More from Stanley Hauerwas

Hannah’s Child, by Stanley Hauerwas, which I reviewed in the previous post, is one of those books I could not read without a pencil at hand, to mark spots I especially enjoyed with a tiny check mark in the margin, rather like notching a tree, I suppose, in case I wanted to come back and look again.

Here’s a quote or two from those markings.

On the influence of John Howard Yoder:
Yoder forced me to recognize that nonviolence is not a recommendation, an ideal, that Jesus suggested we might try to live up to. Rather, nonviolence is constitutive of God’s refusal to redeem coercively.

On the contingent nature of our existence:
To say that our lives are contingent is to say that they are out of our control. Being “out of control” is the central image that runs through The Peaceable Kingdom and much of my work… the image came to me because of the influence of Yoder, who taught me to think that following Jesus means you cannot anticipate or ensure results. Learning to live out of control, learning to live without trying to force contingency into conformity because of our desperate need for security, I take to be a resource for discovering alternatives that would otherwise not be present.

On friendship:
What it means for me to be a Christian and to be a friend has become so intertwined that I cannot untangle one from the other, nor do I wish to.

An interesting — surprising? — observation on institutions:
I have learned… that the patience and time it takes to build and sustain institutions like the church and the university are themselves an alternative to war.

And last, on having a novelist’s eye in his writing as ethicist, for what it also says about the novelist’s task:
We are complex creatures constituted by contradictions we refuse to acknowledge. The novelist must help us see our complexity without providing comforting explanations…. Reading novels will not necessarily make one better able to see without illusion, but it can help.

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