Printer Friendly

Liberalism, race, and Stanley Hauerwas.

Attack Upon Liberalism

Stanley Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University, has achieved something like celebrity status in academic and public arenas focused on understanding the relationship among religion, ethics and politics. Hauerwas's celebrity has primarily to do with his unyielding attacks upon "liberalism" or "liberal democracy" over the course of many years. His academic and public profile was enhanced significantly in 2001 with the publication of the Hauerwas Reader, his selection as Time magazine's choice for America's best theologian of 2001, and his delivery of the highly regarded Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The Gifford Lectureship placed Hauerwas in the company of a long line of prominent twentieth-century religious and philosophical intellectuals, a short list of which include William James, John Dewey, and Reinhold Niebuhr. (1) In addition to all this, Hauerwas's book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic, is widely regarded within religious circles as a twentieth-century classic.

Indeed, Hauerwas is arguably one of the exemplary Christian theologians of our time. He advocates for a recovery of the moral skills (or virtues) that enable a proper understanding of social reality and practice from the perspective of the Christian narrative of Israel as Jesus Christ presents it. Viewing the theologian's task as that of calling into question distortions in the grammar of the Christian faith, and theology itself as occasional discourse in response to particular historical difficulties, Hauerwas's work aims at a recovery of virtues based in the alternative narrative of Christian life before its compromise with Christendom.

I think it would be fair to say that Hauerwas's primary Christian aim in the public square is not to transform liberalism, rather the aim is to call Christians back to a peaceable faithfulness that only makes sense inside the set-apart community of Christian "resident aliens." In Hauerwas's view, the first responsibility of the church is to be itself against the encroachment of the dominant liberal moral ethos in contemporary American society. According to Hauerwas, American liberalism, at its base, holds that the best or only moral community we can have is based on guaranteeing the principle of the freedom of each individual citizen to do as he or she pleases, so long as he or she does not violate the legitimate equal freedom of others. Liberalism celebrates toleration, pluralism, and respect for personal autonomy. Hauerwas takes very serious exception to the liberal claim that personal freedom and individual consent can be "truthful" bases from which to arrange our moral and political lives. (2) Since "truthful" social arrangements represent the only social condition through which necessary virtues can be adequately developed in the service of right human desiring, liberalism (as a non-tradition in Hauerwas's view) cannot pass the litmus test for what is truthful: "Liberalism presupposes that society can be organized without any narrative that is commonly held to be true. As a result it tempts us to believe that freedom and rationality are independent of narrative--i.e., we are free to the extent that we have no story." (3) Indeed, it is essential in Hauerwas's view that church and society understand that truthful social arrangements emerge out of common lived "narratives," "traditions," or "stories." Hauerwas does recognize that liberalism as a bases for human social-political arrangements comes in many complex and competing varieties, which he aims to take on one by one. He takes them all on because what all the varieties of liberalism have in common is a lack of memory associated with stories.

Hauerwas views the church (i.e., the Body of Christ) as devoted not to the principles of memoriless liberalism but, rather, to a particular God and a particular way of life that follows Jesus. The members of the church know themselves not in the first instance as autonomous and free individuals but, rather, as bound to God, to their tradition/narrative/story, and to one another. The fundamental category for ensuring human agency is not freedom but narrative. (4) Being rooted in "a story formed community," the particular story being that of Jesus' Kingdom, (5) church members know themselves as they are known by a merciful and faithful God. Living within a distinctively Christian narrative, Christians come to embody the virtues of trust, patience, hope, gratitude, hospitality, and forgiveness, seeking not to control history but to witness to God's rule within history as established (by God's self-unveiling) in Jesus Christ. In trying to control society and history Christians have mistakenly accepted liberalism as a social strategy appropriate to the Christian story. Hence, Christians have forfeited the moral skills that enable a proper description of reality as the Christian narrative of Israel as Jesus presents it.

