We disagree. In truth, we not only disagree about conclusions, we disagree about the facts, about how the facts are to be considered, what, indeed, constitutes a fact, what constitutes considering, and so on. We are a fragmented society whose fragmentation is becoming a major spiritual force in the lives of its people.
The fragmentation of the modern mind (even within itself) is just that – modern. Of course, a new consensus has been suggested: that we all agree that not agreeing is normal. Stanley Hauerwas places this at the very heart of the meaning of modernity:
By modernity, I mean the project to create social orders that would make it possible for each person living in such orders “to have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.” Wilderness Wanderings, 26
This is proving to be the most destructive aspect of the modern world. “To have a story” requires that someone else consent to the story – we do not live alone (even when we pretend that is our story). The only means of generating a consensus that has no basis other than “the story I choose,” is coercion. The social cohesion of consensus is being replaced by various versions of coerced agreement. We are angry.
This is not a game Christians can win, nor is it a game Christians should want to play. The Christian witness is not to a story we choose ….
Fr. Stephen Freeman, Consent to Reality.
Hauerwas’ definition of modernity (emphasis added) is priceless:
- It echoes or anticipates Justice Kennedy’s “Mystery Passage”: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
- It distills the essence of attacks on the sexual binary, whereby 50 or more fanciful and/or ineffable “genders” (with corresponding pronouns) have been invented.
- Our consent to the gender-multiplying gaslighting is indeed being coerced. We would, after all, be committing the ultimate dignitary assault, denying the storytellers’ very existence as they’d put it, were we allowed to say “That’s bullshit!” or even “Very nice, dearie. Run along now.”
I’ll try not to forget Hauerwas’ definition again.
UPDATE: Point 1 on Hauerwas’ definition of modernity included “I don’t know when Hauerwas first wrote it, but I’m 99% positive it was before the collection Fr. Stephen cites and I suspect it was before Planned Parenthood v. Casey (the source of Kennedy’s maudlin philosophizing).” I had seen the date of a second or subsequent addition of Wilderness Wanderings. The first edition, I now noticed, was 1998, and I suspect it was the first publication of that definition.
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Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
(David Foster Wallace via Jason Segedy, Why I’m Leaving Twitter Behind.)
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2 thoughts on “Hauerwasian “modernity” today”
I did find Hauerwas’s definition in “Preaching as though we had Enemies” in the May 1995 _First Things_, where he related it to Kennedy’s ideas. If he had expressed it prior to that, I did not find it — or perhaps he had expressed somewhat differently from the quotation for which I searched.
Thanks, Alan. And here I thought the correspondence between Kennedy’s meaning of liberty and Hauerwas’ definition of modernity was just providential.
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