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Political Theology (print) ISSN 1462-317X Political Theology (online) ISSN 1473-1719
T o TRAVEL IN O N E PLACE: OPENINGS FOR A N E W ASCETICISM IN THE THEOLOGY OF STANLEY HAUERWAS
Abo Akademi University Biskopsgatan 16,20500 Abo Finland email@example.com
The article argues that there is an ascetic character implicit in Stanley Hauerwas's thinking and that a more explicit engagement with the Christian ascetical tradition could clarify some lines of thought in it, in particular the relationship between moral formation and witness. The way Hauerwas treats e.g. the virtues and practices that are used to pursue them, the role of spiritual authority and the difference between Church and world show clear similarities to the thought of early Christian ascetics, such as Evagrios of Pontos, Isaac of Nineveh and John Cassian. By shovvnng how Hauerwas by addressing some key theological, ethical and political developments in modern theology opens up the possibility to overcome modern misunderstandings of asceticisms, the author argues for the relevance of asceticism as a political concept in today's world. Keywords: asceticism; Hauerwas; moral formation; virtues.
In this article I will argue three things: one, that the Christian ethics of Stanley Hauerwas can be described as ascetical, that is, it stands in a certain relation with the Christian ascetic tradition; two, that a more explicit interaction with this tradition, particularly in its earlier forms, could help clarify some aspects of his project; finally, I will try to show that Hauerwas's way of doing theology overcomes a number of issues in modern thinking that together have made asceticism incomprehensible.^
1. Patrik Hagman is a post-doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Theology, Abo Akademi University. 2. The most widespread of these are probably the idea that asceticism is built on a strict body-soul dualism, an idea that is today widely discredited among scholars of
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more strongly associated vinth early modernity than late antiquity. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame. asceticism. 150. it is not. by being a member of a church we might fmd that we are tied to other churches in other lands in a more profound manner than we are tied to our nation. 3. to take the time to be a friend and to be loved. because ascetic disciplines are the means to travel in one place. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. . but bere I want to indicate tbat tbe way Hauerwas describes ascetic disciplines could be considered central to his overall theological vision: ascetic discipline are those practices that enable us to move from tbe "world" into God's kingdom. Through them we are slowly recalled from the world of violence that we might envisage how interesting a people of peace might be. 2006). where Hauerwas writes: By not trying to do everything. Matthew (Grand Rapids. 80. For example. For example."" In both tbese cases a lot of importance seems to be attacbed to the concept of asceticism.^ This quotation is intriguing for many reasons. Stanley Hauerwas. learning the discipline to wait. but it is not an area where he has made significant original contributions. MI: Brazos Press. but tbe actual content of tbe concept remains rather elusive. but still culturally prevalent. but to do one thing that applies to ourselves and alters our lives. Rather. is discussed by Hauerwas. in his more recent commentary on tbe Gospel of Mattbew. Tbere are few explicit mentions of asceticism in Hauerwas's writings. It is tbus of interest to furtber try to explicate tbe role of asceticism in Hauerwas's tbinking. Similarly. The most striking one is in the concluding pages oí The Peaceable Kingdom. to be at rest with ourselves. "Travel" becomes possible or required. Stanley Hauerwas. from tbe world of violence to becoming a people of peace. But that is just the point. are all ascetic practices that are meant to free us from the normalcy of the world. For that "one thing" is just enough to remove us from the familiar world of violence so that our imagination might be freed to find yet one other thing we might do. we are led further into God's peaceable kingdom. 4. Hauerwas writes: "True ascetics often deny that they are ascetics because tbey do not tbink tbat tbeir suffering to be tbat significant. but some of tbem are fairly significant. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012.94 Political Theology My purpose is to show the validity of asceticism as a political concept in today's world. Such dualism. on Hauerwas's view. tbey discover that their suffering is the source of freedom. something periphery to the Christian tradition. 1983). Tbis suggests tbat whatever asceticism is. It may be objected that the saints and the models of ascetic practice often did not ever travel and they seemed none the worse for it. since we now realize that we are not tied to place but to a people who are always on the move.
