Hauerwas on the American story and the Christian story

Hauerwas writes regularly for the Australian Broadcasting website. His essays are insightful and often frustrating. This week he looks at the end of American Protestantism and looks back at American belief:

Americans continue to maintain a stubborn belief in a god, but the god they believe in turns out to be the American god. To know or worship that god does not require that a church exist because that god is known through the providential establishment of a free people. This is a presumption shared by the religious right as well as the religious left in America. Both assume that America is the church.

I heard something quite similar from him at the CEEP conference in March. He’s laying out an argument that the story of freedom and self-determination that is at the heart of the American mythos is profoundly different from the Christian story:

the church believes that we are creatures of a good God who has storied us through engrafting us to the people of Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians do not believe we get to choose our story, but rather we discover that God has called us to participate in a story not of our own making. That is why we are called into the church as well as why we are called, “Christian.” A church so formed cannot help but be a challenge to a social order built on the contrary presumption that I get to make my life up.

It’s well-worth reading, especially on this 150th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and all of the stories that have been created about the Civil War and the making of our nation.

Perhaps most brilliant is his observation of the utter absurdity of the statement “Jesus is Lord, but that’s just my opinion.”

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