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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for truth-telling that gives perspective.
I became aware of Hauerwas through a professional colleague in the late 90's. While my area of expertise is in Bible more precisely, I have not had direct reason to read all that Hauerwas has written. Like many others, though, I've heard Hauerwas present papers at professional meetings or other events and knew him to be quite a "character" and I wanted to "hear" his...
Published on May 16, 2010 by Marty A. Michelson

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick read
I like Hauerwas' ideas, and as a student of theology I have wondered about his formation as a theologian and member of the academy. Most compelling was his obvious love of teaching and good liturgy as well as his frank descriptions of his family life. I couldn't put the put the book down but later felt that I had been betrayed by what on second thought seems like so...
Published on November 26, 2010 by Mary


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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for truth-telling that gives perspective., May 16, 2010
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
I became aware of Hauerwas through a professional colleague in the late 90's. While my area of expertise is in Bible more precisely, I have not had direct reason to read all that Hauerwas has written. Like many others, though, I've heard Hauerwas present papers at professional meetings or other events and knew him to be quite a "character" and I wanted to "hear" his story - especially since he connected it to such a great story from Hebrew Scripture with reference to Hannah and Samuel.

What a delight to read this text. It is precisely what it claims to be - a memoir. What most resonated with me as an individual reader is the fact of Hauerwas's honest portrait of his life's story - particularly the intersections of his work as a student, as a colleague figuring out how to navigate professional/academic guilds, and his life with Anne and Adam, his first and their child. As a student, he was just moving forward and searching - but not out to prove anything, it seems. As an academic, in his own story, he notes how green and crass he was, turning people off and not pleasing all but being honest. In particular, I valued how his life as an academic took place in conversations with so many other academics - the persons with whom he worked that shaped how he thought and what he read and how he come to converse and lecture on various topics. In his life with his wife, he notes the difficulty, pain and ambiguity that came with being married to someone who would later have psychotic breaks that he and Adam tried to manage and live with and through. And, of course, how being the son of a bricklayer and, by his own testimony, a bricklayer himself wove itself through his life's story.

I found the memoir to be hopeful for for those who might be in academia or theological colleges/seminaries - those younger or older in complex marriages - those new to academia or young in it. Hauerwas's story testifies to the reality that a person can't manage or create a perfect life to become a "Stanley Hauerwas" - each person must simply live life with integrity. Mature and grow with your own life's story.

Hauerwas's story is personal and memorable.

The book is not a must read for many people - but for those in theological/philosophical work within "the academy" - this memoir offers much personal and anecdotal wisdom for thinking about one's own life and profession.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stanley Hauerwas on Hannah's Child, May 7, 2010
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
Length:: 2:52 Mins

In this video, Wunderkammer Magazine sits down with Stanley Hauerwas and asks him to describe his memoir.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Starting Point to Explore America's "Best Theologian", June 9, 2010
This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
At the dawn of this new millennium, Time magazine declared Stanley Hauerwas America's "Best Theologian," a label that the tough-talking Texan routinely uses to poke fun at himself. How can anyone rank theologians--like handicapping golfers or giving stars to restaurants! Nevertheless, Time magazine took this task seriously, publishing a profile that described how the "rough speech and pointed views" of this brick-layer's son sometimes are "scandalous" among academics and religious leaders.

First of all, I can assure you that the Time declaration hasn't gone to Hauerwas' head. In his new memoir, he writes: "If theologians become famous in times like ours, surely they must have betrayed their calling. After all, theology is a discipline whose subject should always put in doubt the very idea that those who practice it know what they are doing."

I do agree that Stanley Hauerwas has a powerful prophetic voice. He is solidly American, solidly Christian and solidly accomplished as one of our greatest scholars--yet he uses that firm foundation to address the world like a latter-day Isaiah, Jeremiah or Micah, crying out for justice and a complete rethinking of our global priorities. To use "Hauerwasian" terms, he's often telling us to get up off our rear ends, scrape away the accumulated gunk of convenient, self-centered spirituality--and get our hands dirty in engaging with the real needs of the world.

