The Table Video

Stanley Hauerwas

Confrontation and the Path to Peace

Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School
June 2, 2017

Often distance from each other, Hauerwas explains that “conflict and peaceableness are necessary allies.” This alliance is brought to bear on the American political atmosphere and current events.


Confrontation is a big theme in your work, this idea of candid speech and speaking against. When it comes to confrontation, how can we be loving in our confrontation?

Well, I don’t want to kill the people I’m against [laughs] That’s one, I mean I don’t know that I love them, but I’m not trying to kill them. Though I sometimes am tempted. Tomorrow night I’m going to talk about Matthew 18, where Jesus says, if you think your brother or sister has sinned against you, you are to confront them.

He doesn’t say, you might consider confronting them. He says, you confront them. Now, you think, gee on the whole I prefer, you know, to get along by going along. But conflict is at the very heart of being a truthful community.

Through which we are confronted by and we confront our brother and sister which we think has done wrong, in a way that hopefully will bring reconciliation. If it doesn’t, they are to be treated as a tax collector, outside the community. Now I think, therefore, conflict and peaceableness are necessary allies.

Evan: Necessary allies.

Yeah, because you only become peaceable to the extent your community is willing to speak truthfully to one another. In a way that false presuppositions, do not determine our lives, which often times break out in terrible violence later on.

Evan: Yeah. The current election cycle is perhaps a good example of just this kind of need for confrontation and peacefulness to be coming together.

One would hope so but the politics we’re currently experiencing is the politic of the lie that is extremely frightening.

Yeah, what do you mean by the politic of the lie?

Well I think primarily, the kind of simplifications that are part of the speech habits of the current Republican primary candidate.

Okay, simplifications, sloganizing, bumper sticker ethics.

Right, it’s amazing, it’s amazing.

It produces a background noise or a hiss of anxiety and fear. So, are these fears substantiated?

No, I mean they seem to be substantiated by the rise of militant Islam and so on but I think much, much of the fears that people have in our society are exaggerated but I wanna be careful about that because I think there is the class structure of American society means that there are people that experience violence everyday, in a way that those of us in the middle and upper middle classes do not see, don’t even know happens and it becomes very incumbent upon us to rightly understand that there are people in our society that negotiate a violent world everyday, that we don’t know is there.

Yeah, we’ve encountered terrorism in just over the last six months. Where the media has presented to us instances of terrible violence and we’ve rightly responded with empathy or sympathy and the feeling of solidarity but for all the things that are shown to us in the media, there’s untold numbers of unseen violence.

I mean you take Ferguson. I thought Ferguson was a very signal moment and that the violence of the everyday police function there was clearly out of control and you have to be very sympathetic with the people, that discovered that Black Lives Matter.

What do you say to those whose everyday experience is an experience of violence? How do we, how do you present the Christian message of confrontation and peace?

It’s not for me to do it because I don’t have the position to do it but I mean you have to be,

And this is where the who and not just the what you say matters.

You have to be extraordinarily impressed by African American pastors who say we’re not gonna let you turn us into violent people and have the community absorb the violence in a way that refuses to pass it on.

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