The Table Video

Stanley Hauerwas

Strength in Weakness

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

Referencing Jean Vanier and the L’Arche communities as a paradigm, Evan Rosa and Stanley Hauerwas discuss the power in vulnerability and the surprising hardness in gentleness.


So there is a prophetic voice in vulnerability.

Stanley: There is.

And weakness. I wonder if you could tease out some of what you mean by that? What is it for the weak and the vulnerable and the oppressed to be a prophetic voice?

Of course, I think the paradigmatic form of that is you see in Jean Vanier’s L’Arche Homes where those that are mentally disabled are claimed as friends in a manner that you have the up-building of an alternative community, that has a gentleness, that attracts in a way few other instances do.

This is a paradox. It’s to say that there’s power in weakness.

Well, I think you don’t become weak to be weak. Rather, the language I prefer is you discover how to be gentle. And there’s a hardness to gentleness.

Evan: There’s a hard edge.

That makes it possible to not be overwhelmed by the violence, but the refusal to let the violence defeat our ability to be friends. And gentleness is, I think, crucial for friendship.

Can you say a little more about the kind of gentleness that you’re thinking? Is it an embodied relationship? Jean Vanier speaks provocatively about the beauty that can be shown in that kind of friendship you describe.

Well, Jean Jean’s a tough guy. He is not going to let anyone run over his friends. So, the gentleness that he is, that he exudes, is a gentleness that is formed by those friendships in a way that will call in to question those that would not have his friends exist.

About the Author