For 40 years, Stanley Hauerwas has challenged Christians to live like Christians. He does not fit neatly into the conservative vs. liberal categories that have dominated discussions of American Christianity since the early fundamentalist vs. modernist controversies. Some call him a "post-liberal" because he urges all Christians to return to historical Christianity and to sharpen their thinking.
In 1970, Hauerwas joined the faculty of Notre Dame University, in 1983, he moved to Duke Divinity School, and earlier this year, he published his memoir, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Eerdmans, April 2010). In some ways, he is a professor of professors—widely read by academics for his creative, forceful, and provocative application of Christian thought to a wide range of issues. But he also appeals to blue-collar readers who sense that this son of a bricklayer is one of them—willing to say that many smart-sounding professors are philosophically incoherent.
Andy Rowell, a doctoral student in theology at Duke Divinity School, spoke with Hauerwas about his life, his work, and his hopes and concerns for his evangelical students.
For 40 years you have been reflecting theologically on the habits, virtues, and vices of Americans. Now you have put yourself under the microscope. Why did you write this memoir? Or is it an autobiography?
An autobiography indicates something closer to a chronology, and I didn't want to be limited to that. A memoir is usually meant to expose one's subjectivity. For me that creates some difficulty as I do not want to privilege the objective-subjective distinction. I wrote this book because people had asked me to do it. I had resisted doing it, partly because it's such an invitation to narcissism. ...