The contractual ethos of liberalism with its supreme valuation of individual freedom destroys Christian virtue on Hauerwas's view. Hauerwas insists that under liberal social arrangements family is viewed as a "contractual" agreement rather than as a community of commitment and responsibility even to persons we do not choose to associate with. Hauerwas prefers to view the Christian moral life in terms of a covenantal communal bond organized around certain virtues that enable Christians to describe and live it truthfully. A pre-eminent Christian virtue is "peaceableness," which highlights Jesus' political act of refusing recourse to violence. Hauerwas maintains that nonviolence is a normative character-disposition of Christian being-in-the-world. The nonviolent disposition of peaceable Christians is a witness to God's reign in history, a history within which Christians need not feel compelled to comport themselves in accordance with dominant social-political views of triumphalist justice, success or victory. The preeminent Christian telos in history from Hauerwas's point of view is holiness, the content of which is faithful obedience to the nonviolent politics of Jesus. A critical aspect of Hauerwas's account of holiness is that its realization is communal and deeply embedded within, and inseparable from, a common set of practices. Such practices include, peaceableness, hospitality, patience, courage, and joy, which sustain a people "who refuse to have their lives determined by the fear and denial of death." (6) Christians know that not only have they been raised with Christ but they also died with Christ. Since Christ subdued death on a cross, Christians should favor political arrangements that demonstrate fearlessness in the face of death. This way of living is a gift that Christians offer their non-Christian sisters and brothers as a better alternative to all politics based on a denial of death. (7) The Christian community offers society a counter-cultural testimony of hope in a world devoid of the version of transforming hope demonstrated during the celebration of Passover in A.D. 33. (8)

While he does have his many defenders, there have been, and still remains, a sizable number of critics who have engaged the Anabaptist-Methodist Hauerwas on various aspects of his goal to secure a Christian community of character in the service of a "Peaceable Kingdom." Fair or not, Hauerwas is perpetually shadowed by ubiquitous charges of "sectarianism," fideism, idolizing a form of "churchianity," limiting the power of God's grace-for-the-world almost exclusively to the church, and being a "filthy-mouth theologian." This essay adds another dimension of concern. Hauerwas has consistently failed to muster the courage to seriously engage what has long been a salient problem deeply rooted within the Christian narrative, the very same narrative that calls Christians to truthfulness on Hauerwas's account. This problem is the problem of race, in particular the problem of Black people as pariah people in church and society.

Race and Hauerwas

No racial or ethnic community in the nation (with the exception of Amerindians) experiences the brutality of racism on a scale as massive as that experienced by Black peoples. And it is irrefutable that even "peaceable" and "nonviolent" Anabaptist families of Christians have played their part in, and have benefited from, the racism that is embedded in American custom and common practice. Given the collusion of peace churches with the crying shame of racism, it is surprising that Hauerwas has yet to seriously confront the racism of the peace churches as a towering breach of Christian truthfulness. Hauerwas has generally failed to confront racism as a distortion in the grammar of the Christian faith. One has to be stunned by the utter dearth of writings and active public concern by Hauerwas (and the overwhelming majority of White theologians) regarding the American and Christian struggle with the scourge of anti-Black White racism. (9) How can an issue so divisively and horrendously present in the bone marrow of the church remain so invisible in Hauerwas's work? In Hauerwas's single significant essay related to the subject of racial politics since writing an article entitled "The Ethics of Black Power" for his college newspaper in 1969, he argues that "for me to 'use' Martin Luther King Jr., and the church that made him possible, to advance my understanding of 'Christian Ethics' seems wrong." (10) Then in an astounding breach of the very narrative of mutual vulnerability and covenanting which characterizes the peaceable Christian tradition he calls on the faithful to recover, Hauerwas claims with regard to the Black struggle that produced King, that "that story is not my story, though I pray that God will make that story my story, for I hope to enjoy the fellowship of the communion of saints." (11)

Hauerwas goes on to contend that, "I have written about the South, which obviously involves race, but I have not written about "the struggle." He also notes that, "I am ... a white southerner from the lower-middle classes who grew up in the practices of segregation." "Segregation was so 'normal'" confides Hauerwas, that he "did not even notice that there were no black people either in the schools I attended or where I went to church." (12) Since Hauerwas does in fact appear to know that the habits of racism have been deeply written into the narrative of his own life, he ought to also know, then, that the story of "the struggle" is as much his story as it was King's story.

King's insistence that the peoples of the United States and world wore a "single garment of destiny," and that all of life is inextricable connected in an "inescapable network of mutuality," has been most intensively true for the relationship between U.S. Blacks and Whites who must struggle together (along with many other U.S. peoples) under the weight of the dogma of White supremacy. The story of Hauerwas's education and habituation in White racism (at home, school and church) and "the struggle" fronted by King against this most dismal of human horrors is one and the same social story, albeit experienced and interpreted from very different perspectives. The American civil rights struggle was and is Hauerwas's story too because even Christian disunity is part of a common story.

