March 17, 2003
General in a small army: Hauerwas battles for pacifism
___By Jason White
___Religion News Service
___WASHINGTON (RNS)--Less than two years after Time magazine named him America's best theologian, Stanley Hauerwas may well be the nation's loneliest.
___Hauerwas is a pacifist, a rare breed in today's world. He believes the only proper Christian response to aggression, even terrorism, is a non-violent one.
___In a season of renewed threats of war and orange alerts, that is no small cla
im. For where Hauerwas' pacifism once was considered quirky or even quaint, it is now, in a post-9/11 world, thought by some to be dangerous. A few even call it immoral.
___So why persist?
___"I am a pacifist because I cannot imagine being anything other than a pacifist in light of the gospel of Christ," said Hauerwas, a professor of theology at Duke University.
___Hauerwas draws his pacifism from Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is one resource. Another is the example Jesus set on the cross, where he chose to undermine evil by giving up his life.
___All Christians, as followers of Jesus, must live this way too, Hauerwas said. Christians, in other words, should be more ready to die than to kill.
___The fact most Christians think this claim is crazy, that most would rather kill than be killed, is for Hauerwas a sign they may not take following Jesus seriously enough.
___"I fear that one of the reasons non-violence isn't given the time of day is because so many American Christians think they can have a relationship with Jesus that doesn't have immediate implications for their lives," he said.
___For a nation threatened by a shadowy network of terrorists, these are fighting words. In some cases, they've served to marginalize Hauerwas, even imperiling old friendships.
___One such strained friendship is with Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and editor of First Things, a journal of religion and public life. Until recently, Hauerwas was a member of the journal's editorial board. But when First Things took an increasingly hard-line stance in the war on terrorism, Hauerwas felt his beliefs were no longer respected. So he resigned.
___"I admire much of what they stand for, but I found their position about the war so antithetical to anything that I could even begin to identify with, I just finally thought I should resign," Hauerwas said.
___Neuhaus said he wished Hauerwas had stayed on.
___"It was his decision, not mine," Neuhaus said. "Stanley's a good friend, and we've argued these things for many, many years."
___As a just-war theorist, Neuhaus disagrees with Hauerwas over whether Christians should ever fight in a war. Neuhaus thinks they can, and that in the case of the U.S. war on terrorism, they should.
___Neuhaus said he does, however, respect Hauerwas' pacifist stance for its toughness. Unlike the humanistic pacifism that informs the anti-war statements of the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church and even the secular peace movement, he said, Hauerwas' non-violence is grounded in a realistic and skeptical view of human nature.
___"Stanley's not a utopian. He's not a sentimentalist. He doesn't believe that going over and hugging Saddam Hussein is going to resolve this crisis. Whereas many others seem to believe that if only we'd be nice to the Saddam Husseins of the world, they'd love us back and we'd all get along peachy."
___Raised the son of a bricklayer in Pleasant Grove, Hauerwas is as feisty and combative as intellectuals come. This bald and bearded professor has the mind-set of an NFL cornerback, with ever-alert eyes and hard-hitting tackles. He sometimes curses like a sailor--even in the classroom. Little about him suggests the meekness or gentleness so often associated with pacifism.
___William Cavanaugh, a friend and fellow theologian, has this to say about Hauerwas' tough nature: "Indeed, of all the great Christian pacifists over the centuries--Hippolytus, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King--Stanley Hauerwas is the one I would want on my side in a bar fight."
___Hauerwas himself says one reason he so loudly proclaims his non-violent ethic is that others might keep him from killing someone.
___Despite an obvious passion for debating these issues, Hauerwas is a reluctant activist. At heart, he's an intellectual, more comfortable discussing the finer points of St. Augustine's "The City of God" than President Bush's foreign policy. Yet an activist is exactly what Hauerwas has become.
___"A lot of people don't think worshipping Jesus requires non-violence," he said. "I understand that, and that's the reason why I recognize that this is a long-haul business. ...
___"I've sort of become the pacifist voice. And I think of myself as so inadequate to do that. Yet I have to do it. I can't suddenly decide to get academic about this, because too much is at stake."
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