Monday, February 25, 2002

SOMEBODY WATCHED THE GLUTTON BOWL: And it was somebody at The American Prospect? You're kidding me.

TAP also introduces me to theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who is apparently one of the more interesting people going in Christian theology today. His latest book, however, was written before the 9/11 attacks, and the pacificism he espoused may be difficult to reconcile with the actual need to defend one's self sometimes. Or one's nation; the article, by Charles Marsh, says:

It is important, too, to keep in mind that the hero of Hauerwas's book, Karl Barth, was not a pacifist; nor was his best-known student, Dietrich Bonhoeffer--arguably the Protestant church's most powerful witness in the twentieth century. Barth made it clear that if the church is faithful to the primary obligation of calling the nations to repentance, it need not be afraid of how to act in a time of international crisis. For the church that does not give easy sanction to war, that in fact constantly seeks to avoid it and proclaims peace alone as the will of God on earth, will be able in a true emergency to tell the men and women who serve the country in the military that even though they now have to kill they are not murderers, and that they "may and must," as Barth says, "do the will of God in this opus alienum of the state."

The case of Bonhoeffer is even more troubling to Hauerwas's pacifism. As one of the few Christian dissidents in Germany and a member of the resistance, Bonhoeffer abandoned his own pacifism in the face of Hitler. Or more precisely, he continued to believe that Jesus taught nonviolent resistance and that Christians were called to witness to peace, but that his historical situation required sinful action for the sake of a greater good. Aware of the human costs of inaction, Bonhoeffer risked the moral consistency of nonviolence on the wager that there is in the Bible an implicit reservation in favor of those obviously extraordinary moments in history that responsible people understand as exceptional. Responsible Christians must sometimes sin boldly. Bonhoeffer died in a concentration camp in 1945 for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. "The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask," he wrote in prison, "is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live."

Bonhoeffer is another guy I keep meaning to read, mostly because my dad tried to get me to read him as a youth and I sort of yeah, whatevered him because he was, you know, my dad. But apparently Bonhoeffer is quite the important figure within 20th century theology. I should point out that Marsh is a theology professor, like Hauerwas, so he probably brings his own biases to the table that an outsider wouldn't pick up on. But that review is an interesting review regardless of my ignorance of the subject.

No comments: