A bit about the author: Stanley Hauerwas plainly says that he identifies strongly with the (Southern) Methodist tradition, but is open to ideas from other streams of Christianity (Page 6). He’s the son of a workingman from Indiana, who pursued higher education instead of staying close to home. He taught at Notre Dame and currently teaches at Duke Divinity School. He’s a prolific author and thinker, whose books are required reading in many theology programs.
Thesis: Hauerwas claims that the Church is to be a group of people who view life through the lens of Biblical Narrative and live in such a way that is true to those stories (Page 1). That is the main way that Christians will “reassert” their relevance to culture (Page 1).
Structure: This book is a collection of essays grouped into three sections. Part 1 explores and explains what Hauerwas means by a narrative and it’s implications for community. Part 2 builds upon the definition of narrative and broadly traces it’s development and usage historically and ends with implications for spiritual formation. Section 3 takes advantage of the stage set by previous definitions and explorations and delves into critical areas in Christian Social Ethics. These issues are a definition of family, politics, how to talk about sex, and a response to the issue of abortion.
Personal Application: I am grateful for the way the thesis challenges the Church to be different from the world without withdrawing from it. Growing up in the height of the Religious Right’s popularity, left me questioning if the church’s main responsibility was in the arena of social policy, especially politics. He supports his arguments and even includes many ideas contrary to his own position. This made his ideas more credible, even if it was hard to stick with the overarching thoughts in each essay. It was a stretch for me to read. I found myself agreeing with his positions, but perplexed as to how to apply it to my discussions with teenagers and parents.
The biggest challenge for me is how to apply these thoughts to my own family. I found myself without a quick answer to why I want children (Page 157). I’ve wanted to be a Father as long as I can remember, but I found myself without a vocabulary to explain why. After this read, and a little bit of thinking, I can say that I want my family to be ambassadors of another kingdom. I want us intimately involved in our neighborhood and church community. Now comes the hard part, doing this on purpose. Marie and I used to dream of taking our daughters to outreaches, doing things for our neighbors, and modeling a different way of life for them. However, much of this fervor gave way to the daily pressures of life. Hauerwas gives hope to this as well, as we can even see the mundane as “heroic” (Page 174).