Well Intended, but flawed

Resident Aliens,

Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon

The description of this book on the cover is, “A provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know something is wrong.”

The authors go straight for our chops in the preface: “The church is a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another.” Acknowledging that Christian culture is subsumed in an increasingly alien, secular one, they lay out how Christians can function as Christ calls to us to do. Each of their chapters comes to grips with particular aspects of Christian belief in our daily lives.

What are the right questions in the modern world? How do Christians know how to respond? How do Christians involve themselves and their churches in the increasingly diverse life of the country? What are Christian ethics: what Jerry Falwell preaches? What liberal Christians preach and practice? Can there be anything common about the preaching and practice of Christianity?

The authors tackle these topics and weave others in. They come head on in both their analysis and dictation about how Christians handle the ambiguity that we work into the interaction of our faith with living in present day America. The book is thoughtful, well written and engages its readers in self consideration.

Having given this analysis, there is a caution to be added. The authors lay out a world in which religion plays a decreasing role in human behavior. For example, they draw some examples from WWII. They use the examples of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the plowing under of Germany by Allied bombing being approved by President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill as being unChristian. Having lived through WWII, I find this unacceptable. War is never Christian. The Germans were in the process of exterminating Jews and the Japanese treated military prisoners, and every one else they came in contact with, particularly the Chinese whom they exterminated by the hundreds of thousands, with brutality. In the case of the Japanese government, atomic bombs were the only thing that would have brought the Japanese to the peace table and prevented the invasion of Japan. The first one had no effect on the government’s decision to continue the war, and neither did the second one. It was the Emperor who came out of his isolation to announce his acceptance of surrender. Christianity, as these two use it, had no effect on the decision of the Nazis and the Japanese to force violence on the world.

However, this is a book for people who take their religion seriously and are willing to be faced with looking at their lives through Christianity as held up by Hauerwas and Willmon.

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