As an addendum to my semi-rant just below, I thought I’d toss in an accurate characterization of the approach of Stanley Hauerwas as given by one of his critics, James Gustafson. The main thrust of Hauerwas’ writings are a primary concern for faithfulness; not pragmatism or realism or any other “ism.” He’s concerned about the reality we all will face at the judgment seat one day before an all-consuming, holy, righteous God.
“In Hauerwas’s case the “Church” gives shape to our characters. Our characters are expressed in our deeds and actions. Further, the narratives of the community give shape to the way in which we interpret life in the world. So far this is a description. A turn to the narrative takes place. Since we belong to the Christian community its narratives ought to shape the lives of its members. In Hauerwas’ case, for example, this means that Christian morality is not based on a concern to be responsible participants in the ambiguities of public choices. It is based on its fidelity (to) the biblical narratives, and particularly (to) the Gospel narratives. Thus the principal criterion for judging Christian behavior is its conformity to the stories of Jesus.”
from James Gustafson, “The Sectarian Temptation: Reflections on Theology, the Church, and the University.”
The reason I quoted this to further my musings is because I believe with all my heart that our Christian communities are meant to be the place that primarily shapes our identity: one that is largely counter-cultural in multiple ways: radical forgiveness, sacrificial love, etc. Because of this commitment, I am terribly disquieted that our churches by and large are producing Christians who are unable to see the glaring inconsistencies between what we say we believe (heart) and the reality of what takes precedence over our commitment to Christ on a daily basis (job, family, nation, etc). Yet, people like my friend Matt, strangely, read Matthew 7 where Jesus admonishes us, “those who hear my words and put them into practice are like the wise man who built his house on the rock,” and come to the conclusion Jesus really means what he says!!!
Who’s (or what’s) right, societal demands or Jesus?