I’ve only just begun reading The Hauerwas Reader. Until now I have been unfamiliar with Stanley Hauerwas, or with his ideas. My impression of him as a person is probably not important, but I was struck by this paragraph from the biographical first chapter:

Stanley Hauerwas loves a good argument. Indeed, to be able to have an argument at all is a significant moral achievement, for it presupposes some common understanding of the goods at issue.

Thus something like the reverse of Rodney King’s famous appeal after the L.A. riots is Stanley Hauerwas’s plea: Can’t we all just have an argument? I have known Stanley for nearly two decades now, half of which I spent being scared to death of him. What I gradually came to realize is that I was not disturbed by his ferocity but rather by his lack of guile. His frank unwillingness to dissemble in the interests of “just getting along” came as a terrible shock to a nice Midwesterner who hates the appearance of the conflict more than the conflict itself. Despite his confrontational image, however, Stanley does not seek to create discord, but only refuses to get along if it means covering over conlicts that are already there. Christian pacifism must be an active peacemaking, the first step of which is to locate and truthfully name what is in conflict.

It was the phrase “frank unwillingness to dissemble in the interests of ‘just getting along’” that grabbed me. Oh how that frightens me; oh, how it appeals to me.

One of my big problems is that I am often so annoyed that we can’t all live in love that I want to burn everything to the ground. (And of course, fearing the appearance of conflict, I dissemble more than is healthy and less than consistently.) This must be deeply incoherent, which is why I hope that someone like Hauerwas can help me out.

Of course, this is just Stanley the Teacher, Stanley the Academic we’re talking about here; not necessarily (at least in this excerpt) Stanley the family member or the Christian brother.

Maybe if, like Hauerwas and his biographer, I’d chosen to follow study and dispute as a vocation, I’d have found it easier to strike that balance: through time devoted to study, better able to comprehend my ideals, and through dispute, better able to understand their weaknesses. And, in any case, less of a need to carry my freshman ideals on my shoulder when I eat with friends and family.