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War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity
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War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity


Baker Academic 2011

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How are American identity and America’s presence in the world shaped by war? And what does God have to do with it? In this compelling volume, Stanley Hauerwas helps readers reflect theologically on war, church, justice, and nonviolence. He explores such issues as how America depends on war for its identity, how war affects the soul of a nation, the sacrifices that war entails, and why war is considered “necessary,” especially in America. He also examines the views of nonviolence held by Martin Luther King Jr. and C. S. Lewis, how Jesus constitutes the justice of God, and the relationship between congregational ministry and Christian formation in America. Students and teachers of Christian theology and ethics, American church history, and American cultural studies will value this work.

With Logos Bible Software, Scripture passages appear on mouse-over, and all cross-references link to the other resources in your digital library, making this volume powerful and easy to access—a cornerstone reference for scholarly work or personal Bible study. Perform comprehensive searches by topic or Scripture reference—finding, for instance, every mention of “justice” or “nonviolence.”

Key Features

  • Focuses on the liturgical character of war
  • Provides essays on American difference
  • Develops an account of church as an alternative to war


  • Part 1 America and War
    • War and the American Difference: A Theological Assessment
    • America’s God
    • Why War Is a Moral Necessity for America: Or, How Realistic Is Realism?
  • Part 2 The Liturgy of War
    • Reflections on the “Appeal to Abolish War”: Or, What Being a Friend of Enda’s Got Me Into
    • Sacrificing the Sacrifices of War
    • C. S. Lewis and Violence
    • Martin Luther King Jr. and Christian Nonviolence
  • Part 3 The Ecclesial Difference
    • Jesus, the Justice of God
    • Pentecost: Learning the Languages of Peace
    • A Worldly Church: Politics, Theology, and the Common Good
    • A Particular Place: The Future of Parish Ministry
    • Beyond the Boundaries: The Church Is Mission

Praise for the Print Edition

Beginning from the startling claim that war defines American political identity, these essays should interest both religious and secular readers. Hauerwas defends a Christian pacifism that allows no compromises with war, including that most common form of compromise—just war theory. Christians will be powerfully challenged by his claim that nonviolence is a necessary condition of a church that is a living witness to Christ. Secular readers will be forced to rethink the ground of their own commitment to a politics built on violent sacrifice. Hauerwas demands of all of us that we think through the character of our faith and the sources of ultimate meaning in our lives.

—Paul W. Kahn, Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities, Yale Law School

Disenthralling Americans from war will require an authentic realism that displaces the illusions commonly passing for realism. In this luminous volume, Stanley Hauerwas continues the vital work of planting the signposts that show us the way.

—Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations, Boston University

Although [Hauerwas] . . . has written extensively over the years on issues of peace and violence, this collection is significant as his first work focused primarily on these issues and their public significance in the United States, and particularly in the context of our post-9/11 world.

Englewood Review of Books

Stanley Hauerwas always makes for an interesting read, and this work proves no exception. . . . This work on Christian pacifism sets itself apart by the way it connects the moral issues surrounding war with the unique challenge faced by American Christians. . . . While Hauerwas certainly leans on his decades-long effort to move pacifism to the forefront of Christian theological discussions, his work here approaches the topic from enough creative angles to ensure an engaging read, even for the most seasoned reader of Hauerwas. Besides tackling the ethical challenges unique to the American experience, he also engages the thought and practice of some of the most profound twentieth-century thinkers on these topics. . . . Christians from all traditions will find themselves challenged by his interpretation of the Gospel.

Catholic Books Review

The reason to read yet another book by Hauerwas is his reason for writing it: to ‘help us, Christian and non-Christian alike, to confront the reality of war.’ He confronts us with compelling evidence that ‘war is America’s central liturgical act’ by which it renews its sense of being a unique nation. Our sacrifices and the sacrificed, beginning with the Civil War, compel us to engage in war as a noble calling to redeem the world. Absent a church disciplined by divine justice (that is, by Jesus) and articulate about human suffering (a Pentecostal gift), war will remain the most compelling option we have.

Christian Century

Product Details

  • Title: War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity
  • Author: Stanley Hauerwas
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Pages: 224

About Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. Prior to that, he was a professor at the University of Notre Dame. In 2001, he was named “America’s Best Theologian” by TIME Magazine. Hauerwas is the author of numerous books, including Unsettling Arguments, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir, Christian Existence Today, and Living Gently in a Violent World.