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Gunning for the Theologian

Stanley Hauerwas under fire. Plus further shows of restraint.

3.2.03

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ETHICS AND EVIL
Re: George Neumayr's Divine Decadence:

Stanley Hauerwas is a perfect example of the modern day Theologian, "forever learning but never coming to true knowledge." Theoretical ethics have no place in Christianity, for the teachings of Christ are not based on theory, and ethics are based on the teachings of Christ. Theologians exemplify the Bible verse: "God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to confound the wise." They drift from the message of good over evil, and charity (love) toward your fellow man, to an abstract of life that makes the evil rise up and shout HEAR! HEAR! while making the good sadly shake their heads in sadness.
-- Charles Elliott
Houston, TX

While I agree with many of your conclusions in "Divine Decadence," you did not, unless I am mistaken, confront Prof. Hauerwas's argument directly, on its own theological ground.

I believe Prof. Hauerwas may be misunderstanding several statements in the New Testament. As I recall, Christ says, for example, "resist not evil." But were this and similar biblical admonitions simplistic calls to unconditional pacifism in the outer world (a pacifism such as Prof. Hauerwas seems to adhere to), or were they something more difficult? Prof. Hauerwas probably doesn't take Christ's statement, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword," simplistically -- why then does he apparently take such an approach to the admonitions about not resisting evil? I don't know about Prof. Hauerwas, but it's clear that many who take positions similar to his do so because they would rather feel inwardly "pure" than face up to a world that sometimes morally compels us to choose between two evils, a lesser and a greater. A concern with one's inner feelings (even for feeling "pure" or "angelic"), to the point where others' and the world's real difficulties are evaded, is arguably not at all Christian, but merely a symptom of the original Fall. If so, the title of your piece on Prof. Hauerwas ("Divine Decadence") was doubly apt.
-- Edward Udell
Chestnut Ridge, NY

Your review of Stanley Hauerwas's editorial piqued my interest on several levels. First, I was interested in how a "theologian" might frame his argument. Second, I was interested to see what scripture was referenced and how his argument was developed. So, after reading George Neumayr's comments I clicked the link and read the original piece.

I read theology with a different set of glasses than most people. I earned a Masters in Theology, a program that requires learning Greek and Hebrew as well as the study of all sixty-six books of the Bible in concert with Church History, Systematic Theology, Christian Education, Missions, and Pastoral Ministry. Sadly, we did not have the benefit of an ethics course in the 126-hour curriculum.

Professor Hauerwas committed at least one logical fallacy. He appealed to his authority as a professor in ethics to make his case. I found it interesting that as a theologian he chose not to refer to any prime data in the construction of his essay (Prime data for a theologian is Scripture). Further he uses terms he chooses not to define, "Christian Non-Violence," what is that? What is the support for the position?

Sadly, the professor did not have anything of substance to add. He shallowly attempted to drape a "Christian ethical" shroud over the same arguments that liberals have been parroting for the past several months. He used the same device that his political counterparts continually use, namely, accuse the opponent of what you are doing. He chided Bush for invoking faith in his position while doing the same with his.

This shallow, transparent attempt to legitimize a political position in the name of "Christian Theological Ethics" is at best intellectually offensive. At worst it is a blatant misuse of terminology, and stature, to defend an evil position.
-- J. Michael Cunningham

George Neumayr's piece on the "theologian ethicist" Stanley Hauerwas, who advocates no war and makes an argument that Hussein is no more evil than many other office holders, was excellent and a good example of pointing out the fallacy of liberal theology.

Not to nit pick, but Neumayr's statement that Hauerwas's theology came from the secularism of the '60s is only partially right. All liberal theology dates to the 1800s with the beginning of liberal theology in Germany. Which was also the beginning, and out growth, of modern existentialism, though existentialism had been around for many a millennia before.

Liberal theology has many problems because it views everything as relative rather than through the lens of truth. To argue that Christianity and pacifism are related, by extension, is vacuous sophistry. The Lord Jesus Christ came and died for our sins! Were His actions that of a pacifist when He challenged the money changers in the Temple, when He accused the Sanhedrin of sin, when He denied Pilate the Roman duty of response? No, Christ was declaring war on sin and Satan and He was put to a violent death, to be raised on the third day, to pay the price of our sin! If that is not enough evidence, how about when our Lord returns in the last days and slays every non-believer. (Mr. Hauerwas is directed to the last book of the Bible.) The lesson is simple: sometimes violence is the only way to peace and blind peace (peace for the sake of peace) is always a one-way street to violence.

