Friday, February 27, 2009

More Thoughts on Hauerwas' The Peaceable Kingdom

Sometimes I imagine conversations with important folk. Its not an escapist exercise, but rather an exercise of critical thinking. How would this person respond to my questions. As I have been re-reading Hauerwas, I have several questions I would like to ask. One of the little things I would like to ask Dr Hauerwas is why he chooses to say that we appropriate the story rather than are appropriated into it.... it just seems highly susceptible to our individualistic tendencies. I have this image of a river picking up rocks and tumbling them down stream in the current. As they go, they are shaped and rounded by the water and other rocks. This is what I imagine happening as we are taken into the story. When we take story into our own hands we tend to spill it and remove pieces from the whole and the power of the current is lost in our handful of water.

Hauerwas is helpful in taking a realistic account of communities “attempts” (his words) at faithfully living the story. Understanding our sinfulness is a key aspect of understanding the story and God. A fundamental piece of the story is recognition of our sinfulness and that we are in process, thus our communities are in process as we try and often fail to live the story in a helpful manner.

Hauerwas makes a beautiful statement about the role of tradition, “to gratefully inherit a tradition is but to recognize and honor the chain of actual benefactors who have sustained the skills and stories that provide us with the means to know and live our lives as God’s creatures” (27). This cloud of witnesses that have gone before us struggled as we struggle now to become proficient in telling the story. We must recognize that we are part of a tradition, multiple traditions, that impact (and at times infect) our interpretations. Without recognizing our benefactors we are much more prone to be derailed in our attempts to understand and share the story. Perhaps the individualism our heritage fostered is why we have so many splinter heterodox groups in American history.

Carrying on in the role of tradition (his connection to McIntyre is quite obvious at these points) if the ethic is removed from the contextual story, we as its participants become “alienated from ourselves, we lose the ability to locate the history of which we are a part.” This is a wonderful and challenging statement. Our culture is one of purposeful amnesia. By forgetting we owe nothing to no one and we presume that we really can be autonomous individuals making up our life and ethic as we go along. We are our stories. We cannot leave our past behind with another move, another church, another spouse. It is who we are. When we have cast off our stories that give a grounding in a community or context we are lost. We may not like our storied past, but we cannot escape it.