Stanley Hauerwas: After Christendom?

This collection of essayes comes very close to being an actual book, and one where Hauerwas in a rather polemical tone discusses several key issues. This is the book where Hauerwas infamously argues that justice is a ”Bad Idea for Christians” and that freedom of Religion is ”a Subtle Temptation”.  Even though those statements have been blown out of proportion, they still form the core of the popular perception of Hauerwas.

In other words, this is a good book to read for those interested in Hauerwas’s political theology. The chapter ”How we Lay Bricks and Make Desciples” is important in order to understand his view of the Church, and ”The Politics of Sex” is one of is better discussions on sex and marriage. I find the book useful and have used it (and parts of it) in class. It seems to work well with the students.

Hauerwas himself seems to care a great deal about this book. In Hannah’s Child he writes:

I thought the invitation to give the New College Lectures was a good opportunity for me to develop more fully the philosophical and theological background Will and I had assumed in Resident Aliens. The lectures thus became something of a sequel when they were published as After Christendom? It did not occur to me that some people would find this book more controversial than Resident Aliens.
I find it frustrating that the arguments I develop in books like After Christendom? are often ignored by my scholarly critics. People who focus on my “exaggerations” too often fail to see how they function to invite thought. For example, critics who focused on the claim in the subtitle of After Christendom? that justice is a “bad idea” often failed to attend to the detailed arguments I developed in the text. The subtitle itself — How the Church Is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas — was created by the publisher to give symmetry to the chapter titles. No doubt it is a provocative title. But it is frustrating that some people dismissed the book because of such provocation. Damn it, I did my homework. Some critics were upset by my title, but they did not go on to suggest that I got Richard Rorty or John Rawls wrong. Or that I misunderstood MacIntyre on craft and was thus mistaken about an alternative epistemology. Or that the relationship I posit between the sexual revolution and the growth of power of the nation state was misplaced.

The second edition includes a useful preface that clarifies Hauerwas’s position  – one can get a lot of milage out of Hauerwas’s prefaces and introductions they are often where he spells out his position the most clearly.


  1. The Politics of Salvation: Why There is No Salvation Outside the Church
  2. The Politics of Justice: Why Justice is a Bad Idea for Christians
  3. The Politics of Freedom: Why Freedom of Religion is a Subtle Temptation
  4. The Politics of Church: How We Lay Bricks and Make Disciples
  5. The Politics of Sex: How Marriage Is a Subversive Act
  6. The Politivs of Witness: How we Educate Christians in Liberal Societies


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