To Hauerwas and his ilk, Christ's suffering on the cross was pointless and unnecessary because we, humans, are relatively good and we define good. Hauerwas the theologian would be well served by reading his Bible and learning the lesson we are all sinners, we are all evil, but despite our fallen condition God is glorified by calling us to preach the Gospel to all nations (is that what Pres. Bush is doing, following a higher command) and we are God's instruments to carry out His will, which is often the punishment of unconstrained evil, such as Hussein.

Also, if Hauerwas takes my suggestion, he would find that God's word is not pliable and changing, like men, but firm, just and timeless. And that is the true violence of liberal theology, it treats God like he is a super one of us, fallible and changing. He is not like us, and we should all be grateful for that.

It takes great courage to step into an escalating situation, which Hauerwas has none. He merely advocates turning a blind eye to Hussein (not the other cheek, which is a different lesson) and hoping for the best. Cowardice is not an ethic, it is a shame.

Thank you, George, for noting that Mr. Hauerwas does not speak for Christian ethics, but his own liberal view of relativism.
-- Steve Shaver

WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING
Re: James Bowman's Restraint Is Dead:

Dorothy Rabinowitz is correct (as she almost always is). Go talk to any service member or veteran and they will tell you medals are not "won" but "awarded". You cannot ask for one; a fellow soldier has to apply on your behalf.
-- David Clayton Carrad
Augusta, GA

In an otherwise brilliant article, Mr. Bowman quotes a the true statement of, "Dorothy Rabinowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal that, among the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor and their families, there is a firm prejudice against using the word 'win' or 'won' about the medal." Unbelievably, three sentences later he writes, "...Sergeants Shugart and Gordon, who both won the Congressional Medal of Honor..." (emphasis added)

Arrrgh. I am restraining myself from saying more.
-- Rick Osial
Arlington, VA

INSPECTOR SPECTER
Re: The Washington Prowler's Show It Toomey:

Is this the Arlen Specter who divined, or pretended to, that: a bullet striking President Kennedy defied the laws of physics in its course through the President's body; Robert Bork's alleged venality disqualified him for the U.S. Supreme Court; Ira Einhorn. a young woman's murderer, should be released, enabling the murderer's odyssey through decadent Europe during the last quarter of the 20th Century; and the articles of impeachment of Bill Clinton weren't "proven," despite the President's admitted lies and use of his high office and public officials and employees to facilitate his fornications and the obvious machinations, at his direction, of the blimpish Richardson, the dusky Jordan, and the oily Bacon (to name but a few) to cover up his crimes?

This Senatorial "Good Friend" has as much baggage as Sharpton and Moseley-Braun. Michael Corleone quotes his father that friends should be kept close, but enemies closer. However, in a better world President Bush could keep Specter at the distance he deserves -- preferably back in Pennsylvania and out of the U.S. Senate, freeing him to hang with his true kindred such as Senators Jeffords, Levin, Leahy, Lieberman, Boxer, Clinton, and other "progressives."
-- J. R. Wheatley

LAPTIME
Re: Reader Mail's Spilt Coffee and Michael Craig's Hooray for Lawyers!

Allow me, if you please, to reply in a more civil tone than before (I read the blog on the death of restraint). Consider if you will, Mr. Craig, that it is no one's fault but the plaintiffs' that the coffee was spilled. Once you have bailment of a commodity, such as any potentially harmful substance, let us imagine gunpowder for example, and you spill it unintentionally next to a dropped lit cigarette, something dreadful will occur. Whatever became of personal responsibility? I myself was nearly killed in an accident almost 20 years ago, because I just failed to look carefully before crossing the street. I was pursued by a squad of lawyers for many months, beseeching me to sue the man who hit me, so that I might get something they said I should. I am still crippled and scarred today. The only thing I really needed is to be more careful and perhaps, avoid barristers. I was at fault for the accident, and I accept that responsibility, though it has been painful, debilitating, and career ending. I'm sure you've heard of the term for it. It's called being a man about it.
-- Brian Barfield

Why on earth did you print that inaccurate pro-lawyer propaganda piece? I could find no redeeming value or humor in it. Maybe we're a little paranoid here in West Virginia, where the trial lawyers have taken over the state's legal system and legislature and the current governor, ruining countless lives to create a few multimillionaire attorneys. Many WV newspapers print letters like Mr. Craig's every week, especially when there is discussion of legal reform in the legislature. But it's sad to see a good magazine like yours sink to that level.