"** Such a theology. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. Most types of "modern" theology do not serve this purpose for a variety of reasons. They use the body both in the communicative and transformative aspects of this work. 9.e. focusing on precisely one such reason.' I have elsewhere argued that typical of early Christian asceticism is that it consists of acts that are at the same time transformative. It deals mostly with things not explicitly related to asceticism and gives few hints to what Hauerwas thinks regarding asceticism. one where Christian life is "going nowhere. . the ascetics try to transform their personalities so that they communicate an image of the Kingdom of God.Hagman To Travel in One Place 95 Asceticism is notoriously difficult to define. Hauerwas discusses what would be the metaphors that guide the two different conceptions of Christian life he was describing in the book. 6. Meilaender's choice of the term dialogue could be considered unfortunate. There is one article that has the promising title Ethics and Ascetical Theology from 1979. is a dialogue really a dialogue unless it "goes somewhere"? In the book. but this in fact is a response to a paper by a Dr.* The latter basically sees the Christian life as going nowhere. Still.1 (2011): 39-53. 2010). IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Tlie Asceticism. Especially in his doctoral thesis Character and the Christian Life: A Study in Theological Ethics (1975) Hauerwas is addressing modern protestant theology. Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas talks of a "command" type of theology. since it seems to imply a very limited sense of what dialogue is about—i. and this might actually fit better: a theology where God's command and God's grace are essentially punctual or timeless events. For a more thorough discussion. 1994). Character and the Christian Life: A Study in Tlieological Ethics (Notre Dame. Ascetical Theology Not all types of Christian theology make asceticism possible. Patrik Hagman. see Hagman." 5. The Asceticism of Isaac ofNineveh (Oxford: Oxford University Press." Studia Theologica 65. 1. Jones (Alan Jones?).* What I am suggesting is that Hauerwas seems to have an interpretation of the ascetic tradition that he so far has not explicitly presented. that is. and he settles on the suggestion by Gilbert Meilaender that "two of the most basic metaphors determining how the Christian life is to be understood are those of journey and dialogue. I develop this working model of asceticism in Patrik Hagman. communicative and bodily. xxvi. and an important reason for the decline of asceticism in the western world can be located in changes in theology. "Asceticism and Empire: Asceticism as Body-Politics in Isaac of Nineveh and Hardt & Negri. In the preface to the second edition of that book (1994). 8.^ What I am attempting here is then a sort of reconstruction of the ascetical elements in Hauerwas's theology.
Therefore nature has no positive relation to God's free giving of himself Creation is only negatively related to redemption. that is.. Moral experience when formed by the image of growth. makes it look like trying to achieve salvation through "works.96 Political Theology is one that makes asceticism incomprehensible. In this early work. 11. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. for our purposes it is clear that this aspect of Hauerwas's theological project aligns itself perfectly with the theological concerns that would need to be met if asceticism should be a sensible mode of Christian life. I know of no way in principle to calm such fears. that is.. that it is a denial of the priority of grace. A theology that lacks this emphasis would see ascetic acts as (mostly failed or misguided) attempts at moral perfection. 5.. xxvii. "a process is implied through which people are gradually and graciously transformed by the very pilgrimage to which they have been called. Hauerwas argues precisely that a focus on the formation of character is not a form of work-righteousness. Further on in the study Hauerwas writes: "Man's moral nature construed by the language of command always tends to be in discontinuity with the grace of the next command. or more concretely. however. Conversely. but exactly because it has been so. Ibid. one needs to understand Christian life as made up of one or several processes that stretch out over time. While this answer probably is deeply unsatisfying for some. is the same that has been raised against asceticism. from the socalled semi-pelagian controversy up to the present day. 10. is assumed to be in essential continuity with God's grace. the possible objection against the kind of ethical position Hauerwas wants to articulate. What Hauerwas is here addressing is one of the aspects of the Protestant (especially Lutheran) tradition that makes asceticism incomprehensible."'" For asceticism to make sense one needs to have a theology with a clear "journey" character." However.. the weakness of the concern for an ongoing transformation in the life of the believer. when Christian life is thought of as a journey. however. . Ibid. I am aware that my claim for the priority of the journey metaphor for the display of the Christian life can only reinforce the suspicion of some that I have abandoned the central Christian contention of the priority of God's grace. xxxi. Thus Hauerwas encounters the classic anti-pelagian argument against asceticism: that it is a denial of the priority of God's grace. What I hope is now clear. is that I refuse to think the only or the best way to depict the priority of God's grace in terms of the dialogue metaphor. as a form of work-righteousness. This has certainly been the dominant move among Protestants.." Ibid. we have had difficulty articulating our sense of the reality of and growth in the Christian life.
13. John Cassian. Tbis is wbat Hauerwas maintains is tbe ultimate failure of the type of ethics he exemplifies with Bultmann. and earnest vigils and fasts and prayers.''' As soon as one takes into account the possibility to "improve tbe cbaracter of our tbougbts" it is possible to give advice about practices tbat enable sucb improvements.Hagman To Travel in One Place 97 Without an image of tbe buman being tbat takes into account the possibility of transformation that is gradual. John Cassian. to a great extent in our power to improve the character of our thoughts and to let either holy and spiritual thoughts or earthly ones grow up in our hearts. little of the ascetics' teaching makes mucb sense. Wbat Hauerwas shows in this early work is that a theology that focuses exclusively on "command" or "dialogue."'^ However. but contemplate things celestial. the mind being hardened with the foulness of sin is sure to incline in a carnal direction and fall away. Take tbis well-known example from John Cassian's Conferences where Abba Moses says: "It is impossible for the mind not to be approacbed by tbougbts." and thus on the typical protestant reduction of Christian faith to justification will end up denying the actual possibility of Christian life as life. Hauerwas claims tbat a new theological appreciation of the concept of cbaracter makes it possible to overcome tbis problem. To give decision the significance such an ethic demands means one risks giving up any continuity in tbe self: the agent is reduced to an atomistic individual acting in tbe moment without social or historical context.. In the introduction to the second edition. Ibid. therefore the frequent singing of Psalms is used. 17. For for this purpose frequent reading and continual meditation on the Scriptures is [sic] employed that from thence an opportunity for spiritual recollection may be given to us. but it is in the power of every earnest man either to admit them or to reject them. teaching such as this amounts to little more tban an affirmation of our responsibility wben we fail to withstand morally questionable tbougbts.'^ 12. . 15. it is "stuck in a moment. 164. Abba Moses is using a "cbaracter" or "journey" ethics: But it is. 17. altbougb it seems that with some bindsigbt be seems to feel that tbe game is lost already wben one accepts as decisive tbe dichotomy ofjustification and sanctification."'^ If one employs a "dialogue" or "command"-type of understanding Christian life. Conferences I. that thence constant feelings of compunction may be provided. 14. for if these things are dropped and carelessness creeps on us. I say. that the mind may be brought low and not mind earthly things. Conferences I. Hauerwas writes: "For I am no longer convinced that justification and sanctification provide the best means to spell out the © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012.
