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Why Emergent Needs the Hauerwasian Mafia

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Tony Jones recently posted a chapter on the Hauerwasian Mafia (HM) left out of his most recent book on the emergent church. He details his journey in and out of Hauerwas country. He highlights a conversation with one of our co-pastors at “Life on the Vine” – Geoff Holsclaw (boy Geoff, were you a wimp or what?) – where he asserts that Hauerwas would not approve of his chaplain role with the local police. Huh? I think this is a confusion. I think Tony’s chaplaincy in service to his local police department provides an excellent example of how Hauerwas would say the church should engage the world (especially the 80’s Hauerwas whom he seems to be characterizing). For it is here where we reveal the character of our Christian convictions as followers of Christ, laying down our lives to minister to the suffering. I don’t think Tony should confuse his chaplain efforts with the kind of chaplaincy Hauerwas’ rejects. Hauerwas rejects the American church’s attempt to hold onto power in society through the maintaining of a chaplaincy relationship to the State. The error Hauerwas seeks to avoid is the one where the church, by maintaining its chaplaincy role to the State, aims to share in the State’s power thereby becoming seduced into being the servant of the State and eventually finding itself compromised and subverted by the State. The result: the church finds itself supporting the Iraq War. I don’t see how Tony’s service as chaplain to the police would violate the Hauerwasian attempt to resist Constantianism. Unless of course Tony was tempted to take up arms, alongside the police force, and use his police weapon to coerce the Hindu to make a decision to covert to Christ, or arrest gay transgressors or pro-choice activists. Since I don’t see Tony doing any of these things, I think Hauerwas would applaud and encourage Tony’s ministry as a wonderful manifestation of the ministry of Christ’s presense in society. I think he would approve of Tony’s deft engagements of folk of other faiths ( see one of Hauerwas’ earliest writings, Community of Character ch. 5).
Having said this, I propose the following three reasons why the Emergent church would be blessed by granting a sanctioned admission to a more vocal Hauerwasian Mafia in the Emergent conversation. Emergent would gain:

  1. A wherewithal to resist the Constantinian seduction to opt out for the easier way towards accomplishing justice in the world. I think we too quickly (not always!) opt out to collaborate with State agencies to achieve Christian ends (justice). The Emergent voices could use a sober sense of the mistakes of protestant liberal social strategies of the past ( which is why we’re in this mess in the first place)
  2. The means to seriously consider the church as a social-political strategy (mirco-political) for justice in the world, as opposed to a Christian alumni association for the recruitment of individuals to talk about and engage in an ever elusive ethereal justice that never quite hits the ground.
  3. An alternative engagement with continental philosophy that takes things beyond the deconstructive discussions of Derrida, Caputo, Kearney and friends.

Furthermore, if I can become even more bold, let me suggest three more advantages the Emergent church would receive by adopting the HM into the fold.

  1. In Hauerwas, they would have someone who could teach Mark Driscoll a thing or two about inappropriate language.
  2. Embracing the HM would allow Emergent to p_ss off the protestant liberal churches equally as well as they already p_ss of the evangelical fundamentalists
  3. Lastly, the Emergent leaders, by embracing pacificism, could make their first definitive doctrinal position ever on anything, realizing that pacifism is not actually a doctrinal position but the epistemological (Christological) basis which makes possible an open never ending conversation in the first place.

OK, the last three were “tongue-in-cheek.” Any other reasons out there why Hauerwas might be good (or bad) for the Emergent Conversation? Blessings to Tony Jones, the Emergent conversation, and may she keep on rolling.

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