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War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity Paperback – October 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801039290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801039294
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

How are American identity and America's presence in the world shaped by war, and what does God have to do with it?

In War and the American Difference, Stanley Hauerwas reflects theologically on war, church, justice, and nonviolence. He explores such issues as how America depends on war for its identity, how war affects the soul of a nation, the sacrifices that war entails, and why war is considered "necessary," especially in America. He also examines the views of nonviolence held by Martin Luther King Jr. and C. S. Lewis, how Jesus constitutes the justice of God, and the relationship between congregational ministry and Christian formation in America.

"Disenthralling Americans from war will require an authentic realism that displaces the illusions commonly passing for realism. In this luminous volume, Stanley Hauerwas continues the vital work of planting the signposts that show us the way."
--Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston University; author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

"Beginning from the startling claim that war defines American political identity, these essays should interest both religious and secular readers. Hauerwas defends a Christian pacifism that allows no compromises with war, including that most common form of compromise--just war theory. Christians will be powerfully challenged by his claim that nonviolence is a necessary condition of a church that is a living witness to Christ. Secular readers will be forced to rethink the ground of their own commitment to a politics built on violent sacrifice. Hauerwas demands of all of us that we think through the character of our faith and the sources of ultimate meaning in our lives."
--Paul W. Kahn, Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities, Yale Law School

About the Author

Stanley Hauerwas (PhD, Yale University) is the Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author of numerous books, including Cross-Shattered Christ, A Cross-Shattered Church, With the Grain of the Universe, A Better Hope, and Matthew in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Hassertt on November 22, 2011
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I am a patriotic disabled vet and a Christian pastor. This book made me think about war in ways I had never considered. It is insightful, well written and a great read. I found it hard to put down which is not usual for a philosophy/theology book. No mater if you are a pacifist, just war theorist, or an advocate of preventive war, you will learn something if you read this book with an open mind.

Honestly, after reading this book, it is impossible for me, as a pastor to defend our wars from the aspect of Christianity any longer.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul L. Davidson on November 18, 2011
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Stanley Hauerwas has collected his own lectures short articles editing them into cohesive text. His main point is that "honoring war dead" from past wars is the emotional hook to justify new wars. Failure to engage in a new or present call to arms is an act of shame. Since it is an issue of shame, Christians are caught up in the real choice between obedience to Nation and obedience to God. He sees the Church dispersed through out the world, engaged in bring life, rather death. The choice between life and death is clearly made within this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Grant Marshall on August 18, 2012
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I enjoyed this book. Hauweras' central thesis is that in the death and resurrection of Christ war itself has been abolished. For Christians we are then called to live non-violently in the world as we follow Christ and seek to embody his Kingdom. This point was excellent and thoroughly biblical. I think Hauweras could have strengthened his case by discussing Revelation 5 where the Lion John hears is the slain lamb. Another major point is that war is a sacrificial system. Those who die in war make those for whom the have died feel obligated to accept their gifts and repay them in kind. For Hauweras America is a country that cannot live without war. It provides a common and cohesive story that binds the nation together. It also gives us a common enemy to fight against, and people are never so united as when they have a common enemy. However, I wasn't totally convinced by this point. A national identity can be forged in the furnaces of war, but I've always seen America's national identity as "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". Yet there are connections between that identity and War, especially if we are willing to go to war to protect, and in some cases enforce in other nations. American's have rarely been willing to die for Christianity or any other sectarian faith, but have regularly been willing to die for the nation. This gives us some idea of the religious power behind the nation state. These points are worked out in Parts 1 and 2. There is so much gold to be mined in these parts that I will no doubt re-read them soon.

In part 3 Hauweras focuses the difference that body of Christ makes to the world and war.
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By Johnny Walker on September 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
In 1985 Stanley Hauerwas published a short essay with Philip Foubert entitled "On Keeping Theological Ethics Imaginative." His central concern was to illuminate the relationship between morality and imagination, concluding that Christians ethics must be subject to an imagination that is rigorously disciplined by the Christian story. Insofar as we are unable to imagine the world as God's good and redeemed Creation, our lives cease to be faithful. Thus, sin is born ultimately from a failure of imagination.

It is no secret that Hauerwas is an opponent of violence. As perhaps the most prolific and relentless pacifist alive today, he has assembled quite the following. However, as is expected, others have not been so enthralled by this small town, brick-laying Texan. Stephen Webb, in article at First Things, accused Hauerwas of being "antimodern" and in need of "a little Niebhurian realism" to temper his "utopian" ecclesiology.

Webb's quip that Hauerwas lacks "realism" betrays the true nature of their disagreement: it is a battle over the imagination. "Realism", so-called, is nothing more than the assumption that the way the world is, more or less, is the way the world must be. Yet, as Hauerwas states in his 1985 article, Christians are those who have been "challenged by a God who has invited us into an otherwise unimaginable kingdom." And because "Jesus is Lord" has universal import, the story of Jesus disrupts our vision of the whole world and its alleged "musts", making possible "our going beyond the seeming 'necessities' of our available options."

If there is any feature of our world in which our imaginations persistently fail us, surely it is war. We cannot imagine a world without it.
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There's a lot here in this collection if essays. Hauerwas does a great job, as always, of reminding the church that it doesn't just have a story to tell, it is the story by the way it lives out the gospel of Jesus. His modest proposal is not anything new to those familiar with Hauerwas, but it bears repeating again and again that Christians need to stop killing in order to be a faithful witness of Jesus. A good place to start is for Christians to stop killing each other. This is Hauerwas at his best in my opinion. Read and reread these excellent essays.
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