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A playful mind

"A playful mind" Continued...

Issue: "Why Grey matters," March 17, 2007

WORLD: When The News and Observer reported in 2005 that you planned to cut down on your use of "rough language," it quoted you as saying, "The middle class is concerned with being nice. The working class isn't concerned with being nice. I'm on the working-class side." Are working-class folks more authentic than the bourgeoisie? How important is class conflict in America?

HAUERWAS: Yes, working-class people are more "authentic" than the bourgeoisie. This does not necessarily mean they are more morally virtuous. It just means they're in a position in which they have less to lose. Honesty is a virtue that comes usually when you've been forced to quit lying to yourself.

WORLD: Jean Elshtain states, "One virtue Hauerwas extols is faithfulness. He urges people to be faithful Roman Catholics or Orthodox Jews or Evangelicals or Muslims." Do you urge Muslims to be faithful Muslims, or to convert to Christianity? Can Islam be true for Muslims?

HAUERWAS: What right would I have to urge Muslims to be faithful Muslims? I have no idea what it means to be a faithful Muslim. I would certainly hope that Christians might live well enough that we would be a witness to Muslims so they might consider making peace a way of life. Of course Islam can be true for Muslims, but that doesn't imply a relativism about truth. It just means that you cannot control what another tradition says is true. What you must do is try to find a way to understand what they mean by truth. In this respect I've been deeply influenced by Alasdair MacIntyre and his understanding of truth as the best we have done so far.

WORLD: My University of Texas colleague J. Budziszewski, reviewing Sanctify Them in the Truth, praised some of your observations but complained that on issues such as homosexuality you relativize Scripture. What is your position on homosexuality, and what do you do with the numerous biblical verses that condemn it?

HAUERWAS: I do not think that the issue of homosexuality can be determined by any one verse of Scripture. Rather it has to do with how a community understands the significance of having children. Christians believe that marriage is the normative practice necessary for being able to welcome children into the world. That's where you have to begin to think about homosexuality. I should say, I have little use for that description.

WORLD: Richard John Neuhaus argued that you have "provided a generation of theology students with a way of thinking and feeling counterculturally that is respectable within the thoroughly liberal academy." Why is your countercultural position warmly celebrated by academic and media culture?

HAUERWAS: I wish I knew who Richard John Neuhaus was describing when he suggests that my position is respectable within the liberal academy. Where is the evidence for that? Implied in his description is a very negative judgment about my influence, suggesting that I give people a feeling of being countercultural without there being any cost. There are costs. If I didn't have the views I do I might have been as successful as Richard John Neuhaus.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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