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Chapter 10 Abortion Theologically U nderstood Stanley Hauerwas Editor's Introduction Stanley Hauerwas holds the conviction that Christians do Christian ethics. This shows itself in several ways i n the following essay, and, at each point, resonates strongly with Maclntyrean themes. First, the essay is an "occasional" docu­ ment. Originally delivered as a lecture for the meeting of the United Methodist Church's Evangelical Fellowship during its North Carolina Annual Conference in June 1 990, Hauerwas's message is explicitly directed to a Christian readership. One does not commonly find a journal article (which, by nature of the genre, is crafted for a generic audience) beginning with a sermon - especially one written by someone other than the author of the article! But Hauerwas's inclusion of Rev. Terry Hamilton-Poore's homily shows the way Hauerwas has joined a much longer conversation. This conversation began as soon as there were biblical texts for preaching, such as Matthew 25, and has continued ever since. The discussion has revolved around the meaning and implication that such texts hold for Chris­ tian lives, that is, for the corporate life of those whose identity is determinatively shaped by their joint allegiance to these very texts. As you will recall, Macintyre has dubbed this long-standing conversation about the role of authoritative texts and prophetic voices a "tradition." Second, Hauerwas can be seen doing Christian ethics when he insists that the question facing Christians at every turn is "What kind of people ought we be?" And his emphasis is on the "we." What kind of people ought we be? - we who take seriously the task to "care for the least of these" in the same man­ ner Jesus cared. The primary issue for Christians is not rendering a decision (for example, concerning when life begins, or regarding whose rights have priority) but responding in a manner consonant with Christian identity. In Maclntyre's terms, Christians cannot answer "What ought we do?" u ntil they first identify who constitutes the "we." This identification is made by recognizing of which stories Christians are a part. Not only are Christians embedded in the life sto­ ries of other community members - including this pregnant teenage girl, that irresponsible teenage boy, and those unborn children - and therefore required to respond fittingly, Christians are also characters in the ongoing story of the gospel. Their actions, therefore, must be faithful to the gospel narrative. 22 1 222 Stanley Hauerwas Third, Christians do Christian ethics by refusing to debate issues except on Christian terms. The standard contemporary way of framing the abortion debate is unacceptable to Christians because it pits the unborn child against the preg­ nant mother and says, "Now, choose!" I n stark contrast, Christians maintain that they are for both. If Christians are to retain their distinctive identity, they must re­ cast the language of the debate so as to be able to champion both victims. This move mirrors the way Macintyre wrested the meaning of moral concepts such as goodness and justice out of the coarse hands of post-Enlightenment thinkers by demonstrating the rightful use of these terms within the tradition of Aristotelian­ ism. The similarity between Hauerwas's admonition and Maclntyre's example is clear: for Christians, moral reflection must occur by means of concepts internal to the Christian tradition. Finally, Hauerwas's approach to abortion is shown to be a distinctively Chris­ tian one by his plea that Christians tackle the problem corporately, as "Church." Not only do Christians have a distinctive identity according to which their re­ sponse must be fashioned in a Christlike manner, the mode of this response must be corporate rather than individual. As Macintyre has shown, the notion that the individual is the fundamental unit of social reality (that is, one logically prior to the existence of community) was one of the central mistakes of the En­ lightenment project. ( I ronically, this mistake could not be propagated except by means of political liberalism, a communal tradition in its own right!) The Christian community is most threatened by the dangers of individualism when it unwisely appropriates for its own moral reflection liberalism's "rights" terminology, be­ cause rights are always held against others, a fact which renders impossible a genuine common good. However, authentic Christian existence is not a priva­ tized one. Hauerwas is shockingly clear on this: "In the Church we tell you what you can and cannot do with your genitals. They are not your own. They are not private...


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