has great difficulty making sense out of asceticism.98 Political Theology This development in Hauerwas's theology is on the one hand a move from a protestant language (if not position) to a more catholic description of Christian life... ix." Ibid. in both its utilitarian and deontological forms. 16. whose work (particularly Alasdair C. Surely God has not commanded us to inflict punishment on ourselves? Similarly. Christians among the Virtues. that is. or as transformation. Hauerwas revisits these themes (together with Pinches) in Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Robert Pinches. . Hauerwas has taken one important step towards a new appreciation for Christian asceticism. It is easy to detect the ascetic "tone" in Hauerwas's talk of virtues: theological significance of the emphasis on character for the moral life. although he has always tried to keep a certain distance from this academic trend. Hauerwas and Pinches. xxviii. If I had attended to the metaphor ofjourney. I would claim that it in fact is also an ascetic description. However. 2007]. Christians among the Virtues: Theological Conversations with Ancient and Modern Ethics (Notre Dame. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. 3rd edn [Notre Dame. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 11328. 17. if they "work. Hauerwas finds support from Maclntyre. which in all its forms is very much concerned with how one acquires virtues."" His work has coincided with the rise of "virtue ethics" and to a degree he has probably helped spark this turn in ethical refiection. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. explicitly working out the relationship between virtues and justification. I suspect I would have been able to display the nature of Christian life in more concrete and biblical terms than those ofjustification and sanctification. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. a utilitarian might question if the ascetic practices truly lead to happiness. is if and how Hauerwas's notion of virtues enables a better understanding of the moral teaching of the ascetic tradition. 286) in this area closely mirrors his own. Ascetical Ethics The same way that certain types of theology make asceticism incomprehensible." A new understanding of asceticism thus has to move beyond these traditions. 55-69. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. and this is exactly what Hauerwas has tried to do. 1997). In fact one can easily express modern (mis) understandings of asceticism in the type of language associated with these traditions. A deontological thinker might view asceticism as erring about what is our duty. however. By arguing for a theology of Christian life as development. His most through critique of modern mainstream ethics is found in Hauerwas. Maclntyre.'^ What interests us here.. 149-51. mainstream modern ethics. by understanding ascetic rules and regulations as an interpretation of divine law.
VT: Ashgate. Evagrios' teaching is. emotional. Sinkewicz. involves acquiring the linguistic. Evagrius and Gregory: Mind. Sometimes it even persuades those who have suffered such maladies to visit those who are practicing abstinence and to tell them of their misfortunes and how they came about as a result of their asceticism."'** Ascetic life. 98. Evagrios of Pontos. Like any skills." To exemplify this type of thinking. emotional. such skills require constant practice as they are never simply a matter of routine or technique. See Kevin Corrigan. Augustine Casiday. therefore. to give up the Christian narrative as a basis of life and return to tbe narrative of tbe City. according to A. Evagrius of Pontos and Robert E. 2009). 73-101. as a master craftsman has learned to blend the many skills necessary for the exercise of any complex craft. avarice and other thoughts (Evagrios' texts contain the first occurrence of what later becomes tbe seven deadly sins). and thence to the vision of God.^ The goal of most of the "demons" is to make the monk give up the ascetic life. and rational. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. to a renewed understanding of tbe universe and its meanings. Moreover. 1981). 19. Hauerwas describes tbe skills tbat mark a person of virtue: tbey are said to be linguistic. consists in an ongoing battle witb different tboughts or demons and a large part of bis teacbing is made up of suggestions about how one is to counter the attacks of gluttony. 2003).Hagman To Travel in One Place To be a person of virtue. 21. . Stanley Hauerwas. Frequently it brings him to recall certain of the brethren who have fallen prey to these sufferings. Soul and Body in 4th Century (Burlington. Evagrius of Pontiis: The Greek Ascetic Corpus [Selections] (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. or put in Hauerwasian terms. 36. 18. on the individual learning from the community's memory. a few examples from the teachings of Evagrios of Pontos will suffice. 2006). Casiday. and rational skills that give us the strength to make our decisions and our life our own. A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic (Notre Dame. It describes for him his stomach. 20. The individual virtues are specific skills required to live faithful to a tradition's understanding of the moral project in which its adherents participate. Praktikos 1. Tbis could be compared witb tbe language of tbe Egyptian desert fatbers and wbat tbey called "the battle with the thoughts.'* 99 There is a decidedly ascetic emphasis on "constant practice" seen here. 115. the scarcity of necessities and the absence of doctors. "a three-part programme of spiritual development whereby one progresses from etbical and ascetical practices. the virtues must be learned and coordinated in an individual's life. Tbus Evagrios tells of tbe tbougbt of gluttony: [It] suggests to the monk the rapid demise of his asceticism. dropsy and lengthy illness. fornication. for Evagrios. his liver and spleen. M. Evagrius Ponticus [Selections] (New York: Routledge. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012.