The story of the Jim (and Jane) Crow south in which Hauerwas was raised routinely displayed a paradoxical and ironic narrative-politics of bonded intimacy. Consider for example an account offered in historian Timothy Tyson's Radio Free Dixie, a biography of the provocative Black activist Robert F. Williams (1925-1996). Concerning what can be described as a peculiar union-of-segregation between Black and White folk in the very south in which Hauerwas was nurtured, Tyson argues that,</p> <pre> The power of white skin in the Jim Crow south was both stark and subtle. White supremacy permeated daily life so deeply that most people could no more ponder it than a fish might discuss the wetness of water. Racial etiquette was at once bizarre, arbitrary and nearly inviolable. A white man who would never shake hands with a black man would refuse to permit anyone but a black man to shave his face, cut his hair, or give him a shampoo. A white man might share his bed with a black woman but never his table. Black breasts could suckle white babies, black hands would pat out biscuit dough for white mouths, but black heads must not try on a hat in the department store, lest it be rendered unfit for sale to white people. Black maids washed the bodies of the aged and infirm, but the uniforms they wore could never be laundered in the same washing machines that white people used. It was permissible to call a favored black man "Commodore" or "Professor"--a mixture of affection and mockery--but never

"mister" or "sir." Black women were "girls" until they were old enough to be called "auntie," but could never hear a white

person, regardless of age, address them as "Mrs." or "Miss."

Whites regarded black people as inherently lazy and shiftless,

but when a white man said he had "worked like a nigger," he meant that he had engaged in dirty, back-breaking labor to the point of collapse. (13) </pre> <p>Although born over a decade apart, King and Hauerwas were raised (from experientially different yet profoundly interrelated perspectives) deep within the story of corrupted racial intimacy, which Tyson has given us a glimpse into. That Hauerwas refuses to risk writing constructively about the problem of racism in society at large, or to face squarely and publicly the issue of racism in the White churches as a distortion in the grammar of the Christian faith, is an example of the all-too-familiar silent narrative of collusion prevalent among Euro-American theologians and ethicists. Why my Christian brother chooses to view the potential for unity and peace regarding the crying shame of racism as hopelessly "eschatological" is a real puzzle. (14) It is deeply troubling, particularly for a person who cares so much about the historical worshipful practices in view of which Christian virtue emerges and finds its intelligibility.

Hauerwas insists that the corporate witness of Christian faith comes to represent the lived truthfulness of the gospel only through the development of common virtues that dispose Christians to desire rightly. Related to this, Hauerwas has claimed that, "The task of Christian ethics is to keep the grammar of the language of faith so pure that we may claim not only to speak the truth but also to embody that truth in our lives." (15) Hauerwas contends that Christians betray their non-Christian neighbors when we rob them and ourselves of "exemplifications of truthful speech forged through the worship of God." (16) If Hauerwas truly takes these claims to be true in the context of the Christian story, then he fails his own test of "truthful speech forged though the worship of God" with his claim that the story of Black Christians struggling against the bloodstained reality of American racism is not his story. His silence on the issue of race is the untruth which betrays God and the "non-Christian" neighbor.

Liberalism and Memory

Hauerwas's rage against the present neo/liberal, advanced capitalist, society--a society that idolizes market productivity, abundance and mass consumption as supreme ends--is not unwarranted. Yet sometimes liberal dimensions of justice in the context of "inalienable rights" and "equal dignity and justice for all" help to place limits on the degree to which Black folk will get our social-political asses kicked; this while we all continue to struggle toward interrelated beloved communities that might render justice unnecessary. King himself embraced the liberal principles and values embodied in the alleged American desire for a "More Perfect Union." King saw positive aspects of "the American dream" in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (despite the intentional exclusion of Black people), and in Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Summoning up the liberal notions of "Natural Law/Rights," "Toleration," and "Reason" contained in these documents, King appealed to the nation for racial justice. King could appeal to the lofty principles and values contained in the aforementioned documents because, as Lewis V. Baldwin has correctly observed, "King discovered in these founding documents, and in the Emancipation Proclamation, the same basic values and norms that permeated African American religion, literature, and art." (17) In other word's, liberal understandings of "toleration," "reason," "natural law" and "rights," made sense--were rendered "truthful"--in the context of the memories found in the traditions and practices of Black folks in America.

