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With vigor, he discourses on virtue

Published February 14, 2007


To say Stanley M. Hauerwas can be a bit blunt is putting it mildly.

His opinions about religion and the state of Christianity are often controversial. Jesus was a radical, he points out.

Hauerwas, a professor of theological ethics at Duke University's Divinity School, will share some of those thoughts Tuesday during a lecture at Eckerd College.

His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic, was named one of the 100 most spiritually significant books of the 20th century by Christianity Today magazine, along with the works of C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sigmund Freud and W.E.B. Du Bois. Hauerwas also made Time magazine's 2001 "best in culture and society" issue.

Hauerwas, 66, is married to a United Methodist minister. They attend an Episcopal church, where his wife was invited to be a member of the clergy. She does not, however, administer the sacraments, Hauerwas said.

An unapologetic pacifist, Hauerwas touched on several topics during a brief telephone interview this week:

Why are you considered controversial?

Because I tell Christians that they ought to do what they say. They ought to forgive their enemies. There isn't an asterisk in the Sermon on the Mount that says, "Unless they are Arabs."

How should Christians make their mark on society?

By telling the truth. I think that one of the problems has been that Christians have often accepted the speech habits that characterize general assumptions about America that have not done us any good in terms of how we should be witnessing to what we think is true. (For example, to say) I think Jesus is Lord, but that is just my personal opinion.

What should Christians be doing?

The first task of the church is to be the church, because only when you do that do you have the ability to be a witness to the wider society. It is only when you worship God that you are then able to say what is true. Most Americans think that everyone believes in God. The God most Americans believe in is not the God of Jesus Christ. (For instance) Christians can't assume that it's okay to be in the military.

The title of your lecture is intriguing: "Why No One Wants to Die in America." What does that mean?

It means that we live in a society that's in deep death denial. Assuming that most Christians live like other people, thinking they can get out of life alive. It's not going to happen. People care more about who their doctor is today than who their priest or minister is. Most Christians live lives of practical atheism. ... Atheism isn't explicitly a denial of God, it's to live in a way that God does not matter.

If you go

Hear for yourself

Stanley Hauerwas will speak on "Why No One Wants to Die in America," 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Raymond James Room at Fox Hall, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Call 867-1166.

[Last modified February 13, 2007, 22:19:19]

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