“There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s
life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish
daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled
adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to
make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about
orcs.” – “The Value of Nothing” by Raj Pate
It is, alas, a story we hear almost everyday. A “terrorist” straps
explosives to his body and walks into the crowded market to cause
mayhem. Or “Holy Warriors” fight endless battles to prevent the spread
of democracy in their homelands. When we see these things, we shake our
heads and lament that in the name of God, these people not only commit
terrible crimes, but resist the very things—democracy and
liberalism—which will bring them the same peace and prosperity that we
enjoy. We have no doubts about how these events are to be interpreted,
for we know that misdirected and irrational violence is part of our own
history, a history from which we were rescued by the liberal state, and
the separation of religious and temporal affairs.
But what if our understanding is wrong? What if the nation-state was
not the cure but the cause of the wars that we term “religious”? In
other words, what if all that we “know” isn’t so, is in fact a myth used
to justify the nation-state and marginalize certain kinds of discourse,
most particularly “religious” discourse? This is the theme of William
T. Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence.
We know the story very well: after the Reformation, Europe fell into a
murderous cycle of sectarian violence, from which we were rescued by
the nation-state, which cordoned off “religious” concerns from the
temporal order, imposing a political tolerance on the contending faiths
while concentrating on building prosperous kingdoms (at first) and then
liberal democracies, in which the religious realm was kept separate from
the secular. It is this story which provides us—all of us, whether
“left” or “right—with the framework by which we view both domestic and
international events, and most particularly the Muslim world.
But is this story a history or a myth? Prof. Cavanaugh contends that
it is a myth, one that simply does not conform to the facts of history.
In support of this thesis, he makes a number of remarkable claims:
Religion in not a severable category from cultural political, and
economic life. In fact, “religion,” as we understand the term, is a
creation of the modern West, and would have been unintelligible to
previous ages and cultures.
The modern state precedes the so-called wars of religion, Indeed,
the “wars of religion” weren’t about religion at all.
There has been a transfer of the sacral from the religious order to
the political. Far from separating religion from the state, the modern
state creates its own sacred space, with its own rituals, hymns, and
theology, and its own universal mission.
The universal mission of this new Church is mainly tied up with
practical solutions to particular problems that are elevated to the
status of transcendent truths. As Alasdair MacIntyre put it:
The modern nation-state, in whatever guise, is a
dangerous and unmanageable institution, presenting itself on the one
hand as a bureaucratic supplier of goods and services, which is always
about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money, and
on the other as a repository of sacred values, which from time to time
invites one to lay down one’s life on its behalf… [I]it is like being
asked to die for the telephone company.
If Cavanaugh is correct, then his thesis should profoundly effect the
way we view the world, or rather, the story we tell ourselves about how
the world works. Humans always tell themselves stories about how things
are; it is the only way to organize information into a coherent whole.
But it does help if the story bears some relationship to the way the
world is, or was; if its details can in general be correlated with some
actual history. In this case, the story does not correspond with
reality. Even if we allow that religion is not something severable from
the rest of life and culture, can we go along with Cavanaugh’s claim
that religion itself is a modern invention?
The moderns would hold that “religion” is a trans-cultural,
trans-historical reality, a universal genus of which “Christianity,”
“Hinduism,” and “Islam” are particular species. The problem is, any
attempt to define this genus in such a way as to include what the
moderns want to include and to exclude what they wish to exclude turns
out to be contradictory. Nationalism is no less a cult than Catholicism.
Including a belief in God would exclude many major “religions.” One
might attempt to limit religion to the “transcendent,” but ideas such as
“the nation” or “liberty” are transcendent ideas, as are all values.
Hence, there is no coherent way to distinguish “religious” from
“secular” violence. What counts as “religious” or “secular” in any given
society always depends on the configuration of power within that
society. Indeed, the demarcation of the “religious” sphere is itself an
expression of secular power, a political act.
Our concept of “religion” was simply unknown to the ancients. There
is no word in Greek, Latin, Egyptian, Aztec, Chinese, or the Indian
languages that precisely corresponds to our term. The Latin religio,
“re-binding” referred to the rites which bound the social order
together, and would include anything from the Japanese tea ceremony to
the Greek rites of hospitality, to the temple rites of the various gods.
When Augustine wrote De Vera Religione, “Of True Religion,”
his subject was not Christianity. Rather, it was about worship, which
can be given either to the creator or to the creation. True religion is
directed toward the creator alone, and religion is not something
contrasted with a secular realm. In the City of God, Augustine
uses the term religion to refer to the worship of God, but he finds the
term ambiguous, because:
In Latin usage…”religion” is something displayed in
human relationships, in the family (in the narrower and wider sense) and
between friends; and so the use of the word does not avoid ambiguity
when the worship of God is in question. We have no right to affirm with
confidence that “religion” is confined to the worship of God, since it
seems that this word has been detached from its normal meaning in which
it refers to an attitude of respect in relations between a man and his
When we turn to a work like Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, we
would expect it to be concerned with what we call “religion,” but Thomas
uses the term only once. Religion is one of the nine virtues that are a
part of justice; it is that part which renders to God what is due to
God and refers to the rites and practices that offer worship to God. It
is not a term that designates a sphere of human activity that stands
apart from some other sphere, called the “secular.” Indeed, the terms
“religious” and “secular” in the middle ages normally referred to the
two orders of clergy, those bound to monastic vows and those which were a
part of the diocesan structure. The different “religions” were
Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican, etc.
If there is no analytical severable category of “religion,” then the
idea of the “wars of religion” from which we were saved by the secular
state can’t be correct either. The neat narrative of a struggle with
Catholics on one side and Protestants on the other simply doesn’t work
out. The framework of the 30-Year’s War was a struggle between three
Catholic monarchies, the French and the two branches of the Hapsburgs.
Prof. Cavanaugh gives of 10 pages of examples that run counter to the
standard narrative: Catholics allied with Protestants against Catholics,
Protestants allied with Catholics against Protestants, Protestants
battling Protestants, etc. Obviously, the facts exceed the narrative.
Nor was the rise of the modern state the solution to the problem, it
was the cause. Long before the Reformation, the state was expanding its
power at the expense of the Church. The taxing of the clergy, the
consolidation of ecclesial courts into civil ones, intrusion into the
educational system, the replacement of the Church’s charities with the
welfare state, and royal control of clerical appointments were some of
the signs of the expanding power of the state. The Reformation itself
was part of this process, since so many of the “reformers” were more
than willing to replace the pope with the prince to enforce a
confessional conformity. The Reformation depended on lay power, and gave
a justification for that power. The biggest source of power is always
property, and the wealth of the Church was a tempting target. In 1524,
King Gustav Vasa of Seeden welcomed the Reformation because it allowed
him to transfer the tithes from the Church to the crown, and three years
later he appropriated all Church property, nine years before Henry VIII
did the same. In France, “secularization” meant the transfer of Church
property to the crown.
But this confessional conformity required that local privileges and
independence to be overturned. The Catholic Monarchs desired absolutism
as much as did their Protestant counterparts. Charles V made war against
the Protestant princes, with the help of at least some Protestants, in
an attempt to turn the Holy Roman Empire into a centralized, sovereign
state. In France, the crown attempted to unite the country under un
roi, une foi, une loi, which required a war against the nobility.
The nationalized churches became part of a clientage system, so much so
that Pope Julius III could write to the French King Henry II, “You are
more than pope in your kingdoms.”
After the state caused the wars, its apologists proposed the state as
a solution. Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, and Rousseau saw a strong state
(or even a state religion) as a necessity. After all, membership in a
religion was voluntary, but membership in the state was compulsory, and
the state required a degree of conformity. It is not that the new state
would be intolerant. On the contrary, it would enforce religious
“tolerance,” but only for a “religion” shorn of any civil interests.
Religion was to be a private passion—or fantasy—one which would not be
allowed to serve as a source of resistance to the totalizing state.
Hence, Catholics were excluded from this tolerance, not because of
bigotry, but on the quite rational grounds that the Catholic Church
could never confine itself to being a “religion” that could be
conveniently domesticated and striped of its civil and economic
concerns. This church could never fit into the truncated category of
religion, and hence could not be compatible with the modern state. The
actual trajectory is that first the state was “sacralized” by absorbing
the powers of the Church, and then the state was “liberalized” by being
tolerant of the “religions,” but only insofar as they present no genuine
opposition to the power of the state.
Seen in this light, the so-called “separation of church and state” is
a complete sham. As Robert Bellah put it, the state becomes “an
elaborate and well-institutionalized civil religion” that “has its own
seriousness and integrity and requires the same care in understanding
that any other religion does.” the real issue is where we place what
Cavanaugh calls our “lethal loyalties,” which have been transferred to
this new religion and its universal mission: the imposition of democracy
and market economics on the whole world. None of us would think of
killing for the faith, but killing for the state becomes “patriotism.”
It was in the trenches and the gas attacks of World War I that Wilfred
Owen discovered the price of this new religion in “the old lie,
Dulce et Decorum est, pro patria mori.” And of course, what we die
for, we also kill for.
The actual trajectory of history is that the state absorbed the
powers of the church, and then “solved” the problems this creates by
offering “tolerance” to any church which would become a “religion,” a
domesticated, private fantasy that could pose no challenge to secular
authority. As Christians, our best response is to accept the role that
Hobbes and Locke assigned to us: permanent outsiders, to be viewed with
suspicion at best and persecution at worst. This new state, actually
just another cult, rationalizes some forms of violence and condemns
others. We are horrified at the violence of those whose countries we
invade, but “shock and awe” over Baghdad is a regrettable, but rational
form of violence in a noble cause; in the end, it will bring free trade,
democracy, and better phone service.
The obedience that the state requires is total, and dissent is worse
than traitorous, it is unpatriotic. Every combat soldier instinctively
recognizes the truth of Randall Jarrett’s The Death of the Ball
Turret Gunner, and tells his own version of the grim joke:
From my mother’s sleep I fell into
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
It seems that the Volos Conference has been underway and overviews of the specific papers have been provided via the website for the Volos Academy.
Here is a general outline:
Metropolis of Demetrias
VolosAcademy for Theological
Neo-Patristic Synthesis or
Theology: Can Orthodox Theology be Contextual?
