A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Character of Virtue

This review is a preview of the podcast/videocast conversation I had with Stanley Hauerwas that will be posted this Thursday (03.03.2023). I will publish the link in my usual places.
Stanley Hauerwas' book, The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson is an important read in the times in which we find ourselves. I am drawn to this book for two reasons: First, as a pastor for thirty-eight years who baptized many children and spoken with lots of godparents, I was so pleased to see how seriously Stanley took this profound role to nurture his Godson through his wisdom and presence. I wish I would have had this resource when I was a pastor. I would have given a copy to every godparent I encountered.

The second draw for me is the deep frustration I have had for some time with how so many Christians in America have rejected the central place of character and virtue for good leadership. I sum up my frustration by saying that in the 1990s liberal Christians showed they didn't care about the necessity of morality for leadership in their continued support of Bill Clinton, and conservative Christians have demonstrated the same in electing and continuing to give approval to Donald Trump. Moreover, the news of numerous egregious acts of abuse (sexual and otherwise) by celebrity pastors, and the shaming of the victims who come forward does not make a compelling case for following Jesus.

The church in America needs a moral gut check and put what it means to be like and act like Jesus in all aspects of life back at the center of its life, and Stanley's book is way to help us do that.

As with all of Hauerwas' books, there are many quotables. I give you a few to whet you appetite for the book.
  • Americans are extremely frightened to live in a world in which we are so powerful, which is why we'll go to any length to make ourselves feel safe.
  • To treat everyone "the same," for example, can result in deep injustice. Justice requires an ability to see differences for the difference they should make.
  • Sentimentality is the greater enemy of the life of virtue just to the extent that sentimentality names the assumption that we can be kind without being truthful.
  • Simplicity is best understood as the virtue characteristic of those who don't have to try to be what they are.
  • God makes us members of his Christ through baptism, which means national boundaries can't determine our relation to one another.
  • ...I believe kindness to be the very character of God.
  • No virtue is more important to me than the virtue of patience. (If you want to know why read the book.)
  • Cynicism is the form that hopelessness takes among among a people who no longer believe they're part of a story that gives them hope.
  • I want to commend to you the virtue of courage, because it will require courage to be a truthful person.
  • For Aquinas, it's martyrs, not soldiers who best exemplify courage.
  • Simplicity is but a mark of one's being at peace with who one is in relation to God and God's creation.
There is so much more wisdom in the pages of this book. I highly commend it for your consideration.

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