After reading and thinking about Stanley Hauerwas’s *Without Apology,” I know understand dislikes, with great intensity, the following:
- A domesticated gospel. The Christian gospel is never to be confused with worldly, secular, or political ideals, or some sort of bourgeois lifestyle. The gospel must be taken on its own terms, in all its strangeness. For Hauerwas, the gospel demands a creative, engaged pacifism.
- Generalities and theories. Hauerwas is deeply suspicious of universals, since they invite violence and manipulation. As a good Aristotelian, ethics is oriented around character, habit, disposition, and action, not theorizing. People and particulars save, not universals such as “loving the world” or “citizen of the world.” He rejects sweeping generalizations as areas of deception, hypocrisy, and violence. He doesn’t even like atonement theories, as these escape the scriptural basis (which presents no singular atonement theory) and the particulars of human living.
- Manipulations. Many of the words and phrases we bandy about today hide power games. Hauerwas cites things such as the President of the United States as the leader of the free world, leadership studies (as if there is one kind of generic leadership for all things; this masks our scorn of authority, which only leads to greater manipulations) or being called an “intellectual” (“a kind of self-indulgence as the result of the assumption that they do not need to justify what they do,” p. 152).
Teaching Hauerwas to undergrads has been challenging, as they are bewildered by his ideas. They are also bewildered by a small book of sermons, as a lifetime of textbooks means they don’t know how to master prose without headings, sections, vocabulary, and so on.
But I’d rather set the bar high; at least Hauerwas is provocative and interesting. As Hauerwas himself notes, "you cannot become friends with an author by reading half a dozen pages" (p. 153).