June 3-6, 2010, THESSALIA
conference is organized
in collaboration with the Orthodox
Christian Studies Program of Fordham University, the Chair of
Orthodox Theology of Münster University, and the Romanian
Institute for Inter-Orthodox,
Inter–Confessional, and Inter-Religious Studies (INTER) Cluj-Napoca
Opening – Greetings
Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis
of the VolosAcademy for
Pericic, Professor of Patrology, former Dean of the Theological Faculty,
University of Belgrade,
Theology as Contextual Theology in the Patristic Era and Today
Martzelos, Professor at the School
of Theology, University
of Thessaloniki, Greece
The Role of Contextual
Theology in the Orthodox Tradition
JUNE 4th 2010
Moderator: Dr. George Demacopoulos
of Theology, Co-Founding Director,
Studies Program of FordhamUniversity
Plested, Director of Studies, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK
The Emergence of
the Neo-Patristic Synthesis: Content, Challenges and Limits
Gavrilyuk, Associate Professor, University
St. Thomas, Minnesota, USA
Florovsky’s Christian Hellenism: A Critical Evaluation
Behr, Dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York,
Going Beyond Neo-Patristic Synthesis
Dr. Bruce Beck,
Dr. Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the
Moscow Patriarchate Department for ExternalChurch Relations, Russia
Tradition and Contextual Theology
Grdzelidze, Programme Executive, Faith and Order, WCC
Contextualisation of the Church Fathers
in the Context of Ecumenism
Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze
and Order, WCC
Associate Professor, St. John of Damascus Orthodox Theological Institute
University of Balamand, Lebanon
between Biblical and Theological Disciplines
Fotopoulos, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Saint
College at Notre Dame, USA
Theology and the Historical-Critical Method
Rev. Dr. Maxim ofWestern America
at the School
of Theology, University of Belgrade
Demacopoulos, Associate Professor of Theology, Co-Founding Director,
Christian Studies Program of Fordham
University, New York, USA
Post-Colonial Theory, and Some New Possibilities for Retrieving the
Nesteruk, Senior Lecturer, Department
of Mathematics, University of
Portsmouth, UK; Visiting Professor, St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological
Institute, Moscow, Russia
Orthodoxy in the
Scientific Age: From a Neo-Patristic Synthesis to Radical Theological
Demetrios Bathrellos, Visiting Lecturer, Institute for Orthodox
Studies, Cambridge, UK;Priest of the
Aghia Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, Drafi, Attica, Greece
Theology as a New Form of Orthodox Theology
SATURDAY JUNE 5th 2009
Moderator: Dr Demetrios
at the Scholl of Theology, AthensUniversity
Kattan, Director of the Center
of Religious Studies and Chair
of Orthodox Theology, University
of Münster, Germany
Reconsidered: The Myth of a Non-Hermeneutical Approach to Orthodox
Panteleimon Manoussakis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of
Cross, Worcester, USA
God. Being and
Event: The Intersection between Theology and Ontology
Professor of Theology, Co-Founding Director,
Christian Studies Program of FordhamUniversity
John Zizioulas, Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou, Fr Andrew Louth)
Zizioulas, Member of the Academy
and Temporality of the Neo-Patristic Synthesis
11.30-12.00Fr. Andrew Louth, Professor of Patrology, University of Durham, UK
The Authority of
the Fathers in “post-patristic Orthodox theology”
Fr Gregory's remarks on his photo:
with Metropolitan John, Pantelis Kalaitzidis (the director of the Volos
Academy), Fr. John Behr of St. Vladimir's, and others at lunch on
Saturday. Here, they were all asking Metropolitan John to recount
stories about his experiences with Fr. Florovsky (he was a student of
Florovsky at Harvard).
Moderator: Dr Vassilios
of Sociology of Orthodox Christianity at ErfurtUniversity
Neamtu, Senior Fellow of CADI/ Eleutheria,
as a Particular Case of Contextual Theology
Associate Professor of Social Theology, Babes-Bolai-University, Cluj-Napoca, Director of the Romanian Institute
Inter-Orthodox, Inter-confessional, Inter-Religious Studies-INTER, Romania
Theology as Contextual Theology
15.00-15.30Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou, Associate Professor
Theology, Co-Founding Director, Orthodox Christian Studies Program of Fordham University, New
Liberalism: Political Theology after the Empires
Professor, Babes-Bolai-University, Cluj-Napoca,
of the INTER (Romania)
Bouteneff, Associate Professor, St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological
Challenges for Contemporary Orthodoxy from Contextual Theologies
Eleni Kasselouri, Teaching at the Hellenic Open University,
Member of the
Academic Team of Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Greece
Feminist Theology and its Contextuality: A Challenge
or an Opportunity for Orthodox
SUNDAY JUNE 6th 2010
Divine Service at the
Christ’s Ascension Church, Volos
Departure of the buses for ThessaliaConferenceCenter,
Moderator: Dr. Assaad Elias
of the Centre of Religious Studies
Chair of Orthodox Theology, University of Münster
11.30-12.00Rev. Dr.Emmanuel Clapsis, Professor of Dogmatics, HolyCrossGreekOrthodoxSchool of Theology, Brookline, USA
Gospel and Cultures:Toward a Theology of
N. Papathanasiou, Editor in Chief of the Theological Journal Synaxis, Greece
Mission as a
Orthodox Contextual Theology
Kalaitzidis, Director of the VolosAcademy for Theological
Toward a Post-Patristic
There are press releases in English that provide over views of each day:
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types--the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine."
G.K. Chesterton, from a newspaper column of 1924 - and very appropriate in an age when English conservatives were beginning to support capitalism, exactly the innovation that English conservatives had opposed and Whigs had supported a century earlier.
Stanley Hauerwas teaches theology and ethics at the Divinity School of Duke University. After receiving his Ph.D. from Yale, Dr. Hauerwas spent the first part of his career at the University of Notre Dame before coming to Duke in 1984. For a theologian, not exactly a vocation one chooses to be well-known, he has lectured widely, his work often crossing disciplinary lines, and has found himself in the New York Times, Time Magazine, and in the wake of 9/11 on Oprah’s stage. Yet, just as commonly one finds him speaking in small churches. Many know his reputation for being a salty bombastic provocateur; this reputation allows many to miss that he is a generous and gentle person. Now almost seventy, he has recently published his memoirs Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Eerdmans, 2010). Wunderkammer sat down with Professor Hauerwas to talk about his memoir and to reflect on greed in the U.S. economy.
Wunderkammer: Knowing you for some time, you’ve always been
generous with your time and have a door that is open to your students,
but there is also the sense that you’ve been reticent to talk about
your own biography. And now a memoir?
Stanley Hauerwas: I say in the book, it's such an odd thing
for me to do—writing a memoir— being the great enemy of subjectivity
and pietism. I continue to be the great enemy of the notion that my
experience should count for how I understand the nature of what God has
done for us in Jesus Christ. But I can tell the story of why I think
that the turn to the subject has not been a particularly good direction
for theology. I'm still not terribly interested in my own
subjectivity. I mean the philosophical psychology that shaped me
basically through the reading of Wittgenstein continues to inform those
reactions, so you're quite right.
WK: Another person who recently came out with a memoir who
said they would never come out with a memoir is Cornel West.
