I feel as if you would not mind if i addressed you so. I first heard of you when my seminary professor mentioned your name and a book you have written with a measure of diffidence. I scan some portions of the book and moved on to other urgent things, sorry. But the title alone began working on my brain, as it opened some windows and shed light on the idea Paul used in the Bible when he called us strangers and exiles.
That was nearly thirty years ago! You remained a theologian I would look out for and trust to read. And I am happy to report that I have read more in the years. My last surprise was to find you keep company with some of my favourite peeps: the Plough folks. For a city gal from a Mainstream denomination (though my journey meandered), those are serious, radical folks I deeply admire and turn to — for the simple reason that there are a thousand ways to do faith with eyes half shut and brains half-applied.
Last month I visited my seminary professor of the Systematic tribe whom I endearingly call Uncle Simon, and ask to pick things off his shelf. Your memoir caught my eye.
Wait, how old is Hauerwas now? I asked, and he did a mental calculation and arrived at seventy-one. The internet disagrees. O well.
Time is relentless and we are always catching up, aren’t we?
Although your memoir isn’t what I would call a breezy read, I was drawn to it (when you are willing to read something after a long day and it isn’t fiction) and surprisingly enriched by it. I was never one of your students, but your memoir affords me some tutelage, probably unexpected, especially since I am not from your ‘hood! This is what is prompting me to write this letter.
As a pastor who has to offer both comforting and hard truth, I also carry within me a certain level of uncertainty about God, and about this business of being a Christian. I think we don’t say it enough, but faith is hard stuff and a sheer gift first and always. Your honest profession regarding whether you are or when you became a Christian felt like good company.
Although I didn’t always understand the calisthenics, it was fun tracking with you across the years and ‘meeting’ all the people who influenced and shaped you. The story of Yoder is by now more commonplace…