Friday, May 23, 2014

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir

Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir. Eerdmans, 2010. 288 pages. ISBN 978-0-8028-6487-1.

One of the Church Fathers (Early Christian Theologians) said that Christians are made, not born. There could not be a better statement to describe the life of Stanley Hauerwas. He says repeatedly in this book he became a theologian to become a Christian. He was raised in the Methodist Church and has been a theologian at Duke University Divinity School for several years. He argues, however, that he was formed as a Christian the fourteen years he taught at Notre Dame University. He accepted Christ as a young person, though he argues that it took him several years to become a Christian. He has been a Methodist Theologian for over forty years, but he claims he is more Catholic than Protestant. In addition, he claims he has not really found a home in any ecclesiastical tradition. The title says this is a memoir, but it is not a typical memoir or autobiography. It is more a series of theological reflections on different periods of his life.

Hauerwas has been mentioned in many of the books I have read over the years. I knew he was a long-time professor at Duke Divinity school. I knew he was a pacifist. I recently read a book that mentioned Hannah's Child. I was interested in reading this book because the book I was reading said he was shaped by his fourteen years spent at the University of Notre Dame. I thought it was time to read a book authored by someone I heard so much about.

Hauerwas seems to be a lightning rod. There are many reviews and articles published about Hauerwas and this book. There seems to be strong feelings both in favor and against him. Many people have been critical of him because of his pacifist and non-violent views. I think, however, one does not have to agree with Hauerwas' pacifist stance to enjoy this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It shows how God has worked in one's person's life to form him into a Christian. It also shows a man who seeks to live with integrity, faithfulness,  truthfulness. I was surprised how straight-shooting he was in this book. I was surprised how truthful he was about his experiences.

A particular emphasis of this book was what it was like to live with a wife who suffered from mental Illness. Hauerwas's wife for over twenty years suffered from Bi-Polar. Hauerwas shows what it like to live with a family member who suffers from mental illness. Many of these family suffer in silence. I think Haerwas's experience will be helpful to others.

There is any things I like about this book. It is well-written. It tells a good story. It is honest about his struggle to become a Christian. It shows the importance of friendships in our life.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

"I have written this memoir in an attempt to understand myself, something that would be impossible without my friends. I have had a wonderful life because I have had wonderful friends. . . It is also about God-- the God who has forced me to be who I am. Indeed, trying to figure out how I ended up being Satanley Hauerwas requires that I say how God figures into the story, and this is a frightening prospect" (xi).

"I believe what I write, or rather, by writing I learn to believe. But I do not put much stock in 'believing in God.' The grammar of 'belief' invites a far too rationalistic account of what it means to be a Christian. . . I am far more interested in what a declaration of belief entails for how I live my life" (x).

"For me, learning to be a Christian has meant learning to live without answers. Indeed, to learn to live in this way is what makes being a Christian so wonderful. Faith is but a name for learning how to go on without knowing the answers" (207-208).

Hannah's Child is a book that will bring much pleasure to the reader. I enjoyed reading it. Sometimes, it was hard to put it down. It has made me to want to read other works by Hauerwas.

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