Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stanley Hauerwas' Newest Book

My wife bought me an Amazon Kindle a few weeks back. (She orginally bought me one 2 years ago - and now a 2nd. The first one she bought new and it was hard for me to accept. I'm not good at receiving gifts in the first place, and I'm even "worse" at receiving gifts that cost someone money. I have so little need for things. So, after great use of the first Kindle over a summer, I sold it to get money back. But, she worked out a great deal to get me a new-used one a few weeks ago - and the story that goes along with the purchase indicates that I had to keep it!) The beauty of the kindle is the ability to get new books instantly and before they go into regular distribution. It was a delight, then to receive Stanley Hauerwas newest book, Hannah's Child - A Theologians Memoir.

After I started reading, I could not put it down. I was first introduced to Hauerwas by my best theological and pastor friend, T. Scott Daniels. We had the privilege not only of teaching together but of learning together and of living together in the life if pastoring/preaching. My best academic years (to this point in my young career) were with Scott because of the friendship that was enculturated between us - that allowed for something more synergistic to happen with our students over the course of their academic careers.

I mention Scott because one of the things I so enjoyed reading from Hauerwas' story is how his story is so profoundly shaped by the friendships that he has had over the years. Additionally, while his story is different from my own - being able to read through his life's story as it connected to his painful first marriage and raising his son alone had so much connection and "resonance" with my own first marriage and raising my own girls alone.

I can not share too much here in this review - because my point is not to think that I will ever have the clout or "significance" that Hauerwas has had - and my life's story is very different than his. But I can say I come away from his story realizing profoundly how much life I still have to live - personally and professionally.

I realize how much I can still write - and learn to write by writing essays more frequently. I realize how blessed I am to already have such a wonderful wife in my life now who supports and helps with more than she should. I realize that my life's story must be connected to others - others in faith and in ministry.

I'm excited to know that in a few days I'll be at Duke Divinity working with others in Church and Faith Leadership issues - and later this summer at Oxford working with others in Hebrew-Christian relations. And, in other ways I have other projects going in - from Eupan Global Initiative projects - to Genocide Intervention projects (I was with Dr. Tom Coburn's Field Representative just today, again.)

Back to Hauerwas. I am so thankful to know that all lives are complex and good can emerge.

I will learn to be a better writer, by writing. I will give more specific focus to reading that I will do. And, I will learn to give thanks to God for the years - not lost - but the years to be discerned in my future for and toward a better world - personally, professionally, and globally. Toward eupan.


Here is the review I posted to

I became aware of Hauerwas through a professional colleague in the late 90's. While my area of expertise is in Bible more precisely, I have not had direct reason to read all that Hauerwas has written. Like many others, though, I've heard Hauerwas present papers at professional meetings or other events and knew him to be quite a "character" and I wanted to "hear" his story - especially since he connected it to such a great story from Hebrew Scripture with reference to Hannah and Samuel.

What a delight to read this text. It is precisely what it claims to be - a memoir. What most resonated with me as an individual reader is the fact of Hauerwas's honest portrait of his life's story - particularly the intersections of his work as a student, as a colleague figuring out how to navigate professional/academic guilds, and his life with Anne and Adam, his first and their child. As a student, he was just moving forward and searching - but not out to prove anything, it seems. As an academic, in his own story, he notes how green and crass he was, turning people off and not pleasing all but being honest. In particular, I valued how his life as an academic took place in conversations with so many other academics - the persons with whom he worked that shaped how he thought and what he read and how he come to converse and lecture on various topics. In his life with his wife, he notes the difficulty, pain and ambiguity that came with being married to someone who would later have psychotic breaks that he and Adam tried to manage and live with and through. And, of course, how being the son of a bricklayer and, by his own testimony, a bricklayer himself wove itself through his life's story.

I found the memoir to be hopeful for for those who might be in academia or theological colleges/seminaries - those younger or older in complex marriages - those new to academia or young in it. Hauerwas's story testifies to the reality that a person can't manage or create a perfect life to become a "Stanley Hauerwas" - each person must simply live life with integrity. Mature and grow with your own life's story.

Hauerwas's story is personal and memorable.

The book is not a must read for many people - but for those in theological/philosophical work within "the academy" - this memoir offers much personal and anecdotal wisdom for thinking about one's own life and profession.

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