For the truth of the story we find in the gospels is finally known only through the kind of lives it produces. inability to perform manual labour. In a way that is very similar to Hauerwas. 131 (emphasis mine). and Evagrios' teaching can be described as an attempt to systematize how a particular tradition envisions the handing do-wn of such "skills" to the next generation. For some particularly fine examples. sometimes fictional. TN: Abingdon Press. 23. Praktikos 9. whereas the monk lives according to another vision of what a meaningful life is. instead. he can write: "For the Christian. 40. or the Abba of the desert."^^ The master. the bitter realities of poverty. 2001). as we see what the story ofJesus has done to their own stories that we begin to understand what that story requires and means. Justice./4 Community of Character. and a Christian Nation are Bad Ideas (Nashville. diseases that will arise. After Christendom?: How the Church is to Behave if Freedom."^^ These examples show how the ascetic struggle is about conflicting notions of "common sense": according to the rationality of the world it is important to live in a certain way to have material comfort and safety. Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church. and the disciple learns how to make this tradition one's own by emulating the master. places an extraordinary emphasis on the importance of having a master to imitate as the foundation of moral development.115-21. 1991). 93-111.. For example. an essential aspect of the ascetic view of life. and Living in Between (Grand Rapids. morality is not chosen and then confirmed by the example of others.^** In one instance Hauerwas calls this "caring for the tombstones of the saints. the thought of avarice "suggests a lengthy old age. sometimes true. of how this can play out in particular cases. we learn what the moral life entails by imitating another.100 Political Theology Thus gluttony is for Evagrios not so much the temptation to eat a lot as the temptation to doubt in the belief that God provides for those that serve him. see Stanley Hauerwas. famines that will come along. like the ascetic tradition. See also Stanley Hauerwas. 74-85. 25. 24. World. embodies the moral experience of the community and its tradition." "It is from them. Evagrios. Similarly. MI: Brazos Press.^^ He gives us several stories. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. Ibid. This is intrinsic to the nature of Christian convictions. for the Christian life requires a transformation of the self that can be accomplished only through direction from a master. . Hauerwas." Hauerwas. This means that the kind of moral development Hauerwas sees as intrinsic to Christian life requires training: 22. Evagrios envisions the ascetic struggle to acquire the virtues as an attempt to live faithfully -within a particular tradition. and the shame there is in accepting goods from others to meet one's needs.
Becker. MI: Eerdmans. which can be observed for instance in Luther. 313. Fear of Cod and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia. Adam H. 144-57. 10. See Jean Calvin.g. and start being about gathering "works" for merit. 150. Kraslinikoff (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. 2009). vol. 106-109. trans. and those responsible for them secured peace and quiet for themselves. fasting. Hagman. By forcing our eyes from one word to the next. 80-81. Georg Hinge and Jens A. vigils and other traditional "ascetic" techniques. but those very habits require us to face ambiguities and conflicts through which our virtues are refined. 298. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids. XIII. Early monasticism is increasingly being seen to be in continuity with late antiquity pagan education."^^ The Church as school is another important theme where Hauerwas is in agreement with the early Church and thus re-creates the conditions where Christian asceticism initially functioned. 27. We must be given some exercises appropriate to the kinds of moral growth desired. By means of vows they bound the conscience of youth so that each held himself in check by the dread of sin. Luther writes: "those who had taken on the education of the young began to grow lazy and to look after their own interests. The Christian life requires the development of certain kinds of habits. The Asceticism. This cannot be said of Luther. 1989). ed. while very critical of the monasticism of his day. To make something of our lives requires 26. 2006). Samuel Rubenson." in Alexandria: A Cultural and Religious Melting Pot. was aware of the educational context of early monasticism. the ascetic grammar has broken down. Here it is interesting to compare Calvin and Luther. they invented the snares of vows. Institutes of the Christian Religion [Institutio Christianae religionis]. There is a brief refiection of fasting in Hauerwas. 30. we are stretched through a narrative world that gives us the skills to make something of our own lives.^" However. Luther's Works. 1966). "From School to Patriarchate: Aspects on the Christianisation of Alexandria. 44 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. So. 29. for example. See e. who believed that though the early monasteries arose from schools they occurred as a deviation from any educational motives.ACommunity of Character. Calvin. Hauerwas. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. . is one of the key factors in the loss of appreciation for asceticism.Hagman To Travel in One Place Every account of moral development must necessarily have educational implications. and when the young people had grown more rebellious. there are some practices Hauerwas recommends that fill a very similar role." Martin Luther.^* 101 The place for such education is the Church. One exercise that Hauerwas su^ests is reading novels. "the church is a form of education that is religious. one paragraph to the next.. Thus.^" The loss of the notion of asceticism as a type of moral education. what kind of exercises does Hauerwas envision? There is little teaching on. one sentence to the next. PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 28. 101. the very reading of the novel is moral training.^' When ascetic techniques stop being about acquiring moral virtues. Christian Existence Today. Matthew. or as Hauerwas puts it.. IV. ]rl3uerw2iS.