That's why reading his memoir is such a pleasure. We spend time with Hauerwas exploring his experiences growing up as a bricklayer's son. His lifelong respect for hardworking men and women is a major reason that he preaches so regularly about the dangers of social divides. In this book, that preaching connects directly with his own youth, his own family: "I have spent my life in buildings built by people like my father, buildings in which the builders have felt they do not belong," he writes. The irony, he adds, is this: "My father was a better bricklayer than I am a theologian."

If you're reading this review, you're already drawn to Hauerwas' prophetic voice for some reason. But, until now, you may not have found a good starting place to read his books and discuss them with friends. As a long-time discussion leader myself, I can see "Hannah's Child" as that ideal starting point for a lot of readers who'll come to appreciate our "Best Theologian" through connecting with his life story.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laying Brick., June 24, 2010
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
It is no secret that I am a "fan" of Stanley Hauerwas, the famous theologian who is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School. I've read enough Hauerwas to know that he desires neither my fandom, nor the fame that has produced "fans" like myself. He desires that I follow Jesus Christ, and that I hold to Christian convictions because they are true. He desires that the church would live in a way that gives a truthful witness to the Lordship of the One whose love moves the sun and the stars. His theology is wrought through with a passion for honest speech, an embodied faith, a commitment to Christian nonviolence, a love for story, and an indebtedness to the friendships that God has gifted him during his life. He is a man who has experienced a lifelong "lover's quarrel" with the Church, yet his commitment to that love is unfailing. His memoir reflects all of these themes.

I've never read a book quite like Hannah's Child. Perhaps this is because I have not read many memoirs. Yet I found Hannah's Child delightful. Hauerwas tells his story in compelling, clear language, and I found this book a joy because it provides a context within which to place Hauerwas's theological writings. It is indeed true that Hauerwas has come a "long way" from his beginnings in Pleasant Grove, Texas. But when Hauerwas's thought is placed within the frame of his stories of family, upbringing, bricklaying, and church, books like Community of Character and Resident Aliens, to name two of my favorites, suddenly take on a more robust shape.

As for the contents, you'll find Hauerwas's story from his humble beginnings, to his growth as a thinker at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, on to Yale Divinity School, and then forward to Yale Graduate School, earning his Ph.D. He tells of his first marriage to his wife, Anne, who suffered from mental illness. And he reflects on his friendship with his son, Adam, whom he considers a great blessing. He tells of his progression from Augustana College to Notre Dame, then on to Duke, and how through the years his thought was influenced by the thought of Barth, Yoder, and Bonhoeffer, to name three theologians he mentions. Along the way he tells of various friendships he established and enjoyed, as well as his growth as a teacher. He tells of his relationship with Paula Gilbert, their marriage, and their involvement in the life of Duke Divinity School. Perhaps most interesting is Paula's influence on Hauerwas in suggesting that he should make prayer a part of his classroom experience at the Divinity School, a development Hauerwas is deeply thankful for.

This memoir is enjoyable reading, particularly for those who are familiar with Hauerwas's theological writings. Who knew that the life of a theologian could be so interesting?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd love to be your friend, but it has to be genuine, August 18, 2010
This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
Having studied with Stanley and been a member of the Notre Dame community about which he writes, I believe that Hannah's child is a genuine and unabashedly truthful rendering of his experiences and reflections. He was a young theologian at the time in the 70s that I knew him, but was beyond his years in courage and insight. It is interesting to see how John Howard Yoder, whom I had in class, so influenced his thinking about the Church and pacifism. Stanley was open to the experiences of Notre Dame, the Holy Cross Fathers, his fellow academics inside and outside of Theology. He changed and grew and explains it nicely in his memoir.

