Stanley Hauerwas had trouble making a lay-in in the mid-60’s. But he wasn’t at our seminary for basketball. Not for a blink. Rather, he was there to learn and see the ways in which courage and wisdom, in never having wordless deeds, became manifest. Degreed in ethics he “professored” at Notre Dame and Duke Divinity School. Is now retired.
In the current Reflections Magazine from Yale Divinity School he helped me understand some of the undercurrents—but strong in causing what’s happening today in politics—make sense. At least to me. And my hopes, to and for you.
“Trump has given voice to a widespread discontent in our culture. The racism and anxiety that Trump has exploited are, I believe, manifestations of an even deeper pathology, namely, the profound sense of unease that many Americans have about their lives.”
To me…that’s spot-on—the overall malaise has to do with the inner self, not the tirading from more than one candidate.
Stanley continues, “Resentment is another word for the unease that seems to grip good, middle-class—mostly white—people who have worked hard all their lives yet find that are no better off than when they started. They deeply resent what they interpret as the special treatment some receive in an effort to right the wrongs of the past. In short, Americans are angry but they are not sure at whom to direct that anger appropriately.”
Stanley then rings up the Christian Church saying, “…the mainstream church is struggling against a culture of consumption. Americans find they have no good reason for going to church. The statistical decline in the number of Christians had led some church leaders to think our primary job is to find ways to increase church membership. At a time when Christians are seeking to say something confident and useful about church growth, what we communicate is superficial and simplistic. You do not need to come to church to be told you need to nice to those with less.”
Then he focuses upon the key—at least to me—that bears the title of his essay, “A New Search for Good Life.”
It is this, capitalization intended,
The key is, “TO LIVE IN A MANNER THAT WE WOULD WANT NO OTHER LIFE THAN THE LIFE WE HAVE LIVED. SUCH LIVES MAY WELL BE FILLED WITH SUFFERING AND FAILURE, BUT SUFFERING AND FAILURES ARE NOT BLOCKS TO HAVING LIVED A GOOD LIFE. TO HAVE LIVED A GOOD LIFE IS TO HAVE LIVED IN A MANNER THAT WE HOPE WE CAN BE REMEMBERED BY THOSE WHO HAVE FOUND OUR LIVES CRUCIAL FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR THEM TO WANT NO OTHER LIFE THAN THE ONE THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN. TO BE HAPPILY REMEMBERED IS TO HAVE LIVED WITH A MODESTY THAT INDICATES OUR DEPENDENCE ON OTHERS, MAKING POSSIBLE THE SATISFACTIN OF DOING THE RIGHT THING WITHOUT REGRET OR NOTICE.
“’This is my life. I want for no other’ is an expression of what in the past was called a good life. The language of the good life is still used, but now its meaning has altered: It refers to lives that have not been unduly burdened. To have had a good life now means our second marriage turned out all right, the children did not become addicts, and we had enough savings to retire. Such an understanding of the good life too often produces people who regret the life they have lived because they feel it has been a life without consequence.”
And finally, “I am not, of course, suggesting that what it means to live a good life will be the same for everyone. But I do believe that to have lived well makes it possible to want no other life than the life I have lived. To want no other life than the life each of us has lived, a life that often has moments of failure or betrayal, is made possible by what we call the forgiveness of sins. To live the good life would be the first line of defense against the politics of resentment that defines our times.”
Thank you, Stanley Hauerwas…I am the better because of your reflections and the ways in which, once literally when I was a pastor at Broadmoor Church in Colorado Springs and you spoke to and with us, and speak even now in our “retirement mode.” Shalom!