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Stranger In This Land



Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Henry Willimon is subtitled "Life in the Christian Colony." The book discusses the nature of the church and its relationship to the surrounding culture (Wikipedia). This book was originally published in 1989, but still felt relevant to today's concerns with how the modern church should operate.

While reading this book, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decipher the perspective of the authors. In some cases, some pretty conservative stances were outlined. At other times, the perspective seemed liberal. My quest to determine which team the authors were on serves to makes what I believe to be one of the main points of the book -- that the world, and specifically politics are taming the church. Why should political terms even define the church? The authors address the issue of their receiving constant questions about their political affiliations in the last chapter. I can see why these questions are asked -- we are used to framing our understanding of churches and denominations based on how they line up with modern American politics, which is backward.

This book shows that the church is a colony in the middle of alien culture and should not be judged politically by how well it works to the advantage of the world. It's not enough to be for peace and justice because even unbelievers are for those things. If those platitudes are our ace in the hole, we have been tamed by the world. Jesus was not crucified for saying things that made sense to people -- his views were (and still are) radical. As such, the authors point out that the church should not be seen as simply running errands for the world. This leads to burnout and unrealistic expectations of ministers.

So, what should be different about the church and where do we go from here? This was the hard part for me. I feel like I enjoyed a lot of lines from the book, cherry-picked from here and there, but I have yet to assimilate some of the information. I think this is one of those works that has to marinate for a while in order to apply it to my life or my understanding of my worship community. 
I have some general ideas:
  • shun tribalism as it is a form of paganism that promises results of some kind without involving Jesus
  • evaluate my motives for doing good works (ethical sentimentality?)
  • support my minister in his real job and don't expect him to spend all day running errands for the world
  • consider how I can submit myself to the church community without expecting anything in return
  • attempt to recognize the implications (for myself and others) of the fact that "our worst sins arise as our response to our innate human fear that we are nobody."
In case anyone is keeping track:
-I got this book from the Jackson Library at Indiana Wesleyan University. Unfortunately, it was very marked up from prior readers, which distracted me from making my own inferences from the text. There were highlights, pencil marks, pen marks, and circled words on nearly every page.
-This book was recommended to me

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