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Monday, 3 March 2008

Christianity and Radical Democracy

This is a most amazing and rewarding book.

Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian By Stanley Hauerwas & Romand Coles Cascade Books, 2008

The title talks about conversations and the book really delivers - in a series of lectures, papers and letters in which Stanley Hauerwas, written off as sectarian by many mainstream theologians, engages in a probing exploration with Roman Coles, a political theorist, non-believer and community activist of the possible connections between a radical Christian faith and radical democracy.

This is a challenging exchange that demonstrates an open listening and honest exploration of points of connection and question between the traditions.

I learnt much from Coles sympathetic and open reading of texts from Rowan Williams and Jean Vanier and his sharp eye for the intrusion of Christendom assumptions and languages into our best efforts to get beyond a Christendom mentality. What do they have to do with organising for radical democracy? Go read.

This probing exchange reveals an emerging friendship that does not arrive at any easy synthesis or collapse the tension between the faith commitments of Hauerwas and the political commitments of Coles.

What is important is that they are both talking about a reimagining of politics and the practices that would sustain the practice of a radical politics and both questioning the contemporary shape of political imagination that is shaped by both the denial and the production of death.

Coming into view here are the practices of the early civil rights movement exemplified in the work of Bob Moses and Ella Baker, the local community organising of the Industrial Areas Foundation and the life and worship of the L'Arche communities. In the background is the work of John Howard Yoder, Mennonite theologian and his articulation of what Coles terms a "wild patience".

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