In contact with sucb people the specific form of Christian education becomes clear. not as instances of some grand schemes. See also Stanley Hauerwas. Dispatches from the Front: Theological Engagements with the Secutar (Durham. Stanley Hauerwas. Also underawed by the study of real (unsaved) history. The distinction between such often ecclesially sanctioned literature and modern novels obviously should not be blurred. to be sure. 164-86. 1998). The "assistants" who live together witb mentally disabled people in tbe l'Arche communities obviously do 31.-'^ but again Hauerwas's idea of reading stories as part of a moral formation is standard ascetic teacbing. Novels are the means.102 Political Theology our being able to locate our story in an unfolding narrative so that we can go on. NC: Duke University Press. He would rather read novels. Sanctify them in the Truth: Hotiness Exemplified (Nashville. This of course mirrors the debate on the matter in the ascetic teaching on what kinds of books should be allowed for monks. 109. 33." Quoted in Craig A. MI: Brazos Press. The Politics of the Cross: The Theotogy and Social Ethics offohn Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids. 69. they make constancy possible. Hauerwas has found the concrete embodiment of tbe vision of Christian life he tries to articulate. The Asceticism. see Hagman. For more on Isaac's attitudes towards reading see Hagman. 34. XXI. 32. Just to the extent they are ours. The Asceticism. 1994). Isaac of Nineveh. The Second Part.^^ In the l'Arche-communities of Jean Vanier. OR: Cascade Books. 55-6. TN: Abingdon Press. 159-62. that we have to attain the skills of locating and telling our individual stories. 137-41. 2008). for another example of the use of fiction for moral formation.. 35. 40. but in fact it is well attested to. The quote is puzzling (not the least the surprising opposition between salvation history and "real" history). but it seems to reflect a stricter view on what kinds of reading are suitable. Richard Valantasis.-''' Another example of an exercise that Hauerwas often returns to is caring for the mentally handicapped. Carter. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. Hauerwas's love of novels has been rather severely criticized by none other than John Howard Yoder. 2001). Hauerwas. For example. The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modem Asceticism (Eugene."-'^ The kind of reading Isaac talks about is not only tbe Bible but especially the stories about the fathers who in a sense form a community for a hermit like Isaac. Isaac of Nineveh writes: "Witbout reading tbe intellect bas no means of drawing near to God: it draws tbe mind up and sets it at every moment in tbe direction of God. but as uniquely ours. . On Isaac. it baptizes it from this corporeal world witb its insigbts and causes it to be above tbe body continually. 15. though not the only means. In fact. Reading novels does perhaps not strike us as a typical ascetic technique.. at least if we substitute tbe modern genre of novels for tbe more traditional bagiograpbies. See also Hauerwas. who in an unpublished text wrote "One reason Hauerwas does not do text-based Bible study is that he is overawed by the notion of community-dependency and underawed by the objective reality of salvation history. Dispatches from the Front. Christian Existence Today.
I feel this is a false image of what Christian asceticism is about. they have no way of enforcing their views by raising their voice.^** For Hau36. Yet. and this adds greatly to their ability to welcome the whole person. Sanctify them in the Truth. 154-61. 27-40. Of course. as Hauerwas writes.Hagman To Travel in One Place 103 not think that they are there to develop as persons—at least not primarily. So the assistants have to be more attentive to the many non-verbal communications. Hauerwas's ethics." It is also communicative. 2 7 ^ 0 (Abo: Abo Akademis förlag. and the first step towards weakening this force was taken already with the conversion of Constantine the Great. By criticizing these aspects of "modern" ethics. rest and recognize the presence of God.^' And the bodily nature of such caring should be obvious. I would contend that the single most important factor in Hauerwas's theology for making asceticism understandable again is the way his theology emphasizes the difference between Church and world. Ibid.. Anni Maria Laato and Mikael Lindfelt. More than anything else it was such a contrast that gave early Christian asceticism its moral force. L'Arche gives a weight to the Gospel without which words would be empty. The Asceticism. He quotes Jean Vanier: Things have to go at a pace which can welcome their least expression. Broken Lights and Mended Lives: Theology and Common Life in the Early Church (University Park. Hagman. 155. The slower rhythm and even the presence of the handicapped people makes me slow down. Hagman. but this bodily aspect is clearly the precondition for the transformative and communicative aspects. They become increasingly people of welcome and compassion. 154.''* The care for the mentally handicapped is thus an example of an ascetic practice that is transformative—it improves the "ability to welcome. because they have no verbal skills. 1986). Ascetical Politics However. Still. Greer. Quoted in Hauerwas. svvntch off my efficiency motor. these examples are very different from the practices commonly associated with asceticism—one could even make the argument that this is a kind of anti-asceticism. ed." in Flumen Saxosum Sonaiu: Stiidia in Honorem Gunnar af Hältström. Marjo Ahlqvist. 37. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. "Liturgi och asketism som motstlndsyttringar i den tidiga kyrkan. training and practices. it is clear that for Hauerwas this is the purest form he knows of the way Christian virtue is acquired. 38. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. in many ways mirrors that of the Early Christian ascetics. See Rowan A. Hauerwas again challenges some of the core presuppositions in modernity that made asceticism incomprehensible. . with its emphasis on virtues. so far removed from the egocentric practices often associated with ascetics.
