Item description for Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Resources For Reconciliation) by Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier...
Overview A prominent theologian and the founder of an international faith-based community for people with developmental disabilities, L'Arche, take turns examining the ways in which the disabled form part of the Christian community.
Publishers Description How are Christians to live in a violent and wounded world? Rather than contending for privilege by wielding power and authority, we can witness prophetically from a position of weakness. The church has much to learn from an often overlooked community--those with disabilities. In this fascinating book, theologian Stanley Hauerwas collaborates with Jean Vanier, founder of the worldwide L'Arche communities. For many years, Hauerwas has reflected on the lives of people with disability, the political significance of community, and how the experience of disability addresses the weaknesses and failures of liberal society. And L'Arche provides a unique model of inclusive community that is underpinned by a deep spirituality and theology. Together, Vanier and Hauerwas carefully explore the contours of a countercultural community that embodies a different way of being and witnesses to a new order--one marked by radical forms of gentleness, peacemaking and faithfulness. The authors' explorations shed light on what it means to be human and how we are to live. The robust voice of Hauerwas and the gentle words of Vanier offer a synergy of ideas that, if listened to carefully, will lead the church to a fresh practicing of peace, love and friendship. This invigorating conversation is for everyday Christians who desire to live faithfully in a world that is violent and broken.
Citations And Professional Reviews Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Resources For Reconciliation) by Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christianity Today - 07/01/2012 page 90
Publishers Weekly - 10/13/2008 page 51
Christian Century - 12/15/2009 page 24
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Studio: Intervarsity Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.2" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.36" Weight: 0.3 lbs.
Release Date Oct 30, 2008
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
Series Resources For Reconciliation
ISBN 0830834524 ISBN13 9780830834525
Availability 0 units.
More About Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier
Stanley Hauerwas (PhD, Yale University) is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. His previous books include "Cross-Shattered Christ, Performing the Faith, The Peaceable Kingdom, With the Grain of the Universe, A Better Hope, "and "Christian Existence Today."
Reviews - What do customers think about Living Gently In A Violent World?
upending the social pyramid Jan 21, 2009
The four essays in this gem of a little book originated at a conference sponsored by the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen in 2006. The book's publication represents a collaboration between InterVarsity Press and the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School that pairs leading thinkers with practitioners to explore what hope means in a world of brokenness. Hauerwas (b. 1940) is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School with a joint appointment at the Duke University School of Law. Vanier (b. 1928) is the founder of L'Arche, "an international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities experience life together as fellow human beings who share a mutuality of care and need. Today over 130 L'Arche communities exist in 34 countries on six continents."
Vanier and Hauerwas take turns writing the alternate chapters of the book. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (1 Corinthians 12:22). That sort of thinking subverts what society considers "normal" and challenges the labels, stereotypes, caricatures and false assumptions that we make about people who are weak in body, mind, or spirit. Vanier's stories relate how L'Arche emphasizes "living with" instead of "doing for" or trying to "fix" the disabled. The goal is not a solution to a problem but a sign of hope, of the possibility to love each other. Care, not a cure, is the invitation that the weak offer us. To live and think this way signals the end of all social meritocracy, and the upending of the "pyramid of hierarchy" that so many of us seek to climb. And so, Vanier says, "I'm not interested in doing a good job. I am interested in an ecclesial vision for community. We are brothers and sisters, and Jesus is calling us from the pyramid to become a body."
Exemplifying True Love Jan 9, 2009
I originally bought this book thinking it would be simply a Hauerwas book. I was surprised to see that it was more of an exchange or conversation between Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche Communities. The book is brief, easy to read, and compelling in multiple ways.
I actually found Vanier's sections more compelling and moving spiritually than Hauerwas' - though I appreciated what Hauerwas had to say. Vanier's communities emphasize great humility and gentleness of a sort that is unique in the world - a humility that comes from weakness. He seeks to treat those who we see as "handicapped" as equals. His is not a condescending love; but it is a love that says, "you are as important as I am and I have weaknesses just as you do." It is a radical departure from the conservative who tends to ignore the downtrodden and the liberal who tends to condescend toward others in telling them what's good for them.
This kind of love is actually very much in tune with the love of Christ and his disciples in the NT. Hauerwas sees lessons to be learned by "the church" from Vanier and vice-versa. Vanier's communities are a great model for the way churches should be - and this is a vital point. He gives great emphasis to weakness and humility as well as to the critical import of shared meals and laughter - without pretense (all central NT concepts that are often missing in churches). One gets a sense that though there are great struggles and often a lot of pain in his communities, there is also great love, family acceptance and joy - isn't that a great model for a congregation?
This book is a very worthwhile read, especially for those in Evangelical churches who tend to be condescending toward or simply ignore those who are downtrodden - whether from some physical handicap or from their sin. As the apostle Paul exemplified in his life, and as Christ exemplified in his life and death on the cross, the power of God is greatest in human weakness and humility. Vanier captures this well in his life.
Though one may disagree with some of his theological perspectives (Vanier seems to place no importance on conversion - and this de-emphasis on conversion to Christ is one of the central problems with many modern Christian writers and groups who have given an important voice to reaching out to the poor), Vanier is still an exceptional example to the typical American Evangelical who tends to follow the worldly path of personal exaltation, success-driven confidence and condescension - rather than the Christ-centered path of weakness and abject humility. In life and attitude, he models Christ better than almost all churchgoing evangelicals.
A Distinctively Pro-Life Message Dec 23, 2008
Intervarsity Press is publishing a new series of books called "Resources for Reconciliation" that pair leading theologians with on-the-ground practitioners. For example, put a missiologist and a missionary together and let them write a book. Or an academic expert on world hunger together with a person leading a hunger-fighting organization. It's a terrific concept.
Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness is one of the first books in this series. It is written by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier. Hauerwas is a well-known theologian, and Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche, a community that emphasizes the importance of the disabled.
L'Arche differs from other organizations by placing emphasis on communal life with the disabled, not merely work for them. Vanier's organization is founded upon the belief that the weakest among us have something of spiritual and eternal value to offer us.
Living Gently in a Violent World intends to challenge our presuppositions. In the introduction, John Swinton writes:
"It is not the world of disability that is strange, but the world `outside,' which we dare to call normal. It turns out that the world of disability is the place God chooses to inhabit." (15)
I had hoped that this book would be a fresh look at how weakness challenges our world's preoccupation with strength. After all, Christianity is the only religion that embraces the paradox of seeing strength in weakness, power in submission, gain in giving, etc.
Unfortunately, many of the distinctive Christian beliefs that undergird the pro-life witness of this book are swept to the side. Vanier embraces a bland ecumenism that sees everyone as "children of God." His beliefs stem from a view of Jesus that does not always correspond to the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels:
"Jesus spent time creating relationships. That's what Jesus did. His vision was to bring together all the children of God dispersed throughout the world. God cannot stand walls of fear and division. The vision of Jesus shows us that division is healed by dialogue and meeting together."
Division is healed by dialogue and meeting together? Then why did Jesus die? Or take this:
"Jesus entered into this world to love people as they are. The heart of the vision of Jesus is to bring people together, to meet, to engage in dialogue, to love each other. Jesus wants to break down the walls that separate people and groups. How will he do this? He will do it by saying to each one, `You are important. You are precious.'" 63)
No... Jesus brought people together by dying on the cross and rising again to new life. This type of cross-less reductionism is what makes Living Gently in a Violent World ultimately unsatisfying. Instead of grounding the work of L'Arche in the gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection, L'Arche put down roots in the sands of contemporary psychology:
"The vision of Jesus is that we meet people at the bottom and help bring them up to trust themselves." (71)
Ironically, much of the vision of Vanier and Hauerwas is distinctly Christian, even if the authors do not recognize its distinctiveness! Can you see Hindus embracing the untouchables in the way that Vanier lives with and serves the disabled? Can you imagine the secularist devoting his life to people without "meaningful life" according to our contemporary, merciless terminology? Not at all.
This book makes a powerfully pro-life statement: every life is valuable. Vanier peppers his book with good stories: a man staying by the side of his wife who is suffering with Alzheimer's, people being transformed by the slow pace of the L'Arche community, volunteers discovering the value of every human life.
Living Gently in a Violent World communicates a distinctively pro-life point of view that shines the light of life in a dark culture of death. But the book's Christian witness is muted by its theology. Living Gently ultimately negates the very distinctiveness that could have given its pro-life message the foundation necessary for true and lasting transformation.
A Theology that Reckons with Brokenness Dec 15, 2008
I was intrigued when I got a copy of Living Genly in a Violent World. I had heard of Jean Vanier's work in founding the L'Arche communities, in which individuals with mental disabilities live together in community with those who don't have such challenges. Stanley Hauerwas, meanwhile, has long been a literary and theological conversation partner for me, and while there are many areas about which I would disagree with him, he is reliable in his ability to challenge the way I think. This book, part of the Resources for Reconciliation series put out by InterVarsity Press and Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation, was an intriguing read.
The book is formatted as a set of four essays, two by Jean Vanier and two by Stanley Hauerwas. In some ways, it almost feels like two books with a shared theme: Vanier spends his chapters reflecting upon life among the mentally disabled and how it should shape us, while Hauerwas uses the example of L'Arche as a launching pad for a larger argument about rest, servant-leadership, gentleness and peace theology.
The essays are all relatively short, with the book weighing in at around 100 pages. Those looking for a systematic argument for the views it espouses will be disappointed. Indeed, there were many times when I found both authors making side comments and following rabbit trails which seemed to have little bearing on the overall discussion. Add to this the fact that I'm sure many (including myself) will find ample cause for theological disagreement with some of the authors' underlying ideas, and many would probably dismiss the work as rubbish.
However, I cannot do so because of one simple fact: agree or disagree, almost every page of this little book is beautifully and thrillingly provocative. I found this especially true while reading Vanier. His theology leaves plenty to be desired, but his rich experience spending his life among those who are truly the "least of these" in a society which idolizes knowledge and productivity leave him with deep insights that are rare in many more theologically rigorous authors. His wisdom about rest, into what Christian love really looks like, and about how to really learn to celebrate life all set me back on my heels. Hauerwas as well supplies some challenging thoughts, especially when he discusses our modern understanding of time and how it is antithetical to true biblical rest.
The fundamental question which these authors are wrestling with this: is there room in our Westernized Christian understanding of holiness and life for those who are mentally broken in ways the rest of us often discount? If there isn't, perhaps it's time to rethink just what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the first place. When the gospel is not for the least of these, it's probably just something we've concocted for our own comfort.