Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Williamon: Resident Aliens

Please don’t read this book. Or rather, if you haven’t read much by Hauerwas before don’t start with this one. It is written in order to be more ”popular”, that is, it is written more for pastors and lay people than for academics, and it is the book that made him ”famous”, but it is also the only Hauerwas book where all the cliché criticism against Hauerwas, that he is ”sectarian”, ”fideistic”, ”isolationist” and, the one those of us that read Hauerwas in Europe always get, ”too American”, are somewhat true. This book might have made Hauerwas famous, it also made him infamous.

And the odd thing is, there is little here that fundamentally differs from what he writes elsewhere in substance. But there is a difference in tone, in the examples chosen, and a general lack of precision that makes all those accusations above valid here. There is a moralistic tendency here, a ”holier-than-thou”-sentiment. The colony metaphor is extremely unfortunate. There are some really badly chosen examples (suggesting e.g. that premarital sex as an obvious evil). There is also an absolutely absurd criticism of Tillich (most people who read this in -89 must have gone ”Tillich who?”), essentially criticising Tillich (who obviously has had a problematic influence on American theology), who hade to flee Germany because of his criticism of the nazis, because his theology kind of resembles that of Hirsh who was a collaborator.

If you want a Hauerwas book that is acessible and/or relevant for people in the ministry, try Matthew or Christian Existence Today instead. Or one of his sermon collections. Approach this only if you need examples of ”practical Christianity”, some of those are ok.

I find it hard not to shake off the feeling that this is one possible interpretation of Hauerwas’s theology, and a very unattractive one at that.


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