At the Bookstore--Stanley Hauerwas

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My friend here is a lifelong reader. He reads very, very slowly. As a result he is particular about what he reads. However, he has a very nice bookstore nearby--a very large--two story Barnes and Noble which has no rival anywhere near where I live. Also this city (Naples) seems to be stuffed to the gills with used bookstores, once again, the antithesis of where I live.

As we were carefully combing through the store, looking at all the wonders there were to read, I noticed one of the advantages of a very large bookstore. Looking through the "Religion" section, and particularly the section on "Catholic Thought," I found both I Am a Daughter of the Church and I Want to See God on the shelves. I was shocked. In addition, I was able to once again find the full four volumes of the Philokalia--something I haven't seen on the shelves of religious specialty stores.

Of course, this also has its down-side. The complete opus of anti-Bishop Spong pocked the shelves like so many pustules. There were other verminous writings as well. But it was nice that the store was large enough to have balance. Normally one finds the Spong Opus without any relief from the orthodox contingent. And I'm certain that Neil could pull out from Spong's collected works one or another gem. Honestly, that's way too much slogging for me.

Anyway, the whole purpose of writing this was to mention a collection of essays I found by Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas is a renowned Christian thinker and a longtime contributor to First Things who left regular contribution after the September 11 attacks. I don't recall the reason at the time, but it seemed logical and integral. Here is a brief piece in which Hauerwas offers a tribute to the work of Il Magnifico (John Paul II).

That said, the book had no price, and I don't spend my time running books to cashier to figure out how much I'm likely to pay for it. So I did not buy it. However, there were some intriguing titles and I did read the majority of one essay. The Title, "Why Gays (as a group) Are More Moral than Christians (as a Group),"

I didn't follow the whole premise because I was skimming, but it seems I must take another look at the chain of reasoning. The whole question centered around Gays in the military and even touched lightly on the question of Just War--a central question I often find myself returning to. And here's the rub--it is very annoying to find oneself with enough intellectual resources to understand the question, but simply not enough intellectual wherewithal to reasonable "encounter" and wrestle with the question. This is the quandary I often find myself in. In high questions of morals, theology, and other such matters, I can often follow the discussion and agree to the chain of reason, but all too often I find myself incapable of making any substantive contribution to the engagement. While I can assent to the reasoning, it seems to me that reasoning merely provides the guidance whereby one ultimately makes a choice and the choice need not always be made on reason alone. Reason must be informed by mercy, compassion, and charity--animated by the whole human spirit or else, it seems, reason becomes a tyrant.

Reason must be consulted and even used to the best of our ability to inform and to decided the correct course of action. But it seems to me that there is room for the rest of the human being in any discussion that occurs. Once reason has spoken, perhaps other factors militate against the decision made in coldest reason. I don't know. But what I do know is that on these matters I seem to be doomed to a life of confusion anyway. I am drawn like a moth to the flame to consider them, and yet I find great frustration in tangling with them because they seem so far beyond me. I love to hear others talk about them, but my capacity is merely interested spectator and that is a great burden sometimes. Nevertheless, to pretend otherwise would be to place myself well beyond my own limits and to give capacity where none really exists.

My, I've wandered far from where I started. But that is the pleasure of writing as one will. Writing is often a path of discovery--it leads to the heart of thought and the heart of prayer. It is a map of many undiscovered countries and looking back over its contours one often finds what one has been looking for a long time. The wonders of blogging and of writing. Now back to the image gathering that I hope will lead to more poetry.

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I think Hauerwas' point in that essay, if I recall correctly, was that if Christians were really being true to their "just-war" convictions, the military would regard them as unreliable and potentially troublesome, much as they currently regard gays! Hauerwas is a pacifist (which is part of the reason he severed his relationship with First Things - FT came out pretty strongly for war after 9/11), but he thinks that even living by just war principles would make Christians a pain in the neck for the military (because they would refuse to carry out certain orders, would have to question whether the missions they were being told to carry out met the test of just war, etc.).

Dear Lee,

Yes, that was the point exactly. The Just War part pointed out that if Catholic Soldiers fought merely to incapacitate and not to kill and in a strictly limited fashion, we would be a far greater threat to the military.

And yes Hauerwas is a pacifist. I believe he is even a pacifist of the strictly non-resistant type (on this I am less certain.)

Thanks for the comment and thanks for stopping by.



"I am drawn like a moth to the flame to consider them, and yet I find great frustration in tangling with them because they seem so far beyond me. I love to hear others talk about them, but my capacity is merely interested spectator...

Hi, Steven! I was very interested in your post about reason vs. mercy and charity, and about participating in discussions that require large amounts of all these.

I have read and heard many reasonable discourses, and many charitable ones, too, but rare to find are ones possessing both, and among them - rarer still - is a certain extra something that I realize I'm always looking for...

Does it seem to you that the writings and observations of some authors exude, as it were, a scent of holiness? That there is an otherworldly sweetness about the way they express their thoughts and ideas (some of which may be of ordinary quality in themselves); there is a solid grasp of the truth, indeed, but with it, a luminous tactfulness that looks to offend no one, a reticent but unmistakable kindness that does not patronize; a piercing beauty is present, so to speak, in the very spaces between their words. . . Now, I'm waxing poetic, but I knew you would understand. All I can say is that a heavenly fragrance attaches to some authors' writing and conversation.

When I come upon those engaged in such writing and conversation - oh! - if only they will have me, wild horses couldn't drag me away (even though I might contribute little but my prayers.)

Thank you, Steven.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 7, 2005 7:20 AM.

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