From Publishers Weekly
American Christians are a people of hope. But according to Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, they are inclined to misplace it. They look for salvation in capitalism, in democracy, in postmodernity and in their practical progeny: modern medicine, seeker-sensitive worship and "ethics" (divorced from theology). In this volume, Hauerwas, a committed pacifist who nevertheless loves a good fight, argues that the church offers a better hope and provides resources to resist the idolatrous assumptions that underlie these Enlightenment-bred systems of thought and action. Written in his classic styleDsweeping, engaging and provocativeDthis book does not necessarily break any new ground, but Hauerwas is typically unapologetic about that. ("Given the entrenchment of the position against which I am arguing, I can only say again what I have said before in the hope of establishing new habits.") Since this is a collection of essays written at other times for other purposes, no easily discernable argument connects the book from start to finish. His writing is sometimes more fierce than tight and, of course, some essays are better than others (the essays on worship and on being "sinsick" are especially good). Those who know Hauerwas will enjoy this, and those who don't may consider it a fine way to become acquainted with his thought. (Dec.)
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When Hauerwas says he included the last essay in this collection "just for the hell of it," he also announces what some will see as the book's overall organizing principle. In occasional pieces that range from personal appreciations of friends who have influenced his work to extended considerations of Walter Rauschenbusch and John Howard Yoder to biting critiques of an influential Vatican II statement on religious freedom (Dignitatis Humanae Personae
) and of the United Methodist Church's Commission for the Study of Homosexuality, from which he resigned, Hauerwas picks plenty of fights. All the while, he also advocates pacifism, keeps capitalism and postmodernism in his sights, and insists that the church's task isn't to make America better but to be the ordinary, everyday church. He hopes this will be read as a hopeful book. Whether that hope is well founded remains to be seen. But he is nothing if not entertaining, and readers who have come to expect sparks to fly whenever he writes will not be disappointed. Steven SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved