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Interview by Rodney Clapp

What Would Pope Stanley Say?

A conversation with Stanley Hauerwas.

Starting with its first issue, Wired magazine has featured an unusual item on its masthead. Along with the customary job titles, there is a listing that reads: "Patron Saint: Marshall McLuhan." If Books & Culture were to follow suit, we'd have to list a number of names, not just one, but among them for certain would be Stanley Hauerwas.

Hauerwas is professor of theological ethics at Duke University's Divinity School. He is the author of many books, including A Community of Character, In Good Company: The Church as Polis, and, with Charles Pinches, Christians Among the Virtues: Theological Conversations with Ancient and Modern Ethics (all three of which are published by the University of Notre Dame Press).

A Methodist who draws on diverse sources—especially Roman Catholic and Anabaptist—Hauerwas is a profane, pugnacious pacifist. His understanding of the church was well summarized by Rodney Clapp more than a decade ago in Christianity Today (Sept. 5, 1986): "Worshiping together and supporting one another in community, Christians are a sign to the world. Sustained by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, the church is a palpable presence proving, by its existence and unique character, that the way of the world is not the only way—and certainly not the true way—to live."

Clapp talked with Hauerwas in Durham, North Carolina, this summer. Expletives mostly deleted.

What's the biggest challenge facing the North American church today?

It's very simple: survival. And surviving is a big thing. By survival I mean sustaining the everyday practices that make Christians Christian. Robert Wilken, in The Christians As the Romans Saw Them, explains that the Romans didn't notice the Christians for a long time because they just weren't that significant. Pliny, when he finally noticed the Christians, said, "I can't figure out who these people are. I think they're a burial society because they go out to the cemeteries."

That's a pretty good description of Christians. We're ...

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