Halden has put forth a post on the necessity of Sectarianism. I am rather sympathetic to such an argument. However, I think the discussion itself is somewhat flawed.
At Union Theological Seminary for one of Prof. Dorrien’s Social Ethics classes, we read through the Hauerwas Reader. Needless to say, quite a few people — that is most people — did not like it. Some had some rather unsophisticated critiques, some just didn’t seem to get Hauerwas in the first place, and others were more challenging. However, in both the inchoate and more nuanced critiques, the word sectarian was brought up.
Now, I found in this case, sectarian was something akin to a curse word. Similar to more conservative people using the terms gnostic or marcionism to label a current theology, sectarianism can function in theology as a four letter word. The thing is, sectarianism, as a four letter word tends to function somewhat differently than a dictionary definition — that to be accused of sectarianism is to be accused of withdrawal and isolation. In actuality, at least one professor at my undergrad, a Bible college at the time, voiced the exact same critique.
Now, such a charge towards Hauerwas I think is uninformed. Hauerwas is not withdrawing and he does not describe or envision something like the Amish, in fact, he does the exact opposite — hospitality is a significant praxis. Rather, what Hauerwas does is that he moves the conversation. He and others like him move towards a discussion closer to the categories of American theology, than say, the system that sits atop of the categories of American theology. Hauerwas still engages, and communities like the one Halden is involved in can be extremely relevant. In fact, I’ve seen at times, in communities like Halden speaks of, more of an on the ground relevance than say, the denominational system. Withdrawal and isolation are not the keys to how the church exists under which Halden speaks.
On one hand, what is important is for the church to be the church. On the other hand, there is also the acknowledgment that we live within other contexts as well. The confluence of the church and, say, America results in the rethinking of categories and how communities function and interact. To charge Hauerwas and others as sectarians in the sense of the four letter word is rather blind.
There are better things to critique the heirs of the Duke school for. How about we move on to that?