Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of John Inazu’s work, especially his book Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference. Until I read this interview at Inazu’s Substack, I did not realize the Washington University law professor includes Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas among his mentors. Here is a taste of the interview, which focuses heavily on the work of moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.
A few snippets:
On the rule of law:
JI: Let’s then talk about the relationship of this claim to the law. I’ve been persuaded by Robert Cover’s Violence and the Word that the law, like the military, ultimately rests on the use or threat of violence. How do you distinguish between law and war?
SH: Law is delayed violence as long as one can endure. So the difference between law and war is that law allows a conversation across time and puts matters in context that provides possibilities of resolutions of conflict short of killing one another.
I have to say in terms of my own reflections about these kinds of things, the rise of the Christian Right has made me much more committed to the rule of law than perhaps I had been in the past. Because given January 6th, the rule of law looks damn good. I respect the time it takes to sustain the kind of adjudication of descriptions that makes the law what it is in terms of the creation of a fragile peace that is nonetheless better than killing one another.
JI: I take it your point is that in order to hold the rule of law, you need people using violent coercion to resist the people storming the Capitol. Who are those people who resist?
SH: People who are well trained and who know how to defuse the violence in a way that doesn’t necessitate killing.
On the evangelicals:
SH: The problem with evangelicals—at least one of the problems—is they think they have a relationship with God but church is optional. They don’t have any sense that without the church, there’s no salvation. You learn how to be a follower of Christ through the formation of your life in relationship to other lives. That’s called the church, and you don’t get to make up your mind about it.
JI: This makes me think back to MacIntyre. Isn’t the kind of evangelical nondenominational church now embracing the political Right also an institution—a set of people and practices that might understand themselves to be interpreting scripture together within the community they call church? How do you defeat that from the outside?
SH: You don’t. I don’t get why people go to hear Joel Osteen. I assume that those formations, which look to me like parodies of Christianity, cannot and will not sustain themselves. The people that are now going to hear Joel Osteen may work it out for the rest of their lives, but their children won’t go to hear Joel Osteen. And it’s a judgment on us that we don’t say that these people are simply shams.
JI: But who is the “we” who calls this out? You say that the children of the people attending Joel Osteen’s church won’t be there when they grow up, but I look around and wonder how many of the children attending our churches are going to be there. And when I look at the state of youth ministry and other trends, things don’t exactly look promising. So who is the “we” that makes those critiques with any moral authority?
SH: My sense is that God is making us leaner. You’re going to go to church when you need it to survive. And that’s what hopefully can be happening over the next 100 years. Christians don’t do short time. We’ll have to wait and see.
On higher education:
JI: And as we wait and see, what happens to academic theology and theological education?
SH: Duke Divinity School is doing what most seminaries are doing—admitting students who will be only in residence for very short periods because they will take courses by distance learning. But distance learning means there’s no formation. Our formation depends on exemplification and seeing what it looks like in relationship to real people. I think we’re in a really fragile time in terms of the kind work that needs to be done in terms of the teaching and formation of students who serve in ministerial roles.
Hauerwas on technology:
Paula and I have discovered that we are not welcome in the digital world. We don’t know how to negotiate it. The influx of the digital world means that those of us that are older are now confronting a world we cannot act in. For example, we had our television go out. You can’t buy a new TV. You have to buy a smart TV. And then we can’t figure out how the hell it works. That’s just a minor example.
Read the entire interview here.
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