Sunday, October 06, 2013

Hauerwas, A Primer

I took this photo several years ago, and I couldn't tell you the name or the location of the church for love or money.

But it really doesn't matter.  Because it could be any church in the US, and it faithfully reproduces the mindset of almost any church in the US.

The American church, in virtually all its iterations, assumes the fundamental compatibility of American imperial might and the church's evangelical mission.

If it is a conservative or evangelical church, it will happily pair these two activities on a Prayer Bulletin Board, and will unironically plaster the background with American flags--on both sides of the board.

If it is a progressive or liberal church, it will conscientiously refuse to recognize either of these two activities as worthy of the church's attention, thereby confirming the indissoluble bond between the two.

It is incomprehensible to either kind of church that the Church is called to witness to a gospel that differentiates between belief and unbelief and that places coercive violence on the side of unbelief.  "Pick one," the American church whispers, "and keep busy condemning those who've picked the other."

I stick with the United Methodist Church year after year, disappointment after disappointment, General Conference after General Conference, because I keep hoping that our theological DNA will start expressing itself; that our parents in the faith, John and Charles and Susanna and Phoebe, who refused to bifurcate evangelical witness and social justice, will somehow speak again in the lives of their children.  I keep hoping that Methodists will become disenchanted with respectability and politicking and will once again be methodical--ploddingly, embarrassingly, pragmatically methodical--in their pursuit of personal and social holiness.