SH: Yes, he told me he had done it. And, of course, I’m
sixty-nine, and Cornel is what, in his mid fifties? So, he may have to
do another one and I won’t.
WK: What were you trying to do with your memoir?
Stanley Hauerwas on
SH: It tells the story of how I became a theologian and in
particular what a surprising thing it is for me that I’m a Christian.
What it has meant for me to be a Christian is what extraordinary
friendships I’ve been drawn into through that avowal. I’m quite happy
with the book. It also tells the story of my marriage for over twenty
years to a woman who tragically had bipolar disorder and I try to be as
upfront and honest as I can about that. All of that interacts with
the various diverse contexts that have made me who I am, having spent
fourteen years at Notre Dame was a decisive shaping for me and now
twenty-five years at Duke. Hopefully, it’s a kind of story that
exhibits much of the diversity of theological developments that have
been characteristic of the last fifty years. I hope to reach a whole
different reading public with this.
WK: As far as your normal audience goes, when Jeff Stout’s Democracy
and Tradition came out in 2003, it seemed like you had different
appraisals of your level of influence.
SH: I have no idea how influential I am. I have the feeling…I
mean my response to Jeff was: Jesus, I had no idea that anyone thought
that I had that kind of influence. My view is that Duke is one of the
few places where [Karl] Barth and [John Howard] Yoder are still read
with sympathy, not that there were that many places to begin with, but I
think it's still pretty limited that if you go to most seminaries the
narrative would still be one set by Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard
[Niebuhr], and Paul Tillich, so I don't see the influence as all that
great. Intellectually, there is now a phenomenon that people—young
people think that they need to show why they aren't Hauerwas, which I
find kind of boring. I don't know—it's not for me to say how
influential I am.
WK: And who is your audience?
SH: I write for Christians, and I say most academics write
for other academics. I write for Christians. I've always, from the very
beginning, realized that I wanted people who are not trained in the
so-called field to be able to read what I was writing—so my books are a
combination of fairly hard articles, you could call them chapters,
where you might need to know a good deal about Kant's second Critique
in order to get it right next to an article which is an invitation to
consider why we care for people with intellectual disabilities. And
they are meant to work together in a way that pulls people who are not
educated philosophically or theologically into the world of theology.
WK: I’m curious about one part of your readership, American
Evangelicals. Considering that Evangelicals have produced some of the
realities that you have spent a career resisting, how do you receive
Evangelicals as readers?
Stanley Hauerwas on his
SH: I think that what Evangelicals bring is Jesus and energy.
And insofar as evangelicals still have a high regard for Scripture and
in particular the Christological center, then we are on the same side;
and that they bring to that a desire to tell other people of the joy
that this has given their lives is a great good that I'm all for. I try
to help them recover a sense of the church that they don't have
because they think that the church is a secondary reality to their
immediate relationship with God, which is why they so often times they
have no way to resist Protestant liberal alternatives. So, I'm very
pleased that Evangelicals can recognize some continuity between what I
represent and what they represent, but it's going to change them.
WK: So, is there a sense in which you appreciate the gifts of
Jesus and energy but you don't want them to stay there?
SH: Yes [laughs]. But by ‘I don't want them to stay there’ I
mean I don't want them to continue to presume that they have a
relationship with God that is unmediated. That's the crucial issue that
I see. And that one of the problems with Evangelicals, particularly as
it's taken the form of church growth, is the presumption that you get
to make God up, you get to make Christianity up. It’s as though they
don't receive Christianity through the gifts of 2,000 years that have
made them possible. I think that too often, Evangelicals have the New
Testament and now. But, tradition matters and I'm a catholic in this
regard. Of course, a tradition is always subject to error, but the way
you know error is through the tradition.
WK: You’ve just written a short piece on greed, and I was
wondering, given that our economic downturn is often attributed to
greed that grew out of control, if we could talk about that.
WK: Greed seems to be one of those vices that we have a hard
time naming. People seem confident that they can tell you what, say,
lying entails and one will hear sermons about lust, but not greed, even
though it was one of the seven deadly sins. So, what is greed?
SH: More. It is the need to have more and the more you have,
the more you need in order to secure the more you have. That’s greed.
And it’s a power that possesses us. I say, you know, we may have
always been greedy, but we are the first society as far as I can see
that has institutionalized it as a necessity in order to be allegedly
or nearly just, because you need to be greedy to produce more so that
you’ll have more to distribute.
[Alasdair] MacIntyre has this great article on Aristotle's
understanding of temperance. He says:
“…from an Aristotelian standpoint, it can never be right to weigh
preferences in such a way that everybody counts for one and nobody for
more than one. And it would be a fundamental mistake to try to
maximize the satisfaction of the preferences of all the members of a
Now that is at the heart of modern economic rationality.
WK: What do you take that to be saying?
SH: He's challenging the presumption that is at the heart of
modern economic rationality—that an economy is good if it tries to
maximize the satisfactions of the preferences of a given society. He's
challenging the presumption that is at the heart of modern economic
rationality—that an economy is good if it tries to maximize the
satisfactions of the preferences of a given society. He’s saying that
from an Aristotelian perspective, it’s wrong to give the same weight to
the desires of the vicious as to the desires of the virtuous person,
but that modern democratic societies do this. He goes on to say that
in such societies, temperance isn’t generally seen as a virtue anymore.
Of course, people will talk about moderation when it comes to health,
longevity or to be attractive, or to support career advancement, but
this is different than seeing temperance as necessary to making the
kind of choices that make up a good life.
Now I take it, that, just to begin to think about how temperance as a
virtue that would challenge the very presumptions of a capitalist
social order seems to me a very radical perspective and that is one
that I share. What we presume is that you must have constant economic
growth in the hope that the more shares that you produce will be able
to be distributed to those with less shares, all without the rich
losing their shares. Now, exactly what Macintyre is challenging and
what I would want to challenge is that in order to name the goods that
are appropriate to a well-lived life, you might need to think about
having an economic order that is not constantly expanding in terms of
simply producing to produce. So I think that those are exactly the
kinds of issues that should be at the heart of the church's social
WK: So you think that temperance is an important virtue and
one that we don’t really think about because it runs contrary to how
our economy is set up?
