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"In Good Company: The Church as Polis." By Stanley Hauerwas, University of Notre Dame Press, 268 pp.; $29.95
Perhaps it is time to silence Stanley. No longer read him when he writes, no longer listen when he speaks. Hasn't he made himself clear by now? Is there anything new to be learned from him? In addition, his habit of self-referencing, already high by any standard, in this newest book reaches truly off-putting heights. We are told of how the whole world has claimed him, of how his books have made him famous. We are taken on his honeymoon, even to the gravesite of his father. We sit at his feet to hear three of his sermons, and in his class to receive his course syllabus, the assigned readings and lectures for the Fall of 1993 for CHE 33 at the Duke Divinity School. My goodness, we're even referred to his current minister at Aldersgate Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for questions about his ecclesial life. And in chapter after chapter we are not so subtly reminded of what others have called him, labeled him, think of him; all to be met with extended self-defense that either takes the tack of mocking his critics or (a la Richard Rorty) the dismissive posture of "I'm not interested in that." Does "In Good Company" finally mark the end of a Hauerwas worth listening to?
Unfortunately, not yet. Hauerwas continues to be right, right on, and quite necessary. He remains one of the most provocative and important writers for Christians struggling to make sense of Christian identity and the church in our confused age. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that the only way we should silence Stanley is by making him irrelevant. Only as we take seriously his claims, arguments, assertions, and then build practices that do, in fact, unleash the church's true social ethic and theological politics can we finally hope to silence this vain man.
The book is a collection of 13 articles and papers, almost all of which have appeared in other contexts. Here they are gathered ...