Duke, is a Methodist minister who taught herself Danish for her Kierkegaard dissertation at Yale while raising a small daughter and organizing graduate students into a union. If anyone can handle the Hauerwas brio, it's Hall. "When I met Stanley," she recalls, "he said, 'I'm a ball scratcher.' I said, 'Stanley, if I had 'em, I'd scratch 'em, too.'" Hall is also from Texas, and she can play his game but doesn't like to. "I've tried to get him to see what 'fuck' sounds like in the ears of some women," she says. "The gender stuff with him is so trickyand at his best, Stanley knows that."
Hall thinks that Hauerwas is all too eager to prove that the Christian theologian is no docile egghead. "Christian character will at times be mistaken as weakness, and that's okay," she says. "And that's something we don't do enough at Dukecultivate a willingness to look weak." Hall worries about the prospect of pacifists carrying themselves more like Navy SEALs than like humbled Christians. And she's right that there seems to be a paradox. No matter how much Hauerwas talked about peace, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd want him on my side in a bar fight. He almost agrees: "First of all," he explains, "I describe myself as a pacifist because I'm obviously a violent son of a bitch. I hate the language of pacifism because it's so passive. If you are nonviolent, you'd better be ready for a lot of conflict."
Hall's point about Hauerwas's swaggering seems sound, and it resembles other criticisms that his style, so direct and clear in both writing and speaking, can make matters a little too simple. "The most troubling and least original aspect of his style is his tendency to assimilate his opponents to a single type, the stereotypical liberal," says Stout. "Stan's a master of hyperbole," agrees Richard John Neuhaus, the former antiwar Lutheran minister, now a Catholic priest, who invited Hauerwas to join the editorial board of his conservative journal First Things.
R.R. Reno says that Hauerwas is doubly reductionist, simplifying the liberal state while idealizing the church. Still, Reno admires Hauerwas; though he says that Hauerwas is "not the smartest guy," he believes that Hauerwas has "a nose for what the real problems are facing the church today." It's a comment that Hauerwas would appreciate, since he often brags that he is "not a thinker," just a theologian trying to help people be better Christians. Hauerwas sees himself as the guileless child or the Shakespearean fool, wise in a way that is both simple and profound.
"His approach is not in line with centuries of moral tradition," says Notre Dame's Father McBrien, a liberal Catholic frequently sought by the media for his willingness to criticize Pope John Paul II. "It's us-against-them sectarianism, Christianity as a zone of righteousness, and we're identified by that story, and we don't care if nobody else can understand the story, and we have no obligation to reach out, dialogue, and adapt." Likewise, Stout blames Hauerwas for encouraging Christians to neglect the American conversation: "The most dangerous element in his thinking is the traditionalist rejection of liberal society.... His influence in the seminaries is partly responsible for the decline of the religious left, a development that has had horrible consequences for American politics generally."
Hauerwas is delighted to note that when Stout and McBrien, men of the left, criticize him, they sound just like the conservatives who dislike him. On the right and the left, the commitment to America is assumed; the quarrel is only about what America should look like. Mormons believe, as a matter of theology, that America is the new Israel. The philosopher Richard Rorty imagines the United States as a kind of secular promised land, its prophets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. Niebuhr's America is a powerful vision. So I ask Hauerwas, "What's wrong with having, instead of commitment to a God and a religious community's narrative, a profound form of citizenship?"
"A thick conception of citizenship?" he says. "Another word for that is 'nationalism.' What is the defining event of America? World War II, because what Americans are dying to have is something worth dying for. War becomes the great event in American life, because that's when we send the young out to die and be killed. To die in wars, to give us the belief as Americans that we think there's something worth dying forto die for who your democratically elected leader says you should die for, and to protect the sacrifices of the last war.
"It's an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong godMars. I admire people for making the great sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill. But it's the wrong sacrifice. Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system. We believe the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and you don't have to repeat it over and over again in the name of nations."
All of this can make sense, of course, if you have messianic faithif you believe, with Hauerwas, that Christ died on the Cross and that he will return in the end times to announce the Kingdom of God on earth. That belief produces genuine humility, including the observation that the United States is but 225 years old, that Rome, too, was probably pretty arrogant in its youth, and that liberal constitutions haven't kept a country like France from domestic tyranny or wartime impotence. Republics have failed human beings before, but Jesus never has.
I don't believe that, of course. Based on the evidence, I will choose the republican community over the religious one. I don't want to live amid the shells and mortar of Israel or Northern Ireland. Hauerwas admires those two lands, where people are willing to die for their beliefs, and do. I'll take New Haven. But in making that choice, I also remember that Hauerwas has some evidence on his side, too. When he looks for communities that do the best job of handling American freedom without losing themselves to materialism, he sees Mennonites, Jehovah's Witnesses, and ultraorthodox Jews: people who would rather have children than VCRs, who don't send their old and retarded to institutions, and who rarely harm their neighbors. They're not good liberals. They're weird, and they make us uncomfortable, but I suspect that they're much more likely to die for me than to kill me. And if they die for me, it will be to honor their Bible, not my Constitution.
Mark Oppenheimer , a graduate fellow of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale, has written for Harper's and The New Yorker. "Memories of a Lesbian Girlhood," his essay about sexuality at prep school, appears in the Spring/Summer issue of Southwest Review.
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