Friday, October 22, 2010

"God is holy; life is not": euthanising greed with Hauerwas

On the irrationality of faith: "I do not use the term 'religion' because religion is the name for opinion that cannot be argued about. And I believe there is nothing more rational than theological claims about the kind of God Christians worship. [...] I think that the Christian tradition and the Jewish tradition [...] are the most intellectually demanding traditions that we continue to inherit and it would be silly to separate a person's strong convictions from how they understand the world."

On euthanasia: "I want to raise questions about the very language of sanctity of life. God is holy, life is not. So the question is how do you receive life as a gift in terms of how we relate to one another over our lives in a way that we do not in the name of compassion do terrible things to one another to relieve what we think is suffering. There are very important distinctions to be made between putting to death and not prolonging death and those kinds of distinctions can be developed in a way that can help us be with those who are dying in a manner that we don't ask them to abandon us because we haven't abandoned them."

On greed: "I think the church has concentrated on lust because we think we know when you get it wrong. It's interesting we seldom say anything about greed because it is not clear what it would look like. Two SUVs? What would greed [look like]? We have trouble naming in what way greed possesses our lives - and I use that language advisedly because I think that greed is a power that possesses your life - because as a matter of fact modern economies depend on us being greedy."

This is an intelligent and interesting conversation on a BBC Radio 4 programme about the place of religion in public discourse, covering euthanasia and dying, greed and consumerism, theocracy and the faith of political leaders, and the sources of morality and virtue. Panelists include: Stanley Hauerwas, Mark Warnock, John Gummer and Raymond Tallis. The discussion contains a typical smattering of Hauerwas quotable quotes, including the ones above. By the way, when Hauerwas says that life is not holy, he is making much the same point as my series on things worse than death. If you've never heard him before, this isn't a bad introduction.
H/T Graham.


byron smith said...

If you've never heard Hauerwas before, he managed to touch upon most of the subjects that he nearly always touches upon, even though he only spoke a limited number of times. I think a large part of his effectiveness in shaping Christian ethical discourse is the result of a combination of his ability to come up with confrontingly unexpected (and so memorable) one liners together with his dogged faithfulness to his various hobby horses.