After Christendom?: How the Church Is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation are Bad Ideas
by Stanley Hauerwas
(Abingdon Press, 1991, 200 pages)
This is a classic from Stanley Hauerwas. After Christendom? lays out Hauerwas’ vision for the church as an alternative polis or political body. He critiques the church, particularly the American church, for its compromised status within the liberal political order (liberal in the broader rather than the partisan sense). Since the Englightenment, the church has come to uncritically accept secular formulations of justice and religious freedom that dilute the distinctive and prophetic witness that the church should offer to the state. Hauerwas seeks to challenge “liberal intellectual and political presuppositions by providing an account of the power and truthfulness of Christian convictions” (15).
Hauerwas persuasively argues that the church should provide the basic identity for Christians and that the Christian story should function as the narrative through which Christians engage the state. The church is a political order unto itself which embodies a distinct set of practices and beliefs. He draws on Alisdair MacIntyre’s observations about the importance of narrative in shaping identity and ethics. John Milbank’s critique of the myth of a purely secular conception of reason is also important for his argument. Hauerwas always wears his influences on his sleeve, but his appropriation never fails to be creative and controversial.