This quote is taken from an essay by Stanley Hauerwas titled “Should War Be Eliminated?” in The Hauerwas Reader edited by John Berkman and Michael Cartwright (pp. 421-422). When I first read it I was on my way back from New York City where I had just seen the 9/11 memorial for the first time. My initial reaction to being reminded of such a tragedy was that of most Americans–let’s get revenge! In part, I think the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have shown us just how costly revenge is. What Hauerwas says here may be hard to accept (it has been for me at times) but I think is worth wrestling with it:
Christians believe that the true history of the world, that history that determines our destiny, is not carried by the nation-state. In spite of its powerful moral appeal, this history is the history of godlessness. Only the church has the stance, therefore, to describe war for what it is, for the world is too broken to know the reality of war. For what is war but the desire to be rid of God, to claim for ourselves the power to determine our meaning and destiny? Our desire to protect ourselves from our enemies, to eliminate our enemies in the name of protecting the common history that we share with our friends, is but the manifestation of our hatred of God.
Christians have been offered the possibility of a different history through participation in a community which one learns to love the enemy. They are thus a people who believe that God will have them exists through history without the necessity of war. God has done so by providing them with a history through the church. For without the church we are but a scattered people with nothing in common. Only through the church do we learn that we share the same creator and destiny. So the world’s true history is not built on war, but that offered by a community that witnesses to God’s refusal to give up on his creation.