Against hegemony, not state: Resident Aliens at 25

In 1989, Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon sparked a lively debate about church, ministry, and Christian identity with their book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Twenty-five years later, we asked several pastors and theologians to offer their perspective on the book and its impact. (Read all responses.)

Of several insights in Resident Aliens, I’ll mention two. One is that the focus on the conservative-liberal divide in churches can distract us from perceiving how members of both groups accommodate themselves to dominant values. Both liberal and conservative Christians often buy into the myth of redemptive violence and its justification of militarism. It is good to remember that the path of Christian discipleship often meanders along routes that are not commonly traversed by either liberals or conservatives as defined in the United States.

The second insight is an insistence on the church as an intergenerational community of formation. As the mother of three teenagers, I am a witness to how even an imperfect community that tries to be faithful to the way of Jesus can be a powerful force. I would be hard-pressed to raise children in a society traversed by dehumanizing forces such as consumerism and white racism without the support of a village of people engaged in discerning the byways that God’s Spirit seems to be opening up in our time and place.