He always invited, encouraged and demanded that people speak up, support or criticize authority as appropriate and fearlessly ask the questions of oneself and your friends that might not have an answer or at least not a convenient or safe answer. His pacifism and his definition of Church has not been without cost to him in terms of academic acceptance or lost friendship. His careful fearlessness, some would call it impulsive, but he is too reflective to be impulsive, was especially evident after 9/11/2001 when his pacificism came up against the patriotism and nationalism that was strongly exhibited after that tragedy. It would have been easier to be silent and hold his reflections privately, but as he had criticized the Church for its stand during the Holocaust, he would not have been honest if he kept quiet. I know from his Notre Dame days that he was close to Robert Wilken, the great church historian. Wilken reacted agrily to Stanley's reflections given at University of Virginia and questioned whether Stanley believed at all in national loyalty. For Stanley and Robert that severely strained their friendship. What makes Stanley to be himself is the fact that commitment is not trivial and his taxonomy of loyalty puts his loyalty to his Christian Commitment ahead of any national affiliation. Wilken got it wrong, it seems, at least from the point of view of the memoir. Stanley does not lack national loyalty at all, rather he experiences a higher loyalty based on his belief in the change in history that took place in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He has a loyalty above patriotism. His other books explored how Christians in the first couple of centuries put their belief ahead of any loyalty to secular powers. This eroded over time when, after Constantine in 325 A.D., the Church either provided secular government or was complicit in it. This book shows how Church, a church, churches, should not and cannot be coopted by the current culture but must, not by its words so much but by its actions and the living out of its beliefs, serve as a corrective to inevitable weaknesses of any culture or government. Roman Catholic bishops have strived to do this, but their actions of late in failing to address sexual abuse have made their words empty because their actions, or lack thereof, are shouting too loudly. One important insight that Stanley shares is that it is not so much what you do wrong that gets you into trouble, but rather the explanations and rationalizations that you make about what you have done that ruins you. In WWII, the Church, churches chose survival to preach another day, Hauerwas notes, rather than confront the Nazi horror. They chose institution over mission which is, I suppose, the ultimate lack of faith that the mission is from God and that God will support it. Likewise, in managing the sexual abuse crisis, the Bishops chose survival of the institution over their mission - again a lack of faith to think that if the mission is from God it will perdure -- how different from the days of the martyrs who chose to die rather than compromise their calling.
Stanley has been criticized for seeing the Church as living apart from culture in order to critique it rather than being totally involved in it, so as to convert it from within. Both approaches require real courage whether inside or outside to hold on to convictions and speak the truth to power. Stanley does it with consistency as have other notable Christians like Congressman Robert Drinan, the Jesuit, who did it from within the corridors of power. Both can work, if and only if, there is the courage of conviction.
What it interesting in the memoir, is that someone who so desparately desires friendships, is and was willing to give it up for the sake of his faith and commitments. He lost friends rather than compromise or be silent. It shows both his commitment to what is genuine about friendship and what is genuine about faith. I recommend this book as a primer to more fully benefit from his other books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is essential Hauerwas., March 31, 2011
This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
Like many, I was first introduced to Stanley Hauerwas through his seminal work Resident Aliens (1989). I have since enjoyed much of his very important work and was thrilled when I learned of Hannah's Child (2010) which is characteristic Hauerwas: wily, intellectually aggressive, ecclesiastically vague, always funny, and always provocative. Indeed, as Jeffery Stout noted, "Hannah's Child might well be Stanley's Hauerwas' best book" (back).

The reader is not only invited to journey with Hauerwas from his early Methodism in rural Texas to the elites of the Ivy League at Yale, but is also welcomed into the very private life of Time magazine's "best theologian in America" (2001). Hauerwas candidly narrates his relationship with Anne (his first wife and mother to their son, Adam) who struggled with significant emotional disabilities making their home and marriage a type of precarious prison for Stanley and Adam.

This book sheds much-needed light on marriage, family, community, pain, anxiety, fear, and above all ... Christ, our only hope. Yet Hauerwas admits, "At best, I have never imagined myself to be more than a `broken light'" (277).

Hannah's Child is Hauerwas' attempt "to understand how I became Stanley Hauerwas" (xii). This is a beautifully written, painfully honest, and humble work by one of the most influential writers and thinkers of our time.