Sincerely, a TAS/Prowler reader/subscriber for decades,
-- Bill Wagner
Shepherdstown, WV

The lawyer Michael Craig's reply to his critics in Reader Mail only proves their point. Somehow, lawyers think that by arguing the same point over and over, but more vehemently, will win their case. It does in court a lot, mostly because the smart people are all stricken from the jury pool. I doesn't work on me.

Craig says that the woman in the McDonald's coffee incident was burned (actually scalded) badly and in the hospital 8 days. How does that make your point, Mr. Craig? Coffee tastes better hot, that's why it was sold to her hot. You don't put it between your legs in a moving vehicle -- you deserve as many days in the hospital as you end up with when it spills.

Oh, but the jury reduced the "award" by either 20% or 80%, depending on which sentence you read in Craig's reply. What difference does that make? McDonalds's and others cannot be responsible for this woman and the 700 or more stupid people he mentions.

Don't complain about the price of your McMuffins in the future, Michael Craig. They need to make up that money to pay for some BMW payments for lawyers like yourself.
-- Jimmy Antley

I've had this argument before with lawyers. I have yet to understand how it was McDonald's fault for the burns from the coffee. Coffee is sold hot, at least from a restaurant. Any cup/container placed between the knees and in a moving car has a great potential for spilling. McDonald's did not force the women to place it between her legs. If McDonald's threw the coffee at her I guess it would be McDonald's fault. They did not.
-- Tim Pfister

POWER PLAYS
Re: Bob Johnson's letter in reply to Ken Shreve in Reader Mail Spilt Coffee:

I was born and raised in Washington D.C. I understand the way politics are played. Since at least the time of FDR, the Democrats have skillfully played serious professional hard ball politics. The Republicans are experts at playing recreational league slo-pitch softball. This is exactly the type ball game enjoyed by the limousine Liberal Republicans and the Republican "Moderates" who are afraid that they might somehow actually win.

I learned the game watching Truman and Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill and George Mitchell and, yes, Bill Clinton. A successful game is not played by rewarding your enemies and "dissing" your friends and supporters.

I have always been a conservative Republican, but I can still appreciate skill and talent when I see it. When the above-mentioned Democrats controlled the Presidency and/or the two legislative branches, and they said they needed your vote, you gave it. You knew that there was a price to be paid if you did not. Republicans refuse to exact any price for lack of support. Example; the Senate leadership should be forcing round the clock, on your feet, filibustering of Estrada, not the gentlemanly lets all go home and be comfortable kind. Bush should be railing against the obstructers in every speech he gives.

Bush has yet to internalize the absolute fact that the Democrats are not going to like or support him and, in fact, are going to accuse him of things most vile no matter how many nice things he does for them. He is teaching them over and over that there is no price to be paid for their lies and overblown, overwrought rhetoric and subsequent actions.

Instead, we have a reliable Republican conservative legislator, Tom Tancredo, made persona-non-gratia at the White House for daring to oppose the "let's throw open our borders to illegal aliens" crowd. Well, I guess, according to Mr. Johnson's infallible logic, Representative Tancredo will have to join me in Cuba or Iraq. We can't upset the Mexican government by enforcing our immigration laws. I am going to join a distinguished group in Cuba. There will be Michelle Malkin, a couple of writers at National Review, and some other distinguished columnists.

Bush has diddled and dithered with the whole Saddam mess until it has become a lead weight sinking his popularity and his momentum. Hey, we need to appease the Dems by getting a resolution from Congress. Hey, we need to appease the domestic and international Socialists by getting a resolution from the U.N. It has been 14 months now. The opponents and Bush haters have organized and planned and gained the momentum. France and Germany really love Bush now, don't they. The world wide peace marches are now beginning to achieve decent numbers. The Hollywood crowd really loves Bush now, don't they. We should have been in and out by now. We should be finished with the problematic portion of the situation and ready to effectively concentrate on North Korea. Hey, we even have a second member of government in Canada "dissing" us publicly now.

But, hey, I don't need to worry. Mr. Johnson is having me deported to Cuba or Iraq. Another conservative that dares to criticize Bush gotten rid of. Ah, sweet success.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
Re: Enemy Central's Breaking the Ice:

If any teacher who did what those Maine teachers did tried that with my children, the only thing that would keep them breathing would be divine intervention.

I think all of their names, addresses and telephone numbers should be made public so we can unleash our disgust at them.
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, TN

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