as some do. But the first task of the church is not to supply theories of governmental legitimacy or even to suggest strategies for social betterment. 72-86. Hauerwas. . esp. although the differences between tbe persecuted early Cburcb and tbe perbaps domesticated post-Constantinian Church clearly should not be underestimated. Kerr. A Community of Character. 229-32). and the University. even if the world understands such faithfulness as disloyalty. since if Hauerwas was teaching a withdrawal tactic for the Church. 242. however.g. 208." Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society 40 (1985): 83-94. This is what he says: "I maintain that Christians must withhold their support from 'civic republicanism' only when that form (as well as any other form) of government and society resorts to violence in order to maintain internal order and external security. I believe it to be the responsibility of Christians to work to make their societies less prone to resort to violence. the Church. OR: Wipf & Stock. A Community of Character. 1997]. 40. Stanley Hauerwas. rather it is a reminder that the church must serve the world on her own terms. rules our lives. Most famously stated in James Gustafson."^ To view tbe Cburcb tbe way Hauerwas does creates a position similar to tbat of tbe early Christians. unless one assumes. 1992]. History. 41. The first task of the church is to exhibit in our common life the kind of community possible when trust. Christ. and perhaps a scholar that has influenced Hauerwas's understanding of asceticism. Hauerwas responds in a way tbat is equally pertinent for bis position as for anyone practicing Cbristian asceticism: This does not involve a rejection of the world. In fact. 15.104 Political Theology erwas tbis in particular takes tbe form of criticism of the liberal society and the Church's accommodation to it. Against the Nations. It is important to be clear here. 2008). to which Hauerwas responds in detail in Hiuervjus. "The Sectarian Temptation: Reflections of Theology. Nathan R." Hauerwas. 93. 85. 1-19. 42. CO: Westview Press. and he has since returned to the theme many times (e. We must be faithful in our own way. this has also been a mainstay of tbe criticism against asceticism tbrougbout bistory. Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society [Notre Dame. or a withdrawal from the world. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. that every function of the state depends on its penchant for violence. and not fear. At that point and that point alone Christians must withhold their involvement with the state. My point is that the liberal 2010). this would effectively undermine my thesis that Hauerwas makes a new asceticism possible. Wilderness Wanderings: Probing Twentieth-Century Theology and Philosophy [Boulder. Indeed. 39. Stanley Hauerwas. Such an admission. 84-85. Kerr sees this to be a decisive flaw in his theology Nathan R. and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission (Eugene. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. The earliest example of a worked-out critique by Hauerwas is in Hauerwas. Hauerwas. Greer is a friend of Hauerwas's."' Again. Christian Existence Today. A Community of Character. hardly commits me to a sectarian stance.^' This emphasis on the Cburch as a contrast model"" has led to endless accusations against Hauerwas that he is a sectarian who wants to withdraw from society.
namely that the "sharp contrast'"*^ turns violent? The question was raised by Hauerwas himself in his 1991 book After Christendom. "Yet is there not already a violence in the conviction that one possess the truth oneself. That rule is nothing less than the establishment of peace between ourselves and God. 104. Christian Existence Today. we are simply silenced. from which we learn how to be peaceful in ourselves and with one another. Toole suggests that "perhaps Christians should learn to shut up. Hauerwas's primary "other" is liberal society. Christian Existence Today. Quoted in Hiuerw3s. the Kingdom. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. 157-58. The student [Toole] has a point: every claim to speak the truth does indeed exercise something that might plausibly be called "violence. Toole writes \Y]ou [Hauerwas] say." but the essence ofthat difference is that the Church.Hagman To Travel in One Place 105 society plays a similar role to that of the Roman empire for the early Christian ascetics." he must abandon also witness as what the church can do for the world. If it is true. how can we communicate the Gospel without explicitly or implicitly underwriting patterns of domination and violence antithetical to the Kingdom brought by Christ?"'*'' Hauerwas acknowledges that exclusive truth claims in some sense are inherently violent. instead of the liberal state. Hauerwas. whereas this is not the case for others. but he counteracts this by stressing the centrality of peaceableness to the Church's witnessing. how can we be educators. and thus makes it possible to again understand the work of the early ascetics as motivated by a will to articulate the distance between the world and the Church. "To learn that story means we must desire nothing less than accomplishment of God's rule. indeed." Hauerwas. But is there not an inherent risk in positioning the Church against the world the way Hauerwas does.. positions for example the Native American communities as the "other" for the Church. he must end with a doctrine that the church saves the world simply 43. and in this relationship Hauerwas's idea that the Church should simply witness to its truth is a way to at least make this type of violence explicit. It seems.''^ For Hauerwas the Church is not just any "contrast community. After Christendom?. "How can we be witnesses. If Hauerwas accepts this usage of "violence. 139-40." Later on you say."'** an idea that Robert Jenson picks up in his review ofAfter Christendom. 46. Hauerwas. 45. which is the point Toole wants to make. It is a great deal more problematic if one. is peaceable. 103. After Christendom?. unlike the -world. 44. In a letter by David Toole that Hauerwas appended to the book. over all nations and peoples. The citations Toole brings together occur at ibid." if we so choose to use the language. 152. and that one must furthermore impose the truth on others?" You then say "We recoil at this suggestion. . 159.
© Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. wbicb be feels belps us see tbat tbe "narratives of Enligbtenment" are far more problematic than those of Native Americans. Now. but doesn't it say somewhere 47.. "I've only just become a Christian. silence is anything but passive. For the early Christian ascetics. when we do it together?" An older African-American prisoner. For many of the participants. 194."^ Hauerwas responds to Jenson's suggestion by referring to John Milbank's then recent book Theology and Social Theory. 49. since the latter "do not represent tbe subtle co-option of the Christian narratives in the way that those of the Enligbtenment do. as begemonic narratives. the hours of silent prayer quickly became sometbing more tban simply a way to get away from tbe boring routine of prison life. if any attempt at "speaking" witb trutb claims. always attempt to claim tbat 'peace' is being tbreatened. It is often conceived as botb tbe pinnacle of buman development—silent prayer or contemplation—but also an important practice to reacb that goal.106 Political Theology by silently existing. Ibid. the straining and sweating and shifting of a hard shared silence would transmute into a few minutes of acute and focused stillness.. 194. however. But the same way that Hauerwas eschews the idea that pacifism is passive it seems that connecting silence witb passivity too is very mucb a chapter out of the Enligbtenment story. Robert Jenson. 48. so instead I will offer a more recent example. Wilderness Wanderings. even such a doctrine may be sustainable. and so different. giving them short lectures about prayer in the Christian tradition. as if by miracle. Terry. will be violent? Is silence tbe only alternative? It seems to me tbat tbe reason we find silence unsatisfactory is tbat we associate it with passivity. Once a week sbe would spend an bour with the inmates. especially against a violent begemony. for example reading to them from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Then they would sit in silent prayer.""^ But the problem remains—bow are we to understand Hauerwas's position. quoted in Hauerwas. 189. After one such "miracle" a prison social worker (not a Christian) who was with us that day asked: "Why is this so wonderful. Ibid. For the ascetics of the desert silence is a way to clarify the difference between the ascetic life and life in the world. . replied. Sarah Coakley tells of ber experience leading a group of male prisoners in silent prayer. Space does not really permit a discussion on bow silence expressed tbis distance in Late Antiquity.""* Tbis means that the confrontation between theology and secular culture "cannot be otber tban conflictual. but only by a lot of more speculative systematic theology than Hauerwas seems willing to countenance. Occasionally. wben confronted by tbeir begemony.
" using the means accepted there—rational discourse— Hauerwas's theological vision suggests that what the Church does is already public." He didn't have the language of asceticism. something other prisoners would pick up. 107 These few examples show something of the potential of ascetic silence. But the most striking thing is Troy's experience that in the silent prayer he discovers something that is the opposite of his normal way of coping with life. One could argue that the silence practiced by these prisoners. . Sarah Coakley. or silent prayer in general. just keep going. by virtue of being a community of people embodying a particular story. but using one's body. that's absolutely right. some other men immediately jumped in and replied. "I get it. is a completely different concept from the kind of "silent existing" Jenson perhaps ironically suggests might be a solution to Hauerwas's dilemma about non-violent difference." To my delight. he connects the practice of silent prayer with acquiring the virtue patience. it is something of the logical conclusion of ascetic life itself What I am suggesting is that asceticism provides a way of witnessing silently and thus non-violently. this is the opposite of drugs. communicative and bodily aspects of this ascetic practice. but he had instinctively grasped its essential workings on the apparatus of desire. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. To deny that this means that the Church is practicing 50. "No. But I -would contend that silent prayer is much more than one ascetic practice. This is to make me patient.Hagman To Travel in One Place in the New Testament that when two or three are gathered together Jesus promises to be with us?" I learned that day that such scriptural texts can gain powerful new valency in the prison context. and that this is true if one is praying silently as well as if one is caring for the disabled. We can also note the sense of community that this practice seems to have created. "I must be doing something wrong: all I'm getting is mental jumble. Firstly we can see the communicative aspect—the silence would "speak" to the prison worker of something "different" and "wonderful" that the prisoner Terry interpreted as the presence ofJesus. On another occasion a bright and articulate Latino—African-American prisoner named Troy gave the practice a try for a whole session but at the end complained. Apparently without anyone telling him so. We can easily see the transformative. Coakley also tells that the prisoners that would take part regularly started to carry their bodies differently. "Meditation as a Subversive Activity." The Christian Century 24 (June 2004): 18-21." At the end Troy came up to me and said. since one is not primarily -witnessing through discourse. Rather than accepting the modern liberal division between public and private. and thus assuming that -witnessing needs to take place in the "public sphere.