For those new to Hauerwas's life and thought, this is a good first step. For those well acquainted with this modern-day prophet, Hannah's Child is essential.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than a Great Read--A Thrilling Life, June 25, 2010
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
I simply couldn't put down Hannah's Child. Always touching, never pompously academic and occasionally laugh out loud funny. Fit to be read by every Christian who deems her life too standard or too irregular. Hauerwas doesn't just overcome family and career difficulties, he jumps in graciously, redemptively and faithfully. Could anyone report on his community of friends more honestly or more faithfully present? He incorporates his intellectual life's development and influence all along this story, and we see a unique and truly authentic life revealed.
The book is also like being in a prof's bull session where he sketches out the hierarchy of leading thinkers in the field, and you get priceless insights about who's who and where we're going next. My Amazon Wishlist grew exponentially! Best read of this summer!
BTW, Hauerwas--son of a bricklayer; Father of the Socratic method--son of a stonemason. Fits.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick read, November 26, 2010
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
I like Hauerwas' ideas, and as a student of theology I have wondered about his formation as a theologian and member of the academy. Most compelling was his obvious love of teaching and good liturgy as well as his frank descriptions of his family life. I couldn't put the put the book down but later felt that I had been betrayed by what on second thought seems like so much gossip. The book was also somewhat repetitive and perhaps could have been better edited.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Unpredictable/Predictable Hauerwas, February 18, 2013
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This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
Over the years I've come to love reading Christian biographies and memoirs more and more. When I saw that Stanley Hauerwas, a Methodist theologian and professor at Duke Divinity School, had published his memoir I knew that I would eventually have to get it. Having just finished it, I wanted to share some thoughts about the work here.

Bottom line: what we have here is a fascinating but ultimately frustrating and disappointing book.

I came to know Hauerwas (probably like many evangelicals) through his frankly amazing book, Resident Aliens. I was assigned that book as a seminary student at Southwestern Seminary and I have never forgotten the impact it had/has on my life. In it, Hauerwas and Will Willimon issue a clarion call for the church's liberation from Constantinianism and conformity. They call on the church to be a polis within thepolis and to offer a radical, counter-cultural community in the midst of the fallen world.

I soaked up their message like a sponge, believing it then, and now, to be a faithful articulation of New Testament ecclesiology. This shot of Anbaptist ecclesiology mediated through a Methodist absolutely rocked my world and I feel that, in many ways, it helped me understand the New Testament concept of the church in ways I previously had not. I am, and will remain, forever grateful for Hauerwas' work here.

Since I was first introduced to Hauerwas, I've known him to be an eclectic, unique, and, at times, infuriating writer. For instance, Hauerwas is a pacifist and I am not...but I don't think I can ever think about war in quite the same way as I did before reading him. Oddly enough, I even used Hauerwas' work in my little book on church discipline, Walking Together (that I found helpful material in Hauerwas on this issue is yet another indication of his appreciation for Mennonite John Howard Yoder's work and ecclesiology).

The additional works of his that I have digested have never failed to stimulate my mind and heart and I do try to read Hauerwas whenever given the chance.

This memoir has certainly explained Stanley Hauerwas. A few themes occur again and again: Hauerwas' humble and hard-working roots, his sense of being an outsider, his growing awareness of God and Christian truth, and, above them all, his utterly disastrous relationship with his mentally-ill wife (now deceased), Anne.

I was particularly struck and inspired by Hauerwas' work ethic:

"I am often asked how I get done all I get done. The answer is simple - I work. I get up at five every morning and I work till six every evening. I do not waste time. If I have fifteen minutes, I can read this or that. It is the same principle as never going to the keg without carrying back some block [a reference to the bricklaying of Hauerwas' youth]. To be so determined can be oppressive for others, as well as for me, at times. Thanks to Paula I have learned to rest - a little. But I work because I love the work I have been given to do."

Hauerwas is a natural born storyteller, and he does not disappoint in painting a picture of his life. If you are interested in the inner workings of academia and the running of academic departments, you will find Hauerwas' often dramatic retellings of the ins and outs of institutional life at places like Notre Dame and Duke absolutely enthralling.

And yet, I was disappointed with this memoir in certain very important ways, primarily in how it reveals Hauerwas as holding a vision of himself as anti-establishment while simultaneously revealing the same old tired liberal cliches. I found one of his anecdotes to be particularly ironic:

For several years we lived next door to Stanley Fish and Jane Tompkins. We liked them both. Stanley is one of the most competitive and kind people I know. I loved to run with Stanley. Once, as we ran the neighborhood, I told him I knew his secret. In spite of his criticism of liberals, he cannot help but be one. He stopped, looked at me, and said, "Don't you tell anyone."

