Stanley Hauerwas, self described as a truculent Texan who swears, is one of the leading exponents of discipleship as theological ethics embodied in virtues and practises that are so reminiscent of Jesus they tell forth the same good news, albeit in fallible humanity trying to be faithful in our following.
Those who have heard Hauerwas lecture know that he doesn't do scintillating rhetoric, and at times is just plain hard to listen to. But he's always worth the effort and irritation it takes to grasp what he's saying because he seldom misses the hearer and hits the wall. His writing likewise can seem at times obtuse, other times persuasive, and occasionally needing to be read with some patience and that intelligent watchfulness that comes from realising this man is a teacher, and a very, very, good one. And if we come away from an encounter with his voice, mind and keyboard with nothing much new to think about, it may be that our own capacities of thought and capaciousness of heart are the limiting factors.
Just been reading his essay on 'The Servant Community: Christian Social Ethics' in the book Living Out Loud, edited by Luke Bretherton. He's at it again. Telling the church to be the church and stop trying to be what people think the church should be.
"The church serves the world by giving the world the means to see itself truthfully. The first question we must ask is not 'What should we do?' but 'What is going on' Our task as church is the demanding one of trying to understand rightly the world as world, to face realistically what the world is with its madness and irrationality."
I used to have an elderly friend who would emphasise her emphatic tone by mixing up her words, and to borrow one of them in response to Hauerwas, abso-bloomin-lutely!!
And how does that work out in practice? Here he is again:
"It is particularly important to remember that the world consists of those, including ourselves, who have chosen not to make the story of God their story. The world in us refuses to affirm that this is God's world and that, as Loving Lord, God's care for creation is greater than our illusion of control. The world is those aspects of our individual and social lives where we live untruthfully by continuing to rely on violence to bring order."