War and the American Difference – An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas

From : http://practicalmattersjournal.org/issue/5/centerpieces/war-and-the-american-difference

John E. Senior and Stanley Hauerwas

In his book, War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity (Baker Academic 2011), Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas argues that war is one moral experience that all Americans in the United States1 share. It is “the glue that gives Americans a common story.” Americans, therefore, make war and need war, because war makes “us who we are.”

Why war? To answer this question, Hauerwas continues a familiar refrain from his previous writings: that the United States is a liberal society that recognizes no common source of value, meaning, and identity. Americans have no shared story, rather they are united by a shared fear of death, which is to be avoided at all costs. For Americans, Hauerwas argues, freedom means the attempt to live as though death is only a “theoretical possibility” which can be successfully evaded. Americans rely on the unconstrained accumulation of wealth and consumption to sustain this fantasy, and wage war to secure it.

In the second half of the book, Hauerwas explores dimensions of the Christian experience that provide responses to the culture of war in American life. For Hauerwas, the Church is a local presence in a globalized world that receives the world with patience and generosity instead of belligerence. The Church in “diaspora,” witnesses to God’s call to peace and reconciliation as revealed in the story it tells about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this interview, I discuss with Professor Hauerwas the main themes of his book and his reasons for writing it.


4 thoughts on “War and the American Difference – An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas

  1. “For Americans, Hauerwas argues, freedom means the attempt to live as though death is only a “theoretical possibility” which can be successfully evaded.”

    Kill or be Killed!

  2. Wazza, I think maybe your posts are too intellectual? They don’t get many comments.

    Okay, here’s a big question for you. The revolutionary war and the civil war, i think many non-american christians could argue weren’t necessary, and a little baffling. Esp when you look at the history of Canada and Australia in comparison.

    Many people are divided over America’s post ww2 wars – even those who were advocates admitted later they were mistaken.

    But ww2? What was the “Christian” or right option for the US and England. Could there have been a better way to deal with Hitler?

    Like to take a stab at the million dollar question and tell me what would have happened if England and the US didn’t declare war, or at least agreed to earlier conditional surrenders.

    FIghting does seem to lead to more fighting. Whether its in marriage, signposts or between countries.

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