Taken from the IL/WI District Newsletter, January 2017
Stanley Hauerwas in War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity states: “…the church does not have an alternative to war. The church is the alternative to war. When Christians no longer see the reality of the church as an alternative to the world’s reality, we abandon the world to war.”
While I hold deep appreciation for Hauerwas’ reflections on the church as an alternative to war, I am more profoundly struck by his thoughts that the church is an alternative to the world’s reality. Such is the case because, in my view, the church’s alternative reality encompasses more than the subject of war.
Several things have been on my mind lately, including the general election, divisive public discourse, reports of a rise in hate-related activity, the state budget crisis, concerns about the cohesiveness of our denomination…to name a few. The news, through a variety of outlets, is brimming with thoughts and solutions and suggestions for easing some of the aforementioned stresses. The church is frequently in the middle of all this turbulence offering its thoughts and responses for a better way forward, as if the church has alternative options for the difficult reality in which we find ourselves.
But to take Hauerwas seriously, the church doesn’t have alternatives. The church is the alternative reality. Thus, the church is not the dispenser of quick fixes and hard answers and slick solutions. The church has a higher calling of identity, which is to be a safe space where grace abounds, justice prevails, and love wins. This higher calling and alternate reality provides space for another way of living.
The church is not the dispenser of quick fixes and hard answers and slick solutions.
Jesus is our example. Jesus came to us not with all kinds of hoopla and fanfare so often accompanying those to whom we look to for answers and leadership. Rather Jesus arrived as a baby, in a place where animals were kept. Jesus did not immediately impart wisdom, but rather grew in wisdom and stature over time. Jesus entered among us not to draw attention to fame and fortune, or the famous and the fortunate, but to journey with and advocate for the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed. (Luke 4:18-19)
In Jesus we find not the answer but the way. The church, as followers of Jesus, offers not answers, or alternatives, but instead is a way. The church is the alternative.
So imagine a world in which the way is the present reality. It will be a world as imaged by Isaiah where prey and predator reside together without fear and live in harmony, where the innocent can feel safe and no longer be harmed by the malicious, where relationship is priority with care and concern for the other, where all will live together peacefully, gloriously. (Isaiah 11:6-10)
The church is this alternate reality. To be otherwise abandons the world to a most unpleasant reality