King did not take the allegedly abstract and disembodied norms and principles of American liberalism to be the premises in light of which racial justice was to be pursued. The liberal theories of political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Henry David Thoreau were rendered intelligible for King in the context of a Black religious faith community working out redemptive practices of covenanting love, justice and hope. To stress this point more strongly, King's creative reception of various expressions of liberalism was rendered intelligible, truthful, and meaningful decisively within the Black church religious tradition where he was born and raised. This means that even King's embrace of the Black integrationist traditions of liberalism, as seen in the abolitionism of Frederick Douglass or in the twentieth-century protest and justice work of W. E. B. Du Bois, (18) the Niagara Movement, NAACP, and the National Urban League, were rendered meaningful for King in the context of his having been soaked in the living faith of Black churches. Similarly, King's embrace of the Protestant liberalism (19) of theologians like L. Harold DeWolf, George Davis, and in particular the social gospel of Water Rauschenbusch, were rendered significant through the lens of King's Black church faith. (20)

In any case, the supposedly abstract and ahistorical principles and norms that allegedly inform liberal understandings of justice are always grounded in historical traditions of memory. The "metaphysical" natural laws that helped shape the nation's founding documents are always deeply rooted in traditions and practices filled with memories (even if submerged)--for better or worse. The spirit of the liberal democratic and deistic tradition in which America's founding documents were conceived was partly that of what bell hooks contemporarily calls "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy." White supremacist capitalist patriarchy as a matrix of social-political-cultural arrangements that endure over time comes complete with the canonical authorities of reason, science and religion, which allegedly undergird the "nature" of human beings and their individual/communal lives together.

Perhaps a not wholly unproblematic source of liberal democratic "enlightenment" for our divided contemporary times might include not only the distinctive Black church tradition that shaped King, but also the traditions of seventeenth century Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters who during the English Revolution called forth, in the words of H. N. Brailsford, a "great overturning, questioning, revaluing of everything in England." (21) The aim of these radical liberal dissenters and their supporters was a just and common ownership of England. (22) The re-envisioned Commonweal would be a place where social-political practices associated with dignity and respect of persons no matter their ethnicity, race, gender, or class, would constitute a lived societal virtue. (23) Thinking in terms of a "spirit of the whole creation," Diggers and Ranters, in particular, "associated glory with the leveling of the living." Historians Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, in their book on the revolutionary Atlantic entitled The Many-Headed Hydra, demonstrate the radical liberal democratic spirit of the 1649 Digger manifesto, The True Leveller's Standard Advance. This document in the service of the formation of a better commonwealth desired</p> <pre>

that we may work in righteousness, and lay the foundation of

making the earth a common treasure for all, both rich and poor.

That every one that is born in the land may be fed by the

earth, his mother that brought him forth, according to the

reason that rules in the creation, not enclosing any part into

any particular land, but all as one man working together, and

feeding together as sons of one father, members of one family;

not one lording over another, but all looking upon each other

as equals in creation. So that our Maker may be glorified in the work of his own hands, and that every one may see he is no respecter of persons, but equally loves his whole creation, and hates nothing but the serpent. Which is covetousness. [emphasis

added] (24) </pre> <p>The liberalism of the English dissenters as well as that of Martin Luther King, Jr. could be rendered "truth" only within the context of historical events and practices. As I have suggested above, liberalism(s) harbor memory even when appealing to supposedly ahistorical notions of "Truth," "Natural law," and "Human Nature." They also harbor memory even when they feign amnesia. The English dissenters and King embodied imperfect attempts at liberalism without amnesia. Unfortunately, as "enlightened" as the liberalism of the English dissenters and King may have intended to be, the ages-old narrative of patriarchy and sexism renders unsteady the hope for a "leveling of the living" and "redemptive community" envisioned by their respective traditions. With the Diggers, for example, this most tragic tendency in history can be seen in the language of the above-cited manifesto, while for King ... well, most readers know the various accounts of his story with respect to patriarchy and sexism--both politically and personally. While the traditions of English dissenters, as well as the civil rights tradition fronted by King, in many ways foreshadowed a truly better future, like all traditions, they also represented imperfect attempts at unspoiled goodness. Borrowing from the spirit of John McDermott's commentary on the political philosophy of William James, liberal propositions (and propositions period) cannot be judged as "true" independent of their consequences as judged in the context of temporal experience, the place where traditions, practices, and memory are located. (25)