This is ironic because as I read the book I came slowly to believe this very thing about Hauerwas: "In spite of his criticism of liberals, he cannot help but be one." Hauerwas would chafe at such an idea. He is, after all, quick (and repetitive) in painting himself as a maverick:

The challenge I have mounted against the accommodation of the church to the ethos of modernity is my attempt to help us recover our ability to pray to God, and to imagine what it might mean to be Christian in a world we do not control.

And, of course, his writing in many ways bears this out. Even so, he does so sound like one of the ever-shrinking number of mainline liberals (shrinking because their churches are shrinking) when he tells us, for instance, that he "does not like Southern Baptists" or that publishing with IVP really was a bold thing for an academic to do. He plays his cards most clearly when he discusses the question of gay unions:

Paula often has to help me "get" what a friend is trying to tell me. David Jenkins tried to tell me he was gay. He told me he had been invited to live with a young man who often came to church with him. I told him I thought that would be a good idea, because I worried that he might be lonely. He told me he was going to march in a parade supporting the mayor of Durham, who had signed a law against sexual discrimination in city hiring practices. Since I thought that such a law would be just, I commended his involvement. Paula finally had to tell me David was gay.
I remain unsure if we can call the relationship between gay people "marriage," but I know that David's friendship enriches Paula's and my marriage. I hope and pray for the day when Christians can be so confident in their understanding of marriage that we can welcome gay relationships for their promise of building up the body of Christ. That I have such a hope and that I pray such a prayer has everything to do with my and Paula's friendship with David. I think, moreover, that this is the way it should work.

Ah, yes! How very prophetically counter-cultural of you, Stanley. My how you've freed yourself from accommodationist liberalism. One cannot help but be struck at this point in the memoir how a man who has seemingly read everything, who understands complex theological, philosophical, and ethical arguments, who wields nuance and qualification like a surgeon's scalpel could sound so very much like the American leftist establishment in weighing in on the issue of gay marriage. "David's friendship enriches Paula's and my marriage"? There you go! Case closed.

Let me propose a truly radical and brave position for an academic to take: to demonstrate, like Robert Gagnon at Pittsburgh Seminary has, that the biblical witness clearly speaks against homosexual activity as sinful.

At the end of the day, I will likely continue to find Hauerwas' ecclesiology to be radically refreshing and truly prophetic...but I have indeed lost some respect for him as a biblical thinker (something he would likely claim not to be anyway).

Finally this: by Hauerwas' own admission, his grasp of theological and ethical texts is much stronger than his grasp of scripture. I do so wonder whether or not Hauerwas might not benefit from at least some expressions of the (gasp!) evangelical biblical scholarship from which he would no doubt want to distance himself.

It pains me to write this. I've considered myself a fan, but, at the end of the day, it just so happens that the entity known as (in the words of Hauerwas' late friend Richard John Neuhaus) "the rheumatoid left" is more of Hauerwas' home than I previously wanted to believe.

What a shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and surprising memoir, October 14, 2010
This review is from: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Hardcover)
I do not have a great familiarity with Hauwerwas's writings apart from 'Resident Aliens' and a few articles, but I heard positive things about his new memoir so I thought it would be worth a try, since the vocation of theologian is one that I aspire to.

The main descriptive term for this book is 'honesty'. Hauwerwas is famed for his straight-talking, and it is on display here. He gives us a clear presentation of his life of faith and study, not holding back on his failings and the many struggles that he has faced. He emerges as a paradoxical figure; a natural intellectual with a working-class background, a theologian of the church who has been without an ecclesiastical 'home' for most of his life, a man with a love of friendship who has often been lonely and misunderstood. The discussion of his relationship with his son and his painful first marriage are especially touching and reveal his indomitable spirit.

His quest with this memoir is to understand how he relates to the entity known as 'Stanley Hauwerwas', America's 'best theologian', and to narrate how the vow of his mother has led him to become a theologian first and then eventually a Christian. Hauwerwas has a lively mind and an engaging style, and I could not put this book down. I thank God for the triumph of the church and of the hope of Christ in his life.
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Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir
Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir by Stanley Hauerwas (Hardcover - April 16, 2010)
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