SH: Classically, temperance is the disciplined formation of
desire to want that which is good in a manner that my want is not more
determinative of the good than the good itself. When you talk about
temperance, the immediate language you are tempted to use is “how do I
control my desires?” so it sounds like the task of restraining desire,
rather than being an appropriate desire. Temperance is a desire that
is appropriate to that which is rightly desired, namely, a good helps
me discover what it means to be a human being.
WK: So, the greed operative in our society is just a function
of desires that are not sufficiently shaped?
SH: Yes, I think it is. When I said it was just the need for
more, “more” is just an empty cipher that you get to fill in, so
there’s no good to want and that’s the problem.
WK: It seems like there is a deep fear that underlies our
desire for more.
SH: Oh, there is. I think it is a fear that is fueled by a
fundamental distrust of ourselves and one another. So, I have to
secure my existence because there is no one that I can trust to do
this. It’s a deep fear.
When people talk about economics, immediately one assumes that
distribution is the primary issue, and I suggest that it is helpful to
start by asking what sort of people we have to be to sustain an
economic life that is not overwhelmed by greed. And that’s a different
way into the conversation.
WK: So for someone who is in college or starting a career and
says, “I want a comfortable life and if the money is there to be made,
it might as well be made by me,” how do get through to such a person?
Why shouldn’t I want that?
SH: Because it's not good for you. Because it makes you less
than what you were created to be. That's what you say.
WK: So, to the inequitable distribution of wealth in our
society, which seems to be worsening, you say to people that the desire
for more is not good for you?
SH: Well, that’s not how desires are formed, but, yes. It’s
not good for you. It's killing you. That's right. That's exactly what
WK: How does it kill someone?
SH: It gives them no way to know if they are ever happy,
comfortable perhaps, but no way to know if they are living a good life
and that can be terrifying. Now, they will usually tell you that it is
not the money itself but the skills acquired and necessary to making
money that is satisfying, and I understand that. But, I think that
often one finds oneself lost in a way of life with no purpose that is
intrinsic to the activities themselves. It’s not to say that these
people do not have virtues or that the work they do cannot produce
them, but often the virtues necessary to chase after wealth, if they
don’t include say justice, prudence or temperance, are disordered. And
disordered virtues can kill you.
WK: Do you have suggestions that might help us become such
people, people not overwhelmed by greed?
SH: In my Introduction to Christian Ethics course, I often
say that one of the first things we can do is to tell other people what
we make. The difficulty with telling one another what we make is not
for someone like me who makes a lot of money; the problem is for those
in the church who don't make a lot of money since now what you make
seems so important for who you are. But I think that it's perfectly
appropriate for people in the church to tell one another what we make
and then to be told, "We need your money for these other people that
aren't making so much." So I'm for just starting with the declaration
of income. That's not a bad place to begin.
Then, of course, as a Christian, I think that a practice like the
Eucharist is a practice of abundance, where we discover that the God
who feeds us cannot be used up, and hopefully this helps the church
learn that our lives should picture this kind of generosity. I also
think that if we could find markets that are smaller, I think it would
be helpful. I mean, I like farmers’ markets and that sort of thing.
WK: For what reason?
SH: The laborer’s product is not separated from the laborer,
so there is less alienation and it becomes important for the buyer not
only what you buy but also the people who produced it.
WK: It makes the process less anonymous, more relational?
SH: Yes. So, how to find smaller markets where the market
doesn’t determine relationships, but serves relationships, is an
WK: One still has some sort of relationship, some sort of
relating, when one shops at one of the big box stores, a Target or
Walmart, and proceeds to the cash register, right?
SH: Sure, it’s just not that interesting or determinative,
and their relationship to the service they are providing is alienating
in a way. People in such settings can be quite humane, and you are
happy when they are, but nonetheless it is very disconnected from who
they are. One may start to get to know a person in such a setting, but
that is in spite of not because of the setting, so I think smaller
markets where there is a deeper connection between labor and product
might also be a place to start.
Dan Morehead is a former student of Dr. Hauerwas, an
independent scholar and writer.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of Walker Percy’s death. He
died at home in Covington, Louisiana on May 10, 1990 following a
two-year bout with prostate cancer. He left us six novels and two works
of nonfiction, as well as numerous essays, some of which were later
collected in the posthumous Signposts in a Strange Land.
Along with Flannery
O’Connor, he is often considered one of the leading Catholic writers of
the South in the twentieth century. His work—from the National Book
Award winning The Moviegoer to the fast-paced The Thanatos
Syndrome—captures the malaise and potential absurdity and horror of
a post-Christian America with compassionate aplomb. Yet, while interest
in O’Connor continues to grow, interest in Percy has plateaued
somewhat. There is, of course, the new Walker Percy Center at Loyola
University in New Orleans, and, hopefully, the soon to be completed film by
Win Riley, but according to these and other measures—works of
criticism, biographies, and collected works—the day clearly belongs to
Percy brooded over the labels
“Catholic” and “Southern,” aware of the fact that both, particularly the
former, could be used to dismiss his work as another manifestation of
what he pejoratively called the “triumphant Christendom of the Sunbelt.”
Terrence Rafferty did write a somewhat overheated, though not entirely
wrong-headed, review of The Thanatos Syndrome, which he tagged
“[e]schatology made simple,” but this rarely happened. While his Roman
Catholicism is perhaps more essential to his work than it is to
O’Connor’s, it seems unlikely that interest in Percy is less than
interest in O’Connor because of this.
