Stanley Hauerwas, War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity (Brazos, 2011 / SPCK, 2012)
At nearly 72, Stanley Hauerwas is still writing and writing a lot. There are thirty-three essays in these two latest books.
Hauerwas suggests Learning To Speak Christian is a 'kitchen sink' type book, meaning it is a collection of essays, sermons and other bits, rather than a sustained chapter by chapter argument developing (so in that regard like lots of his books!). Hauerwas sees the connections between the essays to be around seeing 'theology as work and work with words'. The book is divided into three sections Learning Christian: To See and To Speak; The Language of Love: From Death to Life; and Habits of Speech Exemplified: Some Teachers. As with every Hauerwas book there is much to enjoy and much to be challenged by. Two chapters stand out for me: the address 'Speaking Christian' is wonderful exploration of the task of ministry as teaching people to speak Christian. The chapter 'Why did Jesus have to die?' originated as a lecture to young people on the gospel and makes helpful (and challenging) reading for those engaged in youth ministry of some kind or another.
War and the American Difference is a book, which offers some of Hauerwas' most developed discussion of war and violence, especially in the context of America. The first section demonstrates how closely war is embedded in American history, experience and identity. The second section includes his appeal (co-written with Enda McDonagh) and reflections to abolish war, a discussion of sacrifice in the context of war, and essays on C. S. Lewis and Martin Luther King. The final section explores the role of the church in terms of justice (comparing Daniel Bell and Nicholas Wolterstoff), Pentecost as a language of peace (engaging with Jonathan Sacks and Herbert McCabe - I heard Hauerwas deliver this Amensty International 2008 lecture in Oxford - much easier to follow on paper than at the time!), the common good, the future of parish ministry (be interesting to offer some Baptist reflections on this) and mission (this paper includes a response to Nathan Kerr's criticisms of Hauerwas' ecclesiology).
The book hangs together much better than Learning to Speak Christian, which makes it an easier and more satisfying read - like Hauerwas' collections of essays on The State of the University. He takes the reader on a journey around a common theme approaching it from different angles. I think this may well become one of Hauerwas' important books. Hauerwas certainly seems to be moving towards an ecclesiology more in engagement than in separation, that is, I wonder if he is now exploring more, as Yoder did, what it means for the church to be for the nations and not just against the nations (the title of his 1985 book). The oft-made claim of sectarianism just won't stick now (not that I think it ever really did). Hauerwas' friends and students I think ground his work in the everyday life of being church (Sam Wells is the exemplar of this) in ways that answer the question of what does this look like.
I think everyone should read Hauerwas and both these new books give examples of why.