It’s been a working Greenbelt for us, helping out with a couple of worship slots and occasionally manning the Redcliffe stand, so we didn’t get to see many talks. But I did want to get to see Stanley Hauerwas, especially once I saw that he was giving a talk discussing
the misconception that the “god” often appealed to in US political and religious rhetoric is the same triune God worshipped by the Church and confessed in the Christian creeds.
I’ve long believed that American Christianity is fundamentally unrelated to Christianity, and it seems that Hauerwas believes it too.
It’s worth reading the whole transcript, although of course you won’t get all the wonderful asides, (“I believe that G W Bush is a sincere Christian, but all that shows is how little sincerity has to do with the Christian faith.”) but Hauerwas’s conviction is that the fundamental American belief (you can choose your own story) is totally incompatible with the fundamental Christian belief (you are part of God’s story). Once “freedom” is hailed as an absolute right, then corporate discipline and accountability have to go by the wayside (freedom becomes freedom from consequences) and truth-claims have to be relativized. (“I believe that Jesus is Lord, but that’s just my personal opinion.”)
Here are some great quotes, but go read the whole thing.
American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists in America. The god most American say they believe in just is not interesting enough to deny. Thus the only kind of atheism that counts in America is to call into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and happiness.
Catholics in America, like their Protestant sisters and brothers, are likely to assume that there is no essential tension between being a Christian and an American. As a result, Catholics in America think the distinction between the public and the private, and their “faith” clearly falls into the latter, is a given that cannot be questioned.
I cannot avoid the reality that American Christianity has been less than it should have been just to the extent that the church has failed to make clear that America’s god is not the God we worship as Christians.