Hauerwas's version of peaceable memory tied to a tradition of illiberal Christian community draws much inspiration from the politics of Jesus as interpreted by perhaps the foremost Mennonite theologian of the twentieth century, John Howard Yoder. Like Yoder and as alluded above, Hauerwas aims to promote (by the grace of God) a particular way of life within a peaceable Christian colony. This Christian colony of resident aliens does not view its responsibility as that of managing the world. (26) According to Hauerwas, the churches aim is not to make the society or world turn out right, rather the church, in suffering presence, is to endure. Yet it seems easy not to take responsibility for the society turning out right when one's life is harbored at an academic center of society's wealth, power, and entitlement, especially when one is of the "right" hue. It should be noted that the peace churches that Hauerwas looks to for theological and moral inspiration have participated significantly in the violent management of the world. They too bear responsibility for injustices that influence society's turning out wrong. So it is revealing and convenient that Hauerwas does not call for Christian participation in the management of a society in which "peaceable" Christians have aided and abetted the brutal oppression of others. (27)

Liberal notions of the individual, toleration, and justice can sometimes serve as a corrective to the racialized group tyranny of the predominantly Euro-American "peace" churches, which still often refuse to wrestle seriously with their own dogma of White supremacy. It is possible (with caution) for "set-apart" Christian churches to learn some things from certain aspects of society's liberal impulse (of which democratic practices are one) without falling into a purely secular account of history and life. That the church can be "schooled" by forces perceived to be outside its boundaries is a sign that God's grace operates freely outside of Christian communities. And this is part of the truthful narrative of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ--separate persons representing the one Divinity.

Both Christianity and liberal society have provided resources for combating racism as well as obstacles to its defeat. In the context of this truth. Christians see that God's love soaked grace is profoundly for-and-against the church and "the world." God's grace works against the story of racism and other complex alienations that divide individuals, families, communities, churches, society, and world. Yet this same profound grace, this Love Supreme, is for these interlocking aspects of life as humanity struggles (ironically) toward the kinds of restorative social-political arrangements that have never truly been.


1. Other notable Gifford Lectures include Albert North Whitehead, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Ricoeur, John Hick, Alasdair MacIntyre, Mary Douglas, Martha Nussbaum, Charles Taylor, David Tracy, Michael Ignatieff, and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. Jean Bethke Elshtain is scheduled to deliver the 2005-2006 Gifford Lectures and Edward Said died before he could deliver the 2004-2005 Lectures.

2. Of course Hauerwas's more or less essentialist version of "liberalism(s)" will not do justice to the fact that the term "liberalism" has a dizzying array of social-political, theological, ethical, and economic definitions depending on who is employing the term. This should be kept in mind as I proceed to recite Hauerwas's well-known fight against all things liberal in on behalf of virtue, character and pacifism. See and cf. Max Stackhouse's claim that "Hauerwas's definition of 'liberal' is at once too narrow and too broad" in "Liberalism Dispatched vs. Liberalism Engaged," in Christian Century (October 18, 1995), 962-967. See also Roberto S. Goizueta's very good and brief summarizing footnote of the broad range of philosophical and political perspectives and thinkers addressing the terms "liberal" and "liberalism" in Caminemos Con Jesus: Toward a Hispanic/Latino Theology of Accompaniment (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995), 54 n12.

3. Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 12. For an excellent brief overview of this aspect of Hauerwas's thinking see William Werpehowski, American Protestant Ethics and the Legacy of H. Richard Niebuhr (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002), 80-85.

4. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 43.

5. Hauerwas, Community of Character, 9-35, 36-52.

6. Stanley Hauerwas, "September 11, 2001: A Pacifist Response," in Stanley Hauerwas and Frank Lentricchia, eds. Dissent from the Homeland: Essays After September 11 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 188.

7. Hauerwas, "September 11, 2001: A Pacifist Response," in Hauerwas and Lentricchia, eds. Dissent from the Homeland, 181-183.

8. Hauerwas, "September 11, 2001: A Pacifist Response," in Hauerwas and Lentricchia, eds. Dissent from the Homeland, 188.

9. See James Cone's still salient, still fresh-as-wet-paint after more than three decades, discussion of this troubling reality in Black Theology and Black Power (Minneapolis, MN: Seabury Press, 1969), 62-90. Also see the important "Preface to the 1989 Edition" of this book, published by Orbis Books.

10. Stanley Hauerwas, "Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembering," in Wilderness Wanderings: Probing Twentieth-Century Theology and Philosophy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 225.

11. Hauerwas, "Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembering," in Wilderness Wanderings, 225.

12. Hauerwas, "Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembering," in Wilderness Wanderings, 225.

13. Quoted in Craig Werner, A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America (New York: Plume Books, 1999), 56-57. Cf. also C. Van Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow: A Commemorative Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 7, passim.

