Performing the Faith is the first book I have read of Stanley Hauerwas and I feel as though I have met a new friend. I am particularly pleased to have stumbled upon him because, while I have found many excellent biographers, historians, philosophers, scientists, social commentators, etc. to read, Hauerwas is the first contemporary intellectual evangelical Christian that has captured my attention (perhaps I have not looked very hard). Hauerwas is candid and relevant. He seems to love the give and take of a good debate. He concedes ground when appropriate, but holds his own with wit and good humor.
In this collection of essays, Hauerwas tests and expands his views against (and with) Augustine, Aquinas, Wittgenstein, Yoder, Millbank, Stout, Rawls, Barth and a host of others, including, of course, Bonhoeffer. Though Bonhoeffer is named in the book's subtitle, the heart of the book is found in the essays in part two: Truthful Performances. "What is overlooked by both subjective and objective accounts of faith is the sense in which Christian existence is first and foremost and activity - a performance, if you will." Hauerwas, with James Fodor, effectively use the analogy of rhetoric, musical performance and improvisation to illuminate "the general art of living well under God." In the next essay, Hauerwas uses Wittgenstein's work "to help rediscover the frightening beauty of the particular," to which the Christian is called to be a faithful witness. This means engaging in "life-forming practices . . . without seeking false comforts in a world of contingency."
Particularly good are Hauerwas's essays on September 11, 2001. Hauerwas is uncomfortable with the fact that "we get to call the violently secured order that makes our lives possible - peace. Only terrorists refuse to accept the peace our order names." His discomfort is exacerbated because "we know it is possible to love our enemies. Otherwise why would Christ in the Sermon on the Mount ask that we so love?" He asks, "Are we to make Christ a liar? If we do not think it possible to love our enemies, then we should plainly say Jesus is not the Messiah." What is the truth Christians are called to bring to the table? What is the Christian witness to be in a world of violence? Hauerwas doesn't offer up simplistic answers but he does concede "Yoder [in his book The Politics of Jesus] convinced me that if there is anything to this Christian `stuff' it must surely involve the conviction that the Son would rather die on the cross than have the world to be redeemed by violence."
I recommend Performing the Faith to anyone who is interesting in thoughtfully considering what it means to be a Christian in the context of our new-world-at-perpetual-war-order. I look forward to reading more of Hauerwas.