Southernness was also an advantage to him—as he himself recognized. The
northern writer, Percy once observed, no longer has anything to write
about. Having dismissed Christianity and sharing no common culture with
his readership, he finds himself writing “dirty,” “not by design, but by
default.” The Southern writer, by contrast, still has the remnant of a
tradition (or, at least, he did during Percy’s time). He details “the
crumbling porticos, the gentry gone to seed, like Faulkner’s Compsons”
or is nourished by “the extravagant backwoods Protestant fundamentalism
No, it seems to me—and it pains me to say this
because I am an ardent Percy fan—that interest in O’Connor outstrips
interest in Percy because she is simply the better fiction writer. She
is a purist and he is a hodgepodge of novelist, essayist, philosopher,
and man of science. Or, to put it another way, he is the Samuel Taylor
Coleridge to her William Wordsworth. The fact is, when it comes to plot
and character—the touchstones of fiction writing—O’Connor excels where
Percy sometimes struggles.
While it is easier to structure a
short story than a novel, O’Connor’s stories are nevertheless carefully
wound for effect and efficiency of movement, even if they are somewhat
limited as far as subject matter is concerned. Percy’s plots, however,
can sometimes stall and are occasionally tarnished by errors of
chronology and coherence, particularly in Thanatos, which is far from
his strongest work.
But the biggest difference between the two
authors is their characterization. O’Connor’s range and nuance surpasses
even that of Faulkner. From the childlike and, at the same time,
grotesque brutality of Hulga’s secular atheism in “Good Country People”
to the tragic innocence of Bevel in “The River” and the simplistic
morality of the grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” O’Connor’s
characters shimmer with vitality and complexity.
In his novels,
Percy focuses primarily on the protagonist, who often tends to be a
version of Percy at the time of the novel’s composition. In The
Moviegoer it is the adrift thirty-something, Binx Billing, and in Love
in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome< it is the
middle-aged, then older, Tom More. Minor characters are rarely
developed, some dropped unexpectedly.
Yet, O’Connor cannot match
Percy’s philosophical engagement and his scathing critique of a
reductive scientism. It is significant in this respect that one of
Percy’s best works after The Moviegoer, at least in my opinion,
is Lost in the Cosmos—a hybrid of fictional and nonfictional
satire that cuts to the core of American, if not Western,
dissatisfaction. Indeed, Percy is at his best when he speaks directly to
the reader. In Lost in the Cosmos, for example, Percy proposes
to explain: “Why it is that of all the billions and billions of strange
objects in the Cosmos—novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes—you are
beyond doubt the strangest.” Or:
How it is possible for the man who designed Voyager 19,
which arrived at Titania, a satellite of Uranus, three seconds off
schedule and a hundred yards off course after a flight of six years, to
be one of the most screwed-up creatures in California—or the Cosmos.
His response, of course, is that we do not know who we are because we
have rejected our sole point of reference: God.
It is clear
from Percy’s gently prodding wit and humor that he had fun writing this
book and that the genre suits him. It highlights his great strengths as a
writer—his humor, philosophical insights, and prophetic voice. If
O'Connor has excelled in the stuff of fiction writing, Percy has done so
in the stuff of nonfiction, even if the material is sometimes presented
through the medium of fiction.
We will read Percy for many years
to come, and rightly so. I, for one, recommend him to anyone I can.
Unlike the intellectual impotence found in so many contemporary
novelists, Percy takes risks in his work. He asks and answers
important questions, which, despite its other flaws, gives his work a
sharpness and vigor.
However, like Coleridge with respect to
poetry, I think Percy will ultimately be remembered for his ideas rather
than for the execution of those ideas in his novels. He will not be
remembered for the plots or the characters he gave us, but for his
diagnosis of “the modern malaise,” presented in those plots and those
characters, and expounded in his works of nonfiction. If O’Connor is the
better fiction writer, he is the great thinker, satirist, and
apologist, and it is for his unflinching assessment of the essential
emptiness of modern secular life that he deserves to be read.
Mattix is an assistant professor of English at Louisiana College and
author of the forthcoming book, Frank O'Hara and the Poetics of
Saying 'I' (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press).
Holy Apostles Mission in Bowling Green, Kentucky has received heavy damage to its mission chapel from the recent flooding in the region. No further services are planned in the current location. Weekly Bible studies and Vespers on Saturday evening will be held in members' homes.The Mission is currently working to secure a new location for services.
Thanks be to God; we were able to save with NO DAMAGE
ALL of our icons, liturgical items, acolyte robes, furniture, etc. The
flood waited until just after Liturgy, and yet before we all left, so
the timing was perfect. Everything and everyone is safe, and we were
no longer under any lease contract, so we are free to go through this
door into whatever God has in store for us!
We put a lot of work into this Mission.... all the work was done by
our small group of people. However, we are learning that this flood
changes nothing. Our service then was to God, not for ourselves, so we
cannot view this is "our loss." Our Mission grew by 100% or more over
the last 18 months, and we are all excited to transition into new
I don't know if anyone thought to take pictures in the rush to pump
out water and save icons, etc. If we could take a picture of the odor,
that would tell the real story!
Thank you again. Please send our love and respectful appreciation to
His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP. In the past 2 years, we've seen a
small group of Americans, Greeks, Serbians, and Lebanese bond together
very tightly to begin this Mission. We are all resolved more than ever
to continue Christ's work in our city. We are most thankful for the
oversight of His Eminence, Bp MARK, and both Fr. Alexander Atty and Fr.
Robert Sanford for the tremendous pastoral care they have all
faithfully shown to us.
Bishop MARK writes:
Holy Apostles was founded in the spring of 2008. You may
read more about this vibrant mission and view photos of their prior
labors just a short time ago to transform their rental property into a
place of worship at http://www.holyapostlesbg.org/photos.html.
Sadly, the fruit of their previous labors is gone, with the exception
of those who have embraced the faith through their faith. They will now
begin the search for a new place of worship. Given the tremendous
financial loss for a small community, I ask your support for the work
of Holy Apostles Mission. Just last week we were discussing the
possibility of assigning their first priest to the mission and now they
must also retain a new place of worship as well.
Reader Thomas Kevin Burt writes further:
First, thanks to so many who have helped in various
ways, from knowledgeable information on how to proceed, to strong
backs, to prayer, to trailers and trucks, to bringing food for others,
to sending out encouraging e-mails, etc.
I do not think the restoration of the Mission is feasible at this
point. Several have looked it over and I believe feel the same way.
We have carpet that is already suffering, multiple damaged drywall
sections, and the altar subflooring is quite wet and would have to be
torn out. It is likely that the only way to adequately cleanse the
Mission would be to gut it, or at least most of it, and go through a
lengthy and costly disinfecting process. THEN rebuilding it all.
Almost everything is out of the Mission. We'll need to get the two
long folding tables (on which we normally put food), the refrigerator,
the chandelier, and perhaps a few other odds and ends. But everything
that could be damaged is safely out. If anyone wants to get their fans,
let me know. I'll bring them back to the house so you don't have to go
into the mission to get them.
I would recommend not going to see the Mission. The smell is
extremely noxious, and I suspect there are likely many germs growing in
the building, as well as the possibility of harmful mold.
Bishop MARK called tonight, and encouraged us to move forward
looking for a new space (both he and Fr. Bob agree that we should leave
our current location rather than rebuild). At His Grace's
recommendation, we will also be contacting several other churches in
town to inquire about possible rental/use of their extra facilities.
The urgent need is simply a place to hold Liturgies in the next few
weeks. But, we need to also find something to be more "permanent." I
think we all feel agreed in also finding something less prone to
problems (flooding, AC malfunctions, heating malfunctions, etc.). It
would also be very nice to have an actual kitchen area with sinks and a
better bathroom facility.
Feel free to be looking online and in the papers. Bishop MARK will be in contact with us to see how things are going.
....I sense that the "sad stage" over this was very brief, and that
many of you are expressing excitement and hope and faith in what God
will bring about through this "misfortune. In all things, God works for
good for those who love Him. Pray for one another to trust Him, to
cling to one another, to work together.
Sunday, we lost the building. We gained
four new catechumens. I told Fr. Alexander that I thought this was a
very good trade on our part. Like Wes said, we, our children, our
catechumens, our inquirers.... are the future of the church here. Glory
be to God, who allows us these times to be reminded of the core truths
of our Faith.
Thanks again, everyone.
Christ is Risen! Rdr Thomas Kevin
Until further notices, please contact Kevin Burt (270-791-8639 or email@example.com) for information on weekly services, events, and locations.
This mission is dear to our heart. It began after I left Bowling Green for Bloomington, but it is full of dear friends. Reader Kevin and his wife were Chelsea and I's koumbaro/koumbara and some of our best friends. Please pray or provide some monetary help!
The U.S. Foreign Service Institute teaches foreign languages to
government diplomats and personnel for duties abroad—and its courses
are available online, for free. Which means you can access audio,
texts, and tests in 41 different languages.
The FSI Language
Courses web site isn't actually maintained by the U.S. government
itself, but the materials developed before 1989 are within the public
domain (whether all of these materials came before then is not clear).
Some languages contain more materials—for instance, the three texts on
Sinhala isn't going to beat the giant course on French anytime soon.
For the most part, most major languages have student texts in PDF
format, and audio in MP3 format which you can later put onto your music
player. The courses also feature tests to see how well you've covered
the material. In some cases, "headstart" courses for certain regions in
the world are also available.
The only major language not covered is English, which makes sense.
The site is a little reminiscent of old-school language learning, but
the resources are ridiculously extensive. As a native Vietnamese
speaker, I didn't find the section archaic at all. Adios, Rosetta Stone.
For more than forty years, Wendell Berry has worked his family farm in Kentucky the old-fashioned way, using horses as much as possible and producing much of his own food. And he has published more than forty books, writing by hand in the daylight to reduce his reliance on electricity derived from strip-mined coal. Berry has been called a “prophet” by the New York Times, and his Jeffersonian values are so old they can appear startlingly new. His strong pro-environment position has made him something of a cult hero on the Left, as have his antiwar sentiments, which have grown sharper over the years. His 1987 essay “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,” published in Harper’s, led some to accuse him of being antitechnology, a Luddite. For his part, Berry has criticized environmentalists for not working to protect farms as well as wilderness. His stout self-reliance and unabashed use of moral and religious language in his writing have endeared him to a number of conservatives, even as his stance against corporate globalization has drawn criticism from others. But these apparent contradictions don’t seem to bother Berry one whit...
Fearnside: Stopping by a local eatery on the way
here, I asked people what they might want to ask you. Henry County is
small, they noted, and farming isn’t very profitable anymore. So, why
did you stay when you could have left for, as one waitress put it,
“glitz and glamour” elsewhere?
Berry: I just happen to have no appetite for glitz
and glamour. I like it here. This place has furnished its quota of
people who’ve helped each other, cared for each other, and tried to be
fair. I have known some of them, living and dead, whom I’ve loved
deeply, and being here reminds me of them. This has given my days a
quality that they wouldn’t have had if I’d moved away.
There have been some good farmers here. The way of farming that I
grew up with was conservative in the best sense. I learned a lot from
people in Henry County. Probably all my most influential teachers lived
here, when you get right down to it. I owe big debts to teachers in
universities, to literary influences, and so on. But it’s the people you
listened to as a child whose influence is immeasurable — especially
your grandparents, your parents, your older friends. I’ve paid a lot of
attention to older people. Of course, not a lot of people here are older
than I am anymore, but some are, and I still love to listen to them, to
my immense improvement and pleasure.
Fearnside: What are some of the things that they
Berry: They tell stories. They talk about
relationships. They talk about events that have stuck in their minds.
