Hauerwas on Sex, Marriage, and the Family

Hauerwas has not written a lot on sexual ethics, these texts would hardly make up a booklet if combined, yet he has quite a distinctive perspective. It is not without problems, though. There seems to be a basic tension between his Yoderian insight that the Church is not a community that grows by procreation but by witness and conversion; and his strong emphasis on the moral education of children. This would be a nice little problem for someone to sort out, for example in a master’s thesis… 😉

In Chronological order:

From A Community of Character (1981):

  • ”The Moral Value of the Family”. Hauerwas makes a number of arguments in this text. One, that the family is not threatened by womens liberation, sexual revolution or something like that but by liberal economic and social values that has robbed the family of its meaning. To counter this, we must ”recover the moral significance of our willingness to have children”.
  • ”The Family: Theological and Ethical Reflections”. Here the central argument is that with the decline of other institutions in society the family has to carry an impossible load. This is coupled with the contention that at the same time the family has lost its traditional social significance as a social institution and bearer of tradition. Hauerwas suggests that we need to counteract the ”romantic perversion” of marriage by re-placing marriage inside the Christian community, a community with a clear purpose and mission.
  • ”Sex in Public: Toward a Christian Ethic of Sex (alternate subtitle in the Reader: ”How Adventerous Christians are Doing It”. This is a biting critique of most Christian talk about sex. Of course there is the old idea that Christians have only negative things to say about it, but Hauerwas focuses on two more relevant trends, dubbed ”Realism” and ”Romanticism”. As an alternative Hauerwas advocates a talk about sex that focuses on its public character and political significance.

From After Christendom:

  • ”The Politics of Sex: How Marriage Is a Subversice act”. This one continues and deepens the theme of ”Sex in Public”. Hauerwas discusses with Bertrand Russel’s view of marriage and argues that Marriage has to be protected from the State.

From Dispatches from the Front / The Reader:

  • ”Why Gays (as a Group) Are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group)”. This short text is not really about homosexuality but about Christians and war. The point of course is that Hauerwas wishes that Christians would be considered at least as problematic to the U.S. Military as Gays.

From The Hauerwas Reader:

  • ”The Radical Hope in the Annunciation: Why Both Single and Married Christians Welcome Children”. This text from 1998, essentially revisits the same ideas as the early texts from A Community of Character. It includes a brief discussion of ”Hauerwas’s Law”.

From Sanctify them in Truth:

  • ”Gay Friendship: A Thought Experiment in Catholic Moral Theology”. This one is important, not only for a very different approach to homosexuality from what is the usual in theology, but also for Hauerwas’s understanding of marriage.

From A Better Hope:

  • ”Resisting Capitalism: On Marriage and Homosexuality”. This is a short text, that does not bring that much new into the argument, except this:”Indeed, my deepest problem with the current debate among Methodists [regarding Gay Marriage] is that we become one another’s enemies and as a result fail to notice who the enemy is – that is, capitalism”.

From Matthew:

  • Pages 168-172. This is in fact one of the clearest account of Hauerwas’s position, and at the same time one where the above mentioned tension is most visible.

From Working with Words:

  • ”Love: A Sermon” A Wedding Sermon. Argues that Marriage and love has to be seen within the context of the Church. Cites Benedict XIV’s Deus Caritas est.

Back to the Hauerwas Guide

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