Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Church's Most Important Task

Stanley Hauerwas does not set out to be provocative. His goal is truthfulness and faithfulness. But as the prophetic voices of old learned through bitter experience, truthfulness and faithfulness often provoke.

I've just handed in an all-consuming essay today (aside: it's a strange feeling when you hand in a piece of work. After the hours spent in its company there's a sense of loss and disorientation as it drops into its new home - a large box that lets your work in but will not let it out without the authority of another. You feel like you've lost a friend -- an irritating, trying friend at times, but a friend nonetheless. (an aside to my aside: I've just called my essays "friends". I need help)) Not knowing what to do with myself in the aftermath, I picked out a few Hauerwas books from the library shelves and just started reading. For pleasure. For interest. For thought. It is a measure of the man's ability to think and write that after the first two sentences of the first paragraph that I read, I immediately called to the attention of my North American friend, who had to hear this. The same happened with the next sentence. And the sentences that followed that.

While North Americans are in Hauerwas's crosshairs, us Europeans are just as culpable and just as in need of being on the receiving end of this most important task:

Most North American Christians assume that they have a right if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own.

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