88. it is a real dilemma if witnessing cannot be done without some kind of violence—^witnessing would negate the very truth witnessed to. Abo Akademi University Press). Whereas the exact nature of "truth" is philosophically an open question. In Hauerwas's case it could be expressed thus: Christian convictions are true if they serve to develop a community in which believers learn to live lives that show the Christian virtues. 2009. Craig A. 1992). New York: Routledge. Soul and Body in 4th Century. PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2006. and as such there is always the risk that the criterion for truth^^ becomes pragmatic. since only practices that refiect the Christian story can be used to witness about it. since Stanley Hauerwas's theology is an example of a practice oriented theology. Evagrius and Cregory: Mind. "Meditation as a Subversive Activity. Kevin. communicative and bodily practices. "Witness" in Hauerwas's theology is a way out of this pragmatic concept of truth. in most practical cases being truthful is not difficult on a theoretical level. Grand Rapids. 2001. MI: Brazos Press. VT: Ashgate. The Politics of the Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder. Grand Rapids. Adam H.4324/9780203356975 Coakley. Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community before the Watching World (Nashville. Jean. Henry Beveridge." TTie Christian Century 24 (June 2004): 18-21. MI: Eerdmans. Since for Hauerwas peaceableness is of central importance to the Christian faith. BIBLIOGRAPHY Becker. Carter. This is significant. 2006. Institutes ofthe Christian Religion [Institutio Christianae religionis]." This is not true only of practices such as Baptism and Eucharist. trans. See Miika Tolonen (forthcoming. but especially of the kind of ascetic practices discussed above. In asceticism Hauerwas's notions of moral formation and witness are thus held together. If the distinction between Church and world thus is understood as an ascetic distinction it is possible for the Church to be peaceable even in a violent world. 1989. Casiday. . Philadelphia. 51. that for Hauerwas truthfulness is more important than truth as a theoretical concept. 52. http://dx. Calvin. Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late Antiquity. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. Corrigan. Augustine. as the public struggle of a community to live truthfully by learning virtues through transformative. It is therefore inherently non-violent.108 Political Theology "withdrawal" is to suggest that the Church does what it does "before the watching world" to use Yoder's phrase. Burlington. Sarah. Fear of Cod and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia. since witnessing about a pragmatic truth would merely be promotion. TN: Discipleship Resources. rightly I think.org'10. Miika Tolonen argues. Evagrius Ponticus [Selections]. John Howard Yoder. Divinations. doi.
University Park. and a Christian Nation are Bad Ideas. 2006. Notre Dame. 144-57. http://dx.doi. and the University. Maclntyre. ed. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. John Howard. Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church. and Living in Between. T N : Abingdon Press. Grand Rapids. 1992.Org/10. Rubenson. ed. Dispatches from the Front: Theological Engagements with the Secular. 2007. Nathan R. Nashville. fustice. "The Sectarian Temptation: Reflections of Theology. Hauerwas. Character and the Christian Life: A Study in Theological Ethics. Notre Dame. MI: Brazos Press. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Eugene. 2001. Marjo Ahlqvist. 1997. MI: Brazos Press. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 2008. 2010. History. 1983. /^arhus: Aarhus University Press.org/10. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2003. 2010. Broken Lights and Mended Lives: Theology and Common Life in the Early Church.001. Christians among the Virtues: Theological Conversations with Ancient and Modern Ethics. N C : Duke University Press. . http://dx. Valantasis.1080/0039338X. T N : Abingdon Press. Stanley. Notre Dame.2 011. "Asceticism and Empire: Asceticism as Body-Politics in Isaac of Nineveh and Hardt & Negri. Grand Rapids. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Sanctify them in the Truth: Holiness Exemplified. Greer. Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus. Rowan A. James.Hagman To Travel in One Place 109 Evagrius of Pontos and Robert E. 2nd edn." In Flumen Saxosum Sonans: Studia in Honorem Gunnar af Hällström. 27-40. and Charles Robert Pinches. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. 1986." In Alexandria: A Cultural and Religious Melting Pot. Matthew. Nashville. Kraslinikoff. A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic. 2008. Hagman.doi." Studia Theologica 65. Richard. Oxford Early Christian Studies [Selections]. Samuel. 1981. 1998. 1997. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2012. Wilderness Wanderings: Probing Tiventieth-Century Theology and Philosophy. Yoder. Sinkewicz. and Apocalyptic: TTie Politics of Christian Mission. Gustafson. 1994. the Church. C O : Westview Press. Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community before the Watching Wortd. Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society. Christ. Abo: Abo Akademis forlag. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. World. hnn\ Maria Laato and Mikael Lindfelt. 1992. The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modern Asceticism. Kerr. Notre Dame. After Christendom?: How the Church is to Behave if Freedom. OR: Cascade Books. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1991. Radical Traditions. Nashville." Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society 40 (1985): 83-94.0001 "Liturgi och asketism som motstlndsyttringar i den tidiga kyrkan. Alasdair C. "From School to Patriarchate: Aspects on the Christianisation of Alexandria. Durham. IN: University of Notre Dame Press.578366 Hauerwas. The Asceticism of Isaac of Nineveh. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Boulder.1093/acprof:oso/9780199593194. Georg Hinge and Jens A. T N : Discipleship Resources. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. Notre Dame. 3rd edn.1 (2011): 39-53. Patrik. Stanley. OR: Wipf & Stock. Notre Dame. Eugene. 2nd ed. 1994 .
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