Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stanley Hauerwas on Mother's Day and Other Perversions in the Church

I assume most of you are here because you think you are Christians, but it is not at all clear to me that the Christianity that has made you Christians is Christianity. For example:

—How many of you worship in a church with an American flag?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many worship in a church in which the Fourth of July is celebrated?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that recognizes Thanksgiving?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that celebrates January 1st as the “New Year”?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that recognizes “Mother’s Day”?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

I am not making these claims because I want to shock you. I do not want you to leave the Youth Academy thinking that you have heard some really strange ideas here that have made you think. It is appropri­ate that you might believe you are here to make you think, because you have been told that is what universities are supposed to do—that is, to make you think. In other words, universities are places where you are educated to make up your own mind. That is not what I am trying to do. Indeed I do not think most of you have minds worth making up. You need to be trained before you can begin thinking. So I have not made the claims above to shock you, but rather to put you in a position to discover how odd being a Christian makes you.

One of the great difficulties with being a Christian in a country like America—allegedly a Christian country—is that our familiarity with “Christianity” has made it difficult for us to read or hear Scripture. For example, consider how “Mother’s Day” makes it hard to compre­hend the plain sense of some of the stories of Jesus. In Mark 3:31–35 we find Jesus surrounded by a crowd. His mother and brothers were having trouble getting through the crowd to be with Jesus. Somebody in the crowd tells him that his mom cannot get through the mass of people to be near him. Which elicits from Jesus the rhetorical question “Who are my mother and brothers?” which he answered, noting, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Even more forcefully Jesus says in Luke 14:26: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” When you celebrate “Mother’s Day,” the only thing to do with texts like these is “explain them,” which usually means Jesus could not have meant what he plainly says.

Of course, the presumption that Christianity is a family-friendly faith is a small-change perversion of the gospel when compared to the use of faith in God to underwrite American pretensions that we are a Christian nation possessing righteousness other nations lack.

– Stanley Hauerwas, Working with Words: On Learning to Speak Christian (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011), 116–7.

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