The most important thing is not what they say, but the way they
talk. We had a local pattern of speech at one time. Now we’re running
out of people who speak it. But there were once people here whose speech
was uninfluenced by the media, and it had an immediacy, a loveliness
when it was intelligently used, and a great capacity for humor.
Fearnside: A good friend of mine told me that she
knows people from Kentucky who have trained themselves not to speak like
Berry: That was the main goal of the school system:
to stop you from talking like a “hick” and get you to speak standard
Fearnside: When you speak of what the elders here in
Henry County discuss, it reminds me of a line from Barry Lopez’s
short-story collection Winter Count: “That is all that is
holding us together, stories and compassion.”
Berry: I don’t think we’re just stories — we’re
living souls, too — but we’d be nothing without stories. Of course,
stories that belong to a landscape are different from stories that
don’t. In Arctic Dreams Lopez talks about how the Eskimos, the
native Alaskan people, have a cultural landscape — the landscape as they
know it — that is always a little different from the actual landscape,
which nobody ever will fully know.
In a functioning culture the landscape is full of stories. Stories
adhere to it. And they’re most interesting when they’re told within the
landscape. If, say, an oral-history project records somebody’s story and
puts it in the university archives, then it’s a different story. It’s
become isolated, misplaced, displaced.
Fearnside: You’re a well-known advocate for local
economies, yet you write for a much-wider-than-local audience, which
means you must rely on the machinery of the corporate world to get your
message out. Is there a contradiction in this, or is it simply an
inescapable paradox that you must be pragmatic about?
Berry: There are contradictions in it, no doubt
about that. There’s an absolutely lethal contradiction in my driving and
flying around to talk about conservation and local economies. But you
have to live in the world the way it is. You can’t declare yourself too
good for it and move away. You have to carry the effort wherever you can
take it. You’ve got to have allies. The thought of the Committees of
Correspondence in the American Revolution is never very far from my
mind. People have to stay in touch somehow. They have to meet and talk.
They have to support each other. But that’s a network, not a community.
Fearnside: I was fortunate once to participate in a
barn raising in Idaho. It was an incredible experience of community.
With the help of friends and neighbors, using mostly hand-held tools, a
couple raised a barn in a day and a half.
Berry: The Amish do it in a day. They belong to a
traditional culture that, for a long time, has steadfastly put the
Fearnside: I’ve noticed that the Amish seem less
self-conscious than most Americans. Why do you think this is so?
Berry: I’d say that in their community, honesty is
the norm. One of the most striking things about the Amish is that their
countenances are open. We pity Muslim women for wearing veils, yet
almost every face in this country is veiled by suspicion and fear. You
can’t walk down a city street and get anybody to look at you. People’s
countenances are undercover operations here.
Fearnside: While traveling in the Xinjiang Province
of China — which is predominantly Uyghur, a traditional Muslim culture —
I was struck by the people’s openness. In particular, the children
radiated gaiety and health, just as Amish children do.
Berry: The Amish children are raised at home by two
parents. They’re given little jobs to do from the time they’re able to
walk, and they’re important to the family economy. They have rules.
They’re secure. There are things that they’re not allowed to do. There’s
something pitiful about American children who are left to invent a
childhood on their own with one parent or none, no community, no
relatives, and nothing useful to do. They don’t even go into the woods
Fearnside: I fear that my generation may be the last
to grow up outdoors. I used to roam for hours, hiking through the
fields and woods or bicycling down country roads, completely
unsupervised, which is unheard of today. Nowadays a kid is going to grow
up sitting in front of a computer screen or listening to an iPod, not
climbing trees or even playing ball in the street.
Berry: Young people around here don’t come to the
river to swim or fish anymore. Of course, an alarming percentage of
Kentucky streams aren’t fit for swimming or fishing.
Fearnside: It seems that we’ve been separated from
our local communities by radio, television, and now the Internet.
Because these forces come from outside the communities, they often don’t
reflect the communities’ values. How can we stay plugged in to
information and yet preserve our local connections?
Berry: I don’t know. There’s not much you can do,
unless you want to disconnect yourself from those electronic gadgets. I
pretty much do. Tanya and I haven’t had a television for a long time;
people used to give tv
sets to our children, because they felt sorry for us. I think we were
given three over the years. I listen to the radio some. I don’t have a
computer, and I almost never see a movie. To me this isolation is
necessary. It keeps my language available to me in a way that I don’t
think it would be if I were full of that public information all the
Fearnside: My wife and I enjoy watching movies on dvd, but we find that most
mass-media offerings aren’t worth our time.
Berry: To make yourself a passive receptacle for
information, or whatever anybody wants to pour into you, is a bad idea.
To be informed used to be a meaningful experience; it meant “to be
formed from within.” But information now is just a bunch of disconnected
data or entertainment and, as such, may be worthless, perhaps harmful.
As T.S. Eliot wrote a long time ago, information is different from
knowledge, and it has nothing at all to do with wisdom.
I enjoy the consistently beautiful pictures posted on the Athos Agion Oros blog. ESPECIALLY ones focused around the books/libraries found on Mt. Athos!
"To end day one I will show the pictures of the library of Mylopotamos.
First of all I have to thank father Ioachim for taking the time to show
us this special place and secondly our thanks go to Giannis, who used
his influence to make this possible.
The library of Mylopotamos, Father Ioachim and pilgrim Bas
For me this visit to the library brought back memories to that
special day in 1986, when my friend Pieter and I visited the library of
Docheiariou, accompanied by a Greek professor from Thessaloniki, who
explained us everything about the very old books we were allowed to hold
in our hands and look though it. Most of the parchment books were eaten
by bookworms and had holes in it........ The professor put the books on
book: Akolouthia 1901
(notice the dolphin and anchor- this is the symbol of the Aldine Press, a famous Renaissance printer. Erasmus, yes the Erasmus, even lived with them for a time)