14. Hauerwas, "Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembering," in Wilderness Wanderings, 237. It is obvious in this essay that Hauerwas is using the memory of King as a launching pad for still another attack upon liberalism. Cf. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 44; Katie G. Cannon, Black Womanist Ethics (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988), 163-178; and (in general) Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954). Hauerwas commits a similar error to the one he commits with the story of King and "the struggle" when he claims that "[Malcolm X's] story cannot be ours, however--if we are white, Christian and American or even European--for the evil he had to recognize is not the same as ours." See Stanley Hauerwas with Richard Bondi and David B. Burrell, Truthfulness and Tragedy: Further Investigations into Christian Ethics (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 97.

15. Stanley Hauerwas, Character and the Christian Life (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1985), 233.

16. Stanley Hauerwas, "On Being a Christian and an American," in Hauerwas, A Better Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2000), 24.

17. Lewis V. Baldwin, The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Boundaries of Law, Politics, and Religion (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 126.

18. Although an advocate of liberalism as a social philosophy for much of his life, as Du Bois approached age seventy his evolving reservations especially about the economic costs of liberalism eventually became a complete rejection. Regarding Du Bois's gradual abandonment of liberalism, the prominent Du Bois historian David Levering Lewis contends that, "[Du Bois's] seventh decade had brought home the full force of an economic revelation ... It was his certainty that liberalism was no longer a social philosophy adequate to comprehend the profoundly changed power relationships emerging out of the Great war that had disillusioned him with the program of the NAACP and much else. Much had been accomplished, he noted, but the problem was that twentieth-century liberalism had stood by while corporate wealth throttled democratic government and then collapsed under its own profligacy. Nor had it any effective prescriptions for ending the lengthening Depression." See David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bios: The Fight for American Equality and The American Century, 1919-1963 (New York: Owl Books, 2000), 440-441.

19. Liberal Theologians were a heterogeneous group, but their voices were especially heard from within the Congregationalist, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, and some Presbyterian churches. Liberal theologians emphasized God's immanence, and advocated for social-political arrangements that accorded with their belief in the progressive, post-millennial, coming of the Kingdom of God on earth in the near future. Moreover, Liberal theologians were distinctive in their high view of human nature and its potential to do the good and the right, as well as the related (somewhat) utopian cast of their political, economic, and cultural views. Of course my foregoing general characterization of liberal theologians, while perhaps helpful, does not speak to the awesome and complex diversity among their views. For a more prodigious attempt to explicate the rise of German and American liberal theology (and ethics) since the nineteenth century--indeed "to map a progressive 'third way' between authority based orthodoxies and atheistic rationalism"--see Gary Dorrien's The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805-1900 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001) and The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity, 1900-1950 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003). A third volume by Dorrien on American liberal theology, 1950-2005, is scheduled for release sometime in 2006.

20. See the very good and brief summary of the sources of King's theology in James H. Cone, Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation (Boston: Beacon), 54-64.

21. Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000), 72.

22. Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, 72.

23. Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, 85.

24. Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, 85.

25. See Robert Audi, ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 386. McDermott bears no responsibility whatsoever for my interpretation of his commentary on James.

26. See John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1972), 244-248. See also Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1989).

27. For example, Mennonites by the mid-seventeenth century enter into the North American environment looking to build a true New Testament church and feeling like a "chosen people." Soon after arriving, Mennonite identity was being infused with the illusions and delusions of idealized White culture and religion. While Mennonites continue to claim that they did not and never would have spilled the blood of Amerindians across the frontiers of North America, they nonetheless had no qualms about dividing up the "goodies" with holocaustal blood-letters. There is, in fact, a strong history and tradition of Mennonite acceptance of hundreds of thousands of acres of land (the spoils) taken out of the hands of Amerindians through bloody conflict. Mennonites and other New Testament-style "peace churches" have built their fortunes on a foundation of violence, a foundation of blood and guts. The Mennonite New Jerusalem embraced a collective narrative of Whiteness on the frontiers of North America in order to secure dimensions of their religious identities, and now they continue (generation after generation) to repress the memory of this apparent contradiction.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Association for Religion and Intellectual Life
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Logan, James
Publication:Cross Currents
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:The unintended consequences of Dixieland Postliberalism.
Next Article:Democratic time: lessons learned from Yoder and Wolin.

Related Articles
Act II, winning an election.
Stanley Hauerwas: An interview.
"I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch." A profile of Stanley Hauerwas.
Louis Hartz and the Liberal Tradition: from consensus to crack-up.
Theology, democracy, and the project of liberalism.
The uneasy alliance: liberalism, conservatism and religious belief.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |