Lawyering in the Christian Colony: Some Hauerwasian Themes, Reflections, and Questions
LAWYERING IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY: SOME HAUERWASIAN THEMES, REFLECTIONS, AND QUESTIONS
W. BRADLEY WENDEL 0 1
0 Copyright © 2012 by W. Bradley Wendel. This article is also available at
1 Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School. 1. Charles Fried, The Lawyer as Friend: The Moral Foundations of the Lawyer-Client Relation , 85 Y
offer fail to excuse the moral wrongs they commit.5 Although loyalty to clients
may be an important value, other values are also implicated in these cases, and
defenders of the standard conception must also justify a priority principle that
gives client-regarding obligations greater weight than obligations owed to
affected non-clients or to society as a whole.
For the purposes of this symposium on the relevance of the work of Stanley
Hauerwas for the law, the important thing to notice about this debate is that
most defenses of the standard conception are grounded, in one way or another,
in political liberalism.6 The liberal foundation is evident in Stephen Pepper’s
well-known warning against government by an “oligarchy of lawyers.”7 At least
regarding competent adults, all of us are moral agents, responsible for
determining how to lead our lives. The law necessarily imposes restrictions on
what we may do, but no one else is empowered to place restrictions on our
autonomy. In a complex, highly legalistic society, however, we are necessarily
required in some cases to seek advice from legally trained professionals to
determine whether our proposed course of conduct may violate the law, or to
employ mechanisms provided by the legal system (such as contracts, wills and
trusts, and business entities) to achieve our goals. In providing this assistance,
lawyers should not impose their own views about the morality of their clients’
conduct. Rather, they should assist their clients in implementing their own plans
and providing technical assistance.8
As any reader of Hauerwas knows, this is an aspect of the modernist anomie
he warns about. In a modern liberal society, autonomy to decide for oneself is
exalted into the first principle of ethics, with the result that individuals are cut
off from the resources they need (traditions, communities, stories) to construct
meaningful lives for themselves. This kind of alienation can be cured only by
associating oneself with a community—for Hauerwas this is the church—and
sharing in the ongoing development of its history. Before turning to the
theological critique of liberalism, however, it is noteworthy that some lawyers
outside the church have also found the standard conception unsatisfying
5. See, e.g., ARTHUR ISAK APPLBAUM, ETHICS FOR ADVERSARIES (1999); DAVID LUBAN,
LAWYERS AND JUSTICE (1988); DAVID LUBAN, LEGAL ETHICS AND HUMAN DIGNITY 97–298 (2007).
6. See, e.g., TIM DARE, THE COUNSEL OF ROGUES? A DEFENCE OF THE STANDARD
CONCEPTION OF THE LAWYER’S ROLE (2009); Stephen L. Pepper, The Lawyer’s Amoral Ethical Role:
A Defense, A Problem, and Some Possibilities, 1986 AM. BAR FOUND. RES. J. 613; Fried, supra note 1;
WENDEL, supra note 4. Bill Simon and Bob Gordon have long emphasized that the strongest critiques
of the standard conception are essentially critiques of liberalism. See, e.g., Robert W. Gordon &
William H. Simon, The Redemption of Professionalism?, in LAWYERS’ IDEALS/LAWYERS’ PRACTICES:
TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE AMERICAN LEGAL PROFESSION 230 (Robert L. Nelson ed., 1992).
7. Pepper, supra note 6, at 617.
8. The summary in this paragraph of the liberal argument for the standard conception is
somewhat schematic, and defenders of the standard conception may differ from it in certain details. For
example, Pepper believes lawyers should engage in moral dialogue with their clients. See Pepper, supra
note 6, at 630–31. Monroe Freedman, another staunch defender of the standard conception, insists that
lawyers are fully morally accountable for their choice of whom to represent, but not morally
accountable for the means of representation. See MONROE FREEDMAN & ABBE SMITH,
UNDERSTANDING LAWYERS’ ETHICS § 4.02 (4th ed. 2010).
because its grounding in thin, procedural values cuts lawyers off from the moral
resources that would give meaning to their professional lives. Students go to law
school hoping to learn to do justice, observes Bill Simon, but they graduate with
the belief that they are supposed to be merely instruments for the realization of
their clients’ lawful ends.9 Lawyers learn that their role is not about pursuing
justice, but about defending clients’ interests, which may not have anything to
do with justice. Morally conscientious lawyers may therefore try to distance
themselves from responsibility for the substantive injustice in which they are
implicated, but in doing so they learn to identify themselves with this stance of
detachment.10 A liberal legal ethics leads ineluctably to an impoverished
selfconception of lawyers as ethical professionals. Moreover, it leads lawyers into
complicity with violence as they use the means of coercion supplied by the state
to secure rights and goods sought by their clients.11
The parallels between the philosophical criticism of the standard conception
and Hauerwas’s theological critique of liberalism are striking. Thus, one may
ask whether a Christian lawyer can follow some version of the standard
conception. In this paper I want to give an affirmative answer to that question,
but defending this position would seem to require the Herculean task of coming
to grips with the vast corpus of Hauerwas’s scholarship. His argument against
liberalism from a Christian point of view is extraordinarily complex and
composed of many strands—some methodological, like his emphasis on the
inextricability of values from a narrative situated within a community, and
others substantive, like his commitment to non-violence. It is important to
hazard an attempt at summarizing it, however, because this paper offers a
constructive argument for an engaged Christian legal ethics in which the first
obligation of lawyers is to respect the law. Given the thoroughgoing critique of
liberalism presented by Hauerwas, a conscientious Christian lawyer might be
suspicious of any conception of professional ethics that seemed to rely on an
obligation of support, obedience, or fidelity to state-constituted institutions such
as the law and the legal system. Thus, with not inconsiderable trepidation I offer
a brief summary, in part II, of some Hauerwasian themes and arguments in
critique of political liberalism.
Although many of his objections are well taken, Hauerwas sometimes treats
liberalism as a monolith, as opposed to a term defined more by family
9. WILLIAM H. SIMON, THE PRACTICE OF JUSTICE 1 (1998) (“No social role encourages such
ambitious moral aspirations as the lawyer’s, and no social role so consistently disappoints the
aspirations it encourages.”).
10. Gerald J. Postema, Moral Responsibility in Professional Ethics, 55 N.Y.U. L. REV. 63, 74–79
11. Although Reinhold Niebuhr may have had more influence in political ethics in the United
States, the impact of John Howard Yoder on Christian legal ethics has been remarkable. See RICHARD
P. CHURCH, FIRST BE RECONCILED: CHALLENGING CHRISTIANS IN THE COURTS (2008); THOMAS L.
SHAFFER, ON BEING A CHRISTIAN AND A LAWYER (1981). Although Shaffer is a Baptist, he describes
being profoundly influenced by Yoder. See THOMAS L. SHAFFER, MORAL MEMORANDA FROM JOHN
HOWARD YODER: CONVERSATIONS ON LAW, ETHICS AND THE CHURCH BETWEEN A MENNONITE
THEOLOGIAN AND A HOOSIER LAWYER (2002).
resemblances than by necessary and sufficient conditions.12 Some varieties of
liberalism may not be as vulnerable to the objections Hauerwas raises, and thus
may not be as threatening to theological ethics.13 In order to clear some space
for a different conception of Christian lawyering, it will first be helpful to see
whether Hauerwas’s objections to liberalism hold against a theory of politics
that begins with foundational assumptions other than deracinated individuals,
and assumes that politics is something more than merely a technology to satisfy
preexisting wants. The liberal theory offered here assumes, instead, that people
have reasons to live together in communities and work out a common approach
to living together, while treating one another as equals. To the extent there are
good theological grounds for treating one another as equals, this version of
liberalism can be understood as a political response to God’s presence in the
world. A consistent theme in Hauerwas’s work is the dependence of values
upon communities, traditions, and stories. There does not seem to be a reason
why part of a community’s tradition and self-understanding cannot be pluralism
and the corresponding need for some means of dealing with one another
despite empirical uncertainty and disagreement about morality. If a
community’s history and traditions can be so characterized, then any duties a
citizen, public official, or lawyer may have toward the community’s institutions,
including the legal system, may be understood as a way of expressing respect for
one’s fellow citizens.
The constructive part of the argument here requires consideration of
another approach to theological ethics, and therefore theological legal ethics,
which offers its own constitutive narrative about the type of community we wish
to build together. A Christian lawyer will still be a bit strange, as Hauerwas
insists she should be, but will not be unwilling to use the institutions and
procedures of the legal system to help keep our society as a whole, not just the
church, in good working order. To be a bit provocative here, I call this position
modest Constantinianism,14 but it is grounded in the tradition of Lutheran
political ethics, which sees political institutions as “a realm of divinely ordained
authority and law, albeit perennially distorted by sin.”15 Of course no human
12. Cf. LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS ¶ 67 (G.E.M. Anscombe
trans., 3d ed. 1958).
13. Cf. JEFFREY STOUT, DEMOCRACY AND TRADITION 127–28 (2004) (criticizing Alasdair
MacIntyre, with whom Hauerwas shares many methodological commitments and substantive
arguments for lumping together different conceptions of political liberalism).
14. Borrowing from John Howard Yoder, Hauerwas has used the term Constantinianism to refer
broadly to a systematic blurring of the lines between church and state. Politically the term referred to
offices such as prince-bishops that no longer exist, but the term (and its related label “Christendom”)
remains a way to identify, and in Hauerwas’s writing to stigmatize, the view that the church and state
ought to work together to transform the world according to the demands of God’s righteousness. See,
e.g., STANLEY HAUERWAS, AFTER CHRISTENDOM?: HOW THE CHURCH IS TO BEHAVE IF FREEDOM,
JUSTICE, AND A CHRISTIAN NATION ARE BAD IDEAS (1991) [hereinafter HAUERWAS, AFTER
15. JOHN WITTE, JR., LAW AND PROTESTANTISM: THE LEGAL TEACHINGS OF THE LUTHERAN
REFORMATION 93 (2002); see generally CHURCH & STATE: LUTHERAN PERSPECTIVES (John R.
institution can fully instantiate God’s justice on earth, but that does not mean
that citizens (and lawyers) cannot work to accomplish justice and peace, as best
as they are able, in and through political communities. This alternative is not
offered as a bit of confessional Lutheran theology. Not only am I manifestly
unqualified to defend it on those grounds, but I hope that the position is
appealing to those with different denominational allegiances, as a broadly
Christian approach to political ethics.16 The Lutheran grounding is offered,
however, in a Hauerwasian spirit, because Hauerwas emphasizes that one
cannot transcend one’s history and the stories told within one’s tradition.17 This
is part of my story, and the only way I know how to begin an exploration of
The animating ideal of the positive argument presented here is that politics
and political ethics are fundamentally about people trying to live together in a
society composed of equals. Certain ways of treating each other are ruled out
by the idea that people are, by nature, equal to one another in worth. Physical
domination, coercion, and deception all manifest an attitude that others are less
than equals. On the other hand, people can treat one another as equals, as
fellow citizens of a political community, by seeking a means of regulating the
affairs of the community that accords respect to competing viewpoints while
also recognizing that it may be necessary for there to be rules and principles
that stand in the name of the community as a whole. The institutions and
practices of democratic self-government, including the ideal of the rule of law
Stumme & Robert W. Tuttle eds., 2003).
16. Cf. Mark A. Noll, The Lutheran Difference, FIRST THINGS, Feb. 1992, at 31 (pointing out
resources that Lutherans have to offer to Christian thought generally).
17. Hauerwas frequently talks about narratives and traditions as things that are given, not chosen.
Consider the example of being a Texan, which for Hauerwas is an important ontological category. He
writes of his fellow Texan, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., that “Engelhardt did not use the language of
‘choice’ to characterize what it means for him to be a Texan. He knows that such language is surely a
distortion of the great and good reality that comes from finding one’s life constituted by such a land and
people.” STANLEY HAUERWAS, Not All Peace Is Peace: Why Christians Cannot Make Peace with
Tristram Engelhardt’s Peace, in WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: PROBING TWENTIETH-CENTURY
THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY 115 (1997). No matter how rich a tradition is, Hauerwas seems to say, if
it is freely chosen, it is somehow not authentically part of the character and identity of the person who
chooses it. He therefore rejects the view that autonomy is itself a value, as opposed to a precondition
for choosing things that are themselves valuable. Cf. JOSEPH RAZ, THE MORALITY OF FREEDOM 417–
18 (1986) (arguing that autonomy has value insofar as it enables people to have an autonomous life). It
is not clear whether this claim is part of Hauerwas’s critique of modernity or a theory of value. To me it
seems plausible as the former, but too strong as the latter. In this passage he seems to take both
positions: “[O]ne of the oddities of the contemporary situation is that what it means to be a person, to
be free and/or autonomous, is to be capable of creating or ‘choosing’ our ‘identity.’” STANLEY
HAUERWAS, A Tale of Two Stories, in CHRISTIAN EXISTENCE TODAY 25, 27 (Brazos Press 2001)
(1988). Later in the article, however, he suggests a way of resolving this tension. Although he does not
use this word, the crucial idea may be a person coming to endorse an aspect of his or her identity that
initially presents itself as given. Hauerwas cites his identity as a Texan as “the context that makes
intelligible the stories of my people.” Id. at 36. Other people raised in Texas may not see that fact as
important to making their stories intelligible. So, too, with the identity of Christian. For some people
this may simply be a fact, but for others it may supply the crucial context to making something
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 75:1
and the procedures of legal argumentation and decisionmaking, are ultimately
justified with reference to the ideal of the equality and dignity of all persons.
The interesting further question is whether it is possible to give a theologically
well-grounded account of political ideals such as citizenship and equality. If
there is an overlap between our identity as Christians and as citizens in a liberal
democracy, then it may be possible to give the kind of account Hauerwas
demands: a compelling story about our lives together, in which we manifest,
however imperfectly, some aspect of the reality of God’s kingdom—in this case,
that we are all equals as participants in the story of our inclusion in God’s
This is not a “lesser evils” argument, as Hauerwas sometimes caricatures
Lutheran political ethics,19 but an ideal that seeks to instantiate a theological
truth about the equality of all persons in the relationships we have with others,
mediated through state institutions and practices. Humans are created in God’s
image and therefore are entitled to be treated by others in a way that respects
God’s creation. Rather than considering the law a lesser evil, I would go so far
as to understand it as a positive good for humans insofar as it enables people to
treat each other with respect and tell Christian lawyers that they may
participate in helping the legal system realize its own characteristic ends.20 To
have any hope of persuading Hauerwas, however, this argument cannot
abstractly use terms like “equality” and “rule of law” that are not embedded in
a context that includes history, tradition, and memory.21 Thus, I suggest briefly a
story that offers a background rich enough to provide the kind of justification
18. Cf. STANLEY HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM: A PRIMER IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS 27
(1983) [hereinafter HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM]. Waldron has offered a political–
theological argument along these lines. See JEREMY WALDRON, GOD, LOCKE, AND EQUALITY:
CHRISTIAN FOUNDATIONS OF JOHN LOCKE’S POLITICAL THOUGHT (2002); Jeremy Waldron, Persons,
Community, and the Image of God in Rawls’ Brief Inquiry (N.Y.U. Pub. Law & Legal Theory Working
Papers, Paper No. 254, 2011), available at http://lsr.nellco.org/nyu_plltwp/254.
19. See, e.g., STANLEY HAUERWAS, A Christian Critique of Christian America, in THE
HAUERWAS READER 459, 462 (John Berkman & Michael Cartweight eds., 2001) [hereinafter
HAUERWAS, A Christian Critique]. I refer to this as a caricature because sophisticated Lutheran
theologians are aware that “Christian ethics does not acknowledge this tragic compromise, that on the
contrary the commands of the Sermon on the Mount are quite unconditional and make no allowance
for the conditioning of all goals by the sphere of means. . . . Man cannot get off the hook of God’s
unconditional requirement by pleading that the world in which he is set is an evil world.” 1 HELMUT
THIELICKE, THEOLOGICAL ETHICS 486 (William H. Lazareth ed., Fortress Press 1969) (1958).
20. Cf. WITTE, supra note 15, at 4 (“It was one thing to deconstruct the framework of medieval
Catholic law, politics, and society with a sharp theological sword. It was quite another thing to
reconstruct a new Lutheran framework of law, politics, and society with only this theological sword in
hand. Luther learned this lesson the hard way in the crisis years of the 1520s, and it almost destroyed
his movement. He quickly came to realize that law was not just a necessary evil but an essential blessing
in this earthly life.”).
21. STANLEY HAUERWAS, Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Remembering, in WILDERNESS
WANDERINGS: PROBING TWENTIETH-CENTURY THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY 225, 229–32 (1997).
HAUERWAS ON LIBERALISM
A. The Necessary Embodiment of Ethics in Narratives and Traditions (Which
Presuppose a Community)
In Hauerwas’s theology, a political community is constituted by shared
traditions that identify and elaborate upon the virtues of its citizens, which
contribute to the ongoing flourishing of the community. Principles of ethics for
one’s own life and the life of one’s community are not derived from reason
alone, but must be justified in terms of whether they are directed toward the
completion of a journey upon which a particular community finds itself.22 “[T]he
most basic task of any polity is to offer its people a sense of participation in an
adventure.”23 There is no way to pry apart ethical principles from evaluations of
character, or character from the description of a political community.24 All of
these evaluations are embedded in a narrative that continues to unfold as the
community encounters new challenges.
The problem with liberal political theory as practiced by philosophers like
John Rawls and Joseph Raz, is that it proceeds as though it were possible to
abstract principles of ethics from particular communities with memory and
history, and to judge from some hypothetical standpoint—an Archimedean
point apart from all of these thick, ongoing, enacted traditions, with their
characteristic ends and practices.25 Stated strongly, abstract rules and principles
are unintelligible without a narrative and tradition to give them content; there is
no deeper mode of understanding of which stories are merely illustrative.26
Thus, liberalism is incoherent at the level of axiology. It seeks to begin with a
foundation of universal, ahistorical values but fails because there is no such
thing as values apart from communities, narratives, and traditions. Liberalism
also fails to account for the way in which ethical principles are embodied in
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 75:1
practices (in MacIntyre’s sense).27 Ethics is a matter of doing, not just detached
reflection, and doing well at any practice necessarily requires a kind of
apprenticeship to someone who has already demonstrated excellence in the
A weaker version of this claim is that, to the extent liberalism offers a
constitutive narrative with archetypal characters and virtues, it makes for a
pretty lousy adventure story. The story offered by political liberalism, as
envisioned by Hauerwas, proceeds as follows: A bunch of people without a
shared history get together and form a community in which it is assumed that
people will act out of self-interest, except to the extent they are restrained by
laws enacted pursuant to a constitutional scheme to which the founders of their
community have given their consent.29 Other than the history of assenting to this
purportedly neutral framework of institutions and rules, our community’s only
real story is that each individual is free to make up his or her own story.30 The
failure in this case may be quasi-aesthetic, not conceptual. Under the standards
according to which stories should be judged, the constitutive narrative offered
by political liberalism is dull, uninspiring, colorless, and shallow.
Political liberals are trying to tell an interesting story around the centrality
of autonomy, not realizing that self-created values are either not values at all,31
or at least are such thin values that they fail to inspire loyalty and commitment.32
The ironic result is that individuals—who need communities to form their
character and identity—lack the resources to construct their own narrative, so
they use transient pleasures to anesthetize themselves from the anxiety that
would result if they grasped the meaninglessness of their lives.33 Not
surprisingly, if politics and public life are structured around the so-called goods
of bread and circuses, the result will be a community that has nothing to offer
people who are trying to lead lives aimed at some meaningful end. Moreover,
citizens in this sort of society will no longer cultivate the virtues necessary to
sustain the community.34 Fortunately, notes Hauerwas, there is an alternative in
the radical otherness of the church.
B. The Strangeness of the Christian Community
In contrast with the dreary story offered by liberalism, Christianity promises
a real adventure. To go along on this adventure, however, requires
subordinating one’s autonomy to the authority of a tradition. Being a faithful
Christian means that one’s story is not self-created, but given. “The Gospels
make wonderfully clear that the disciples had not the foggiest idea of what they
had gotten into when they followed Jesus.”35 Being a faithful Christian means
belonging to a community that is distinct from the world.36 From this
observation springs the objection to the Constantinian accommodation of
church and state. By making its claims to truth in language that is either
comprehensible or at least non-threatening to those in power, the church tends
to dilute the power, clarity, and distinctiveness of its message. In a nice turn of
phrase Hauerwas observes that “in the name of being politically responsible,
the church became politically invisible.”37 The church is necessarily a strange
thing, because it is structured not by the autonomous actions of individuals who
are empowered to create their own history, tradition, and meaning, but around
an eschatological conception of history, as having already been made to come
out right in the kingdom of God.38 It is not hard to see why a social ethic aimed
at witnessing to God’s redemption of humanity would seem peculiar indeed to
others who believe that they have in themselves the capacity to make the world
a better place.
There is a very important implication for political ethics in Hauerwas’s
insistence on the centrality of narrative and tradition, which can be stated in
weak and strong forms. The weak version is that adherents to particular
traditions, or members of communities, should not feel obligated to attempt to
explain their peculiar practices to outsiders. One of Hauerwas’s objections to
Reinhold Niebuhr is that he was so eager to render Christian ethics acceptable
to the wider society, in general liberal-political terms, that he was inclined to
remove all of the distinctive, peculiar, powerful bits from the Christian
message.39 The Christian community has a distinctive ethical stance that may not
34. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 102–03; cf. MACINTYRE, supra
note 27, at 186–87 (identifying characteristically modern conceptions of individual lives—the manager,
the therapist, and the aesthete—and implying that these people lead meaningless lives).
35. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 49.
36. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 60.
37. HAUERWAS, HANNAH’S CHILD, supra note 28, at 160; see also HAUERWAS & WILLIMON,
supra note 22, at 27 (noting that the accommodation of the church to the state enables “Christians to
share power without being a problem for the powerful”).
38. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 86–92.
39. STANLEY HAUERWAS, On Keeping Theological Ethics Theological, in THE HAUERWAS
READER, supra note 19, at 51, 60–61; HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 32 (“[B]oth the
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 75:1
be acceptable to the wider culture, but it would be a mistake to water down
Christian stories just so they do not seem so strange and jarring, because it is
precisely the strangeness of the stories told by God’s faithful people that makes
them exciting and compelling. The strong version of this position is that there is
no point in trying to explain, because practices and their associated values are
unintelligible to those outside the tradition:
Big words like “peace” and “justice,” slogans the church adopts under the
presumption that, even if people do not know what “Jesus Christ is Lord” means, they
will know what peace and justice means, are words awaiting content. The church really
does not know what these words mean apart from the life and death of Jesus of
Ethical principles gain content from the way they are employed in the
stories told about virtuous individuals who are members of communities
constituted by fidelity to their traditions. On their own, principles are literally
It can sometimes be unclear in Hauerwas’s work whether he intends the
strong or the weak version of the “narrativity” thesis.42 However, a pervasive
theme in his work is the emphasis on the Christian community as bearing
witness to an eschatological possibility—a vision of the direction in which God
is moving the world.43 One of his principal objections to the ethics of Niebuhr is
that it effaces the eschatological dimension of ethics, stigmatizing it as
“unrealistic” or “pie-in-the-sky,” when in fact the whole point of Christian
conservative and the liberal church . . . are basically accommodationist (that is, Constantinian) in their
social ethic. Both assume wrongly that the American church’s primary social task is to underwrite
American democracy.”). Hauerwas seems to count it as a fault of Reinhold Niebuhr’s position that it
influenced Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. See HAUERWAS, A
COMMUNITY OF CHARACTER, supra note 23, at 60 n.24.
40. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 38; see also HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE
KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 58 (denying that truthfulness, uprightness, and faithfulness are abstract
values to which Christians should subscribe, with Christian conviction simply supplying the motivation
to act on them).
41. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 26 (“Narrative is not secondary
for our knowledge of God; there is no ‘point’ that can be separated from the story. . . . [N]arratives are
necessary to our understanding of those aspects of our existence which admit of no further
explanation—i.e. God, the world, and the self.”).
42. Consider this passage, which contains both weak and strong versions of the thesis:
Notions like “abortion” are not simply given; their meaning and intelligibility depend on a
narrative construal. [Strong version.] Indeed part of the problem with the “old morality,”
particularly in Catholic moral theology, was a concentration on “act descriptions” as
representing an “objective and thus universal morality.” Those “descriptions,” however, were
abstracted from the communal narratives and practices which made them compelling. [Weak
Id. at 117.
43. See, e.g., HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 86. Hauerwas has said he resists the label
of “narrative theologian” because he sees in it the urge to reduce the content of a story to something
else—generally some kind of value or ideal that is not alien to liberalism. See STANLEY HAUERWAS,
PERFORMING THE FAITH: BONHOEFFER AND THE PRACTICE OF NONVIOLENCE 135, 136–37 (2004)
[hereinafter HAUERWAS, PERFORMING THE FAITH].
ethics should be to point toward a final end for the world.44 The idea of witness
shows that Hauerwas must intend the weak version of the narrativity thesis.
That is, it must be possible for the story as preserved and told within the
Christian colony to appeal more broadly. The church’s social ethic—which
Hauerwas has famously stated that the church is, rather than it has,45—
demonstrates that love, forgiveness, hospitality, and peace are possible in this
world. This is a story that is intelligible to others, even if it depends essentially
on God’s action.46
C. The Refusal of the Church to Compromise its Witness to Curry Favor with
The first task of Christians is not to make society work,47 or to make the
world more peaceable or just.48 “[O]ur greatest tragedies occurred because the
church was all too willing to serve the world.”49 In its modern, mainstream guise,
Hauerwas has used the label Constantinianism to refer to the view that
Christians should, on the basis of theological principles, enthusiastically support
democracy and use the apparatus of politics and the state to seek to make
society more just.50 Hauerwas makes a number of different arguments against
Constantinianism. One is that it causes the church to water down its message in
order to appeal to the wider society: the accommodation of the church to the
state “leads Christians to judge their ethical positions, not on the basis of what
is faithful to our particular tradition, but rather on the basis of how much
Christian ethics Caesar can be induced to swallow without choking.”51
Recurring examples in history of institutional churches cozying up to tyrants
shows that it is extremely difficult for the church to withstand the temptation
offered by power, acceptance, and social prestige.52 Another argument is that
44. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 87.
45. Id. at 99.
46. See id. at 92 (“The Sermon, like the rest of scripture, is addressed neither to isolated
individuals nor to the wider world. Rather, here are words for the colony, a prefiguration of the kinds
of community in which the reign of God will shine in all its glory. So there is nothing private in the
demands of the Sermon. It is very public, very political, very social in that it depicts the public form by
which the colony shall witness to the world that God really is busy redeeming humanity, reconciling the
world to himself in Christ.”).
47. HAUERWAS, Christianity: It’s Not a Religion: It’s an Adventure, supra note 22, at 527.
48. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 99; see also HAUERWAS, WITH
THE GRAIN OF THE UNIVERSE, supra note 26, at 208 n.4 (“The great failure of Christians in modernity
is our willingness to make peace with the world.”).
49. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 43.
50. HAUERWAS, A Christian Critique, supra note 19, at 462–63, 467–70.
51. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 72; see also HAUERWAS, HANNAH’S CHILD,
supra note 28, at 174 (noting the “Niebuhrian presumption that pacifists were OK as long as they
stayed out of the way of the people who had to run the world”); HAUERWAS, AFTER CHRISTENDOM?,
supra note 14, at 59 (criticizing John Langan for worrying about “the risk of being relegated to the
fringes of society and losing influence on the forming of social policy”).
52. The Lutheran church in Germany obviously has a lot to answer for in this regard. The
notorious Ansbach Ratschlag concludes, “[W]e as believing Christians thank the Lord God that in its
once Christianity became politically mainstream and became detached from an
eschatological narrative, it was possible, at least in principle, for all citizens to
abide by the church’s ethical principles and to evaluate actions in terms of their
outcomes. With that development ethics tended to become pragmatic in nature:
“Once the course of history is thought to be empirically discernable and the
prosperity of our regime the measure of the good, efficacy becomes a decisive
test for the moral rightness of our action.”53 Finally, in Hauerwas’s theology, sin
is living in rebellion against the nature of reality, which is to say living as though
we are the authors of our own stories instead of participants in the unfolding of
God’s narrative.54 While participating in government, we may tend to lose sight
of the fact that we are not directing the course of history but are along for the
ride, so to speak, with God making the outcome-determinative decisions.
In this last argument against Constantinianism, the theological concept of
sin is connected with the political theory of liberalism. Liberalism encourages us
to conceive of ourselves as empowered to self-creation, as masters of our fate
and captains of our souls.55 We are led to violence when we become so
preoccupied with our self-protection that we forget that we are not the center of
history.56 Rather, the Christian colony should order itself so that it serves as a
“witness to the world that God really is busy redeeming humanity.”57 But
everyone has to be clear on what the colony is doing: it is not the case that God
is governing the world through the apparatus of the state.58 “The church must
hour of need he has given our people the Führer as a ‘good and faithful sovereign,’ and that in the
National Socialist state He is endeavoring to provide us with disciplined and honorable ‘good
government.’” THIELICKE, supra note 19, at 366. This colossal historical failing can be seen as a
reductio ad absurdum of Constantinianism. It is likely that no amount of labor by theologians like
Helmut Thielicke to recover an authentic tradition that was perverted by the institutional church in
Germany will convince critics like Hauerwas that it is possible for a church to be mainstream and also
to resist the unjust use of power.
53. HAUERWAS, A Christian Critique, supra note 19, at 476.
54. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 31; see also JOHN HOWARD
YODER, THE POLITICS OF JESUS 142 (1972) (identifying the fallenness of “the Powers” as the refusal to
“accept the modesty that would have permitted them to remain conformed to the creative purpose”
and instead “claim[ing] for themselves an absolute value”).
55. Hauerwas criticizes the movie Dead Poets’ Society for the message that students should learn
to think for themselves. “A central pedagogical task,” instead, he argues, “is to tell students that they
do not yet have minds worth making up.” HAUERWAS, AFTER CHRISTENDOM?, supra note 14, at 98.
56. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 89.
57. Id. at 92; see also CHURCH, supra note 11, at 110 (“Yoder argues that the church lives out this
witness by living now in the manner of that coming eschatological kingdom itself.”). Hauerwas reports
that he has grown weary of denying that he is calling for Christians to separate themselves from the
world. See STANLEY HAUERWAS, CHRISTIAN EXISTENCE TODAY 1 (Brazos Press 2001) (1988);
HAUERWAS, HANNAH’S CHILD, supra note 28, at 208–09. Hauerwas says in many places that he is not
demanding withdrawal from the world. See, e.g., HAUERWAS, PERFORMING THE FAITH, supra note 43,
at 26 (“[T]he church’s practice of nonviolence does not require the church to withdraw from the world
but rather provides the conditions necessary for the church’s service to the world.”); HAUERWAS,
WITH THE GRAIN OF THE UNIVERSE, supra note 26, at 220; HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22,
at 41–42, 87; HAUERWAS, A Christian Critique, supra note 19, at 477. In this he follows Yoder. See
YODER, supra note 54, at 148.
58. HAUERWAS, PERFORMING THE FAITH, supra note 43, at 169, 173.
No. 4 2012]
LAWYERING IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY
learn time and time again that its task is not to make the world the kingdom, but
to be faithful to the kingdom by showing to the world what it means to be a
community of peace.”59 If the church cannot work through the medium of the
state, it would appear to follow that being a Christian lawyer is an extremely
fraught undertaking, because lawyers are involved in the implementation of the
Hauerwas will not let liberals get away with platitudes about the social
contract and government by the people, of the people, and for people, without
acknowledging the coercion that is necessarily implicated in governing. He
I continue to share John Howard Yoder’s concern that governments that claim to rule
in the name of “the people” are adept at hiding not only from “the people” but
themselves the violence inherent in the order they have learned to call “peace.”61
When Christian liberals claim to be working toward the common good of
society, or a more just social order, they fail to perceive that their employment
of the mechanisms of state authority is inherently violent. This point was made
powerfully by the legal scholar Robert Cover, who argued that all acts of legal
interpretation are the imposition of violence upon another.62 Legal
interpretation, for Cover, is differentiated from literary or philosophical
interpretation by the necessary involvement of pain and death.63 This way of
talking sounds overblown, but Cover’s point is that a legal interpretation
necessarily results in something that either will be, or may be done. The
practicality of the law means that something will occur in the world that is
inconsistent with someone else’s conception of what should be done. Most of
the time, however, the inherent violence of the law is masked by implicit
structures of domination, which cause those who are affected to simply
acquiesce.64 Christian lawyers, then, may inadvertently become parties to the
violence inherent in the law.
THE SWORD AND THE LEGISLATURE: DIVERGENT VISIONS OF LIBERALISM
AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THEOLOGICAL ETHICS
A. A Story
This is a symposium on Hauerwas and the law, so one must contribute to it
with a commitment to keeping as much as possible of Hauerwas’s distinctive
59. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18, at 103.
60. See Milner S. Ball, A Meditation on Vocation, in RADICAL CHRISTIAN AND EXEMPLARY
LAWYER 130 (Andrew W. McThenia, Jr. ed., 1995) (“[A] person cannot be a lawyer without being
involved in [the law’s] fallenness.”).
61. HAUERWAS, PERFORMING THE FAITH, supra note 43, 19.
62. See Robert M. Cover, Violence and the Word, 95 YALE L.J. 1601 (1986).
63. Id. at 1606–07, 1609–10.
64. Id. at 1616–17
theological methodology and substantive commitments. Although I will argue
for a modest Constantinian conception of legal ethics, I hope to do so in the
way Hauerwas argues all theological ethics must: by telling a story about the
relationship between people—in this case, lawyers—and their communities.
The story illustrates the claim the legal system makes upon the respect of
citizens, even Christian citizens who owe their primary allegiance to God. The
ethical obligations of lawyers can be understood in terms of the obligations
citizens have to respect the law which, in turn, are given by the value of
equality, and the accompanying duty to treat one another with respect. My
hope is that the story fleshes out an ethical case for liberalism that I have made
elsewhere in more abstract terms.65
The story is set in my adopted home of upstate New York, a region that has
experienced a seemingly inexorable economic decline in recent decades.
Upstate cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany grew in the
mid-Nineteenth Century as the opening of the Erie Canal dramatically lessened
freight rates between the east coast and the western United States.
Manufacturing and industry developed rapidly in areas with access to navigable
waterways. With the decline of heavy industry beginning in the 1970s, however,
these cities steadily lost jobs and population. Other important employers in the
region, such as Eastman Kodak (in Rochester) and IBM (in Elmira), found
themselves unable to adapt to a rapidly changing technological landscape and
eliminated thousands of jobs. Given this bleak picture, the discovery of vast
natural gas deposits in a formation known as the Marcellus Shale was big news
in the region. Much of this formation lies in central and western Pennsylvania
and central New York. Estimates of the size of the gas deposits in the formation
vary, but it appears that there might be enough gas in the Marcellus formation
to satisfy between two and fourteen years of total natural gas consumption
needs in the United States. Marcellus gas is particularly attractive in light of low
transportation costs to the East Coast. If development of this resource were
permitted in New York, exploration, drilling, and extraction of gas would
directly create thousands of jobs, and the indirect effects on equipment
suppliers, construction companies, hotels, restaurants, bars, and so on, would be
Extracting gas at a cost that makes the wells commercially viable requires a
technique called hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as “hydrofracking” or
“fracking”), in which water is injected horizontally, at high pressures, into the
shale formation to fracture the rock. The potential environmental harms
associated with fracking are significant. The process requires enormous
quantities of water, which become contaminated with chemicals used in the
drilling process and with naturally occurring underground radiation. Toxic
chemicals may seep into groundwater used for drinking and agricultural uses.66
65. See WENDEL, supra note 4.
66. Agriculture, including dairy farming and an emerging wine industry in the Finger Lakes
region, is an important part of the local economy.
No. 4 2012]
LAWYERING IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY 15
Fracking operations already underway in Pennsylvania have led to methane
pollution of water supplies in the town of Dimrock, memorably demonstrated
in the film Gasland by homeowners setting their tap water on fire.67 In addition,
trucks and heavy equipment used in the drilling process cause damage to
existing infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. There has been extensive
reporting and public discussion about whether to allow hydrofracking in New
York. Public opinion appears to be about evenly split,68 and the debate
continues about the best way to balance the need for economic development in
a region that could sorely use jobs with the importance of protecting the
environment and the health of citizens. The state’s Department of
Environmental Conservation considered the available scientific evidence and
released an environmental impact statement and proposed regulations
governing drilling.69 No matter what action the state governor takes, lawsuits
may be filed by citizens who disagree with his conclusion. In other words, in
New York we are living through a typically noisy, contentious example of the
democratic process in action.
B. The Circumstances of Politics
With respect to the question of whether to allow hydrofracking, people in
upstate New York are in what Jeremy Waldron has called the circumstances of
politics.70 The circumstances of politics arise when people live alongside one
another in a community, perceive the need to act together to deal with some
problem, and also perceive that, despite disagreeing about what the solution
ought to be, it may be possible to employ procedures that enable competing
viewpoints to be heard, and that the participants in the debate are to be treated
with as much equality and respect as is compatible with the need to eventually
reach a moderately stable resolution of the controversy. Imagine numerous
interested citizens: an owner of a sizeable parcel of unproductive farmland who
could earn significant royalties from leasing mineral rights to a gas company, a
high-school-educated resident of a small town who might formerly have been
employed in a manufacturing job but now faces a best-case employment
scenario of working at Wal-Mart, an organic farmer whose produce fetches
premium prices because she is able to guarantee that it is free of chemical
contamination, the owner of a construction business who has been struggling to
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 75:1
make ends meet as residents leave the upstate region, the operator of a bed and
breakfast whose guests are attracted to the scenic beauty of the Finger Lakes,
and anyone who owns shares in an energy company with a significant “play” in
the Marcellus Shale.
How should these citizens deal with one another? Each of the characters in
our story should see that he or she is a member of a political community, not an
isolated Robinson Crusoe. This means that any justification given for an action
is necessarily in the first-person plural. For example, the landowner might
prefer that government authorities authorize fracking quickly and with few
restrictions, so that he can start making money off his gas leases. But when he
appeals to the idea that the government ought to authorize fracking, this implies
that it would be the right thing to do from the standpoint of the community as a
whole. Although the term “community” gets thrown around a great deal in
political philosophy, if used properly it refers to something more than just an
aggregation of persons. It signifies something about the relationship among
people: a commitment to treat one another as fellow citizens, as rights-bearers,
as people entitled to be treated with respect and not simply dominated or
coerced.71 The idea of a community contains an irreducible aspect of “us-ness”
that requires everyone to think and act in terms of everyone else’s interests. A
community is not just “an expedient for individuals,”72 but a nexus of
relationships. This does not mean people must act out of radical altruism.
Rather, it means that seeing oneself as a citizen requires finding a way to
recognize, consider, sum up, and resolve the competing views of everyone in the
community about what ought to be done, as opposed to merely trying to get
one’s way by any available means. Accordingly, citizens acknowledge one
another as entitled to respectful treatment, not domination, coercion, or
The public institutions in our society, including the media, legislatures,
administrative agencies, and courts, provide a means by which citizens can
propose solutions to a problem that can stand in the name of the community as
a whole. Citizens can debate, protest, write letters to the editor, organize, tweet,
make films (like Gasland), lobby, vote, and file lawsuits. Indeed, all of these
media are being used in upstate New York as members of its political
community attempt to discern the best way—considered from a collective
viewpoint—to proceed in light of the potential benefits of a natural resource
and the environmental and health risks it poses. The fracking example shows
that the law is implicated in virtually everything we do in a complex society.
There would be no way to develop a natural resource without a scheme of
property rights: a construction project requires enforceable contracts and
regulations governing labor practices; interferences by neighbors with one
71. See, e.g., RONALD DWORKIN, LAW’S EMPIRE 201 (1986) (distinguishing between a “bare”
community and a “true” community); JOHN RAWLS, POLITICAL LIBERALISM xxxix–xl (paperback ed.
1996) (1993) (arguing that a political community is not a mere modus vivendi).
72. WALDRON, supra note 70, at 4.
No. 4 2012]
LAWYERING IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY
another’s peace and quiet are governed by common law nuisance doctrines;
environmental regulations govern the disposal of wastewater; selling gas
requires a system of futures contracts and rules governing the operation of
commodities exchanges; a system of taxation is required to maintain roads and
bridges. For any other activity, a similar list could be generated of the ways in
which the activity is pervasively law-governed.
What I want to suggest, borrowing from a wonderful book title by Stanley
Fish,73 is that our society is comprehensively law-governed “and it’s a good
thing, too.” It’s a good thing because the law provides a means to balance and
resolve competing considerations, such as the need for economic development
and the protection of the environment, in a way that allows citizens to treat one
another with respect. Mechanisms like lobbying, organizing, and even litigation
allow the voices of individuals to be heard. Indeed, the state must take the
voices of citizens into account, which is why administrative agencies must
publicize proposed regulations and consider public comment before they are
effective. Notice the significance of the metaphor of hearing the voices of
citizens. It suggests that the government must respond to reasons, and must
articulate reasons to explain and justify its actions. In doing so, it expresses
respect for citizens as moral agents, not merely as subjects.74 Hauerwas worries
about a thin conception of politics in which self-interested individuals use public
institutions as instruments in a struggle to maximize their own advantage but
end up with nothing of authentic value. A different conception of liberalism and
democracy, however, might emphasize the way in which public debate,
lobbying, voting, notice-and-comment rulemaking, and so on tends to reinforce
a vision of citizens as bearers of rights. “[T]he right-bearer is one who is
selfaware and vigorously conscious of both the extent of and the limits on what he
is entitled to demand from others.”75 In other words, we are all one another’s
equals, and the law gives us a means to express respect for this equality in the
way we act together in communities.
Traditional theological analyses of the role of the state talk about
government officials ruling with the sword,76 emphasizing the coercive and even
violent aspects of the law. The law is much more than the sword, however. The
little story about fracking suggests that the law can be a way that people use to
talk to each other. The idea of a right—to drill, to have roads repaired, to enjoy
clean air and water, to receive a fair wage for work, et cetera—is one that
depends on the idea of the rule of law. The rule of law is a concept with a great
deal of baggage, but all that is meant here is that there is a difference between
raw power and rightful power.77 The rule of law enables the (relatively)
73. STANLEY FISH, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS FREE SPEECH: AND IT’S A GOOD THING, TOO
74. WALDRON, supra note 70, at 221–23.
75. Id. at 223.
76. See, e.g., DAVID C. STEINMETZ, LUTHER IN CONTEXT 122 (2d ed. 2002).
77. Cf. E.P. THOMPSON, WHIGS AND HUNTERS 258–69 (1975).
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS
powerless to say to the (relatively) powerful, “Hey, you can’t do that to me!” Of
course, it may also enable someone to respond, “Oh yes I can—here is the right
by which I exercise my power.” But the important aspect of the rule of law is
that it creates at least the possibility of a justification that is independent of
interests and power, and rests instead on a process of enactment that treats
citizens with the respect due a community of equals. Hauerwas worries that the
language of rights is alienating, and that it is premised on a thin conception of
individual autonomy as the foundation of ethics. There is a different way of
looking at rights, however, which emphasizes equality and mutual respect as the
foundation of the rule of law. The story of a political community facing
intractable disagreement is intended to illustrate how the law can serve as a
framework for peaceful coexistence in a world in which other, thicker traditions
have broken down.78
C. Christian Attitudes Toward Public Institutions
Yoder argues that it is essential to see public institutions as fallen, but not
limitlessly evil.79 The fallenness of any human creation is related to Hauerwas’s
definition of sin considered previously—that is, the confusion of who is morally
sovereign in the world. Christians must be faithful, and that means
understanding that they play a role in God’s story, and that autonomous
selfcreation is an insufficient foundation for a virtuous life. Thus, one must be
extremely careful not to regard public institutions as idols that demand
unconditional loyalty, and not to acquiesce in the self-glorification of the state.80
However, one also must be careful not to regard the government and other
public institutions as something with which God is not concerned. As Yoder
[T]he theology of the orders of creation has generally affirmed that Jesus Christ has
little directly to do with them, but that rather these several orders (the state, family,
economy, etc.) have an autonomous value unrelated to redemption and the church, by
virtue of their being the product of a divine act of creation.81
Here Yoder cites H. Richard Niebuhr, but the allusion to the traditional
theology of the orders of creation suggests that the target of his criticism is
78. Sarah Cravens has suggested to me that a theologian in the Barthian tradition might object
that I have posited a human problem and solved it in human terms, only dressed up with lots of
language about God. That is different from addressing a problem that arises when a problem is
considered from the point of view of what we know about our relationship with God. I have not found
a place where Hauerwas says something like this explicitly, but it seems to be a fair reading of his
position that political problems must be considered, first and foremost, from the point of view of God’s
moral sovereignty in the world. As a complete amateur theologian I cannot give an adequate response
to this objection, which seems quite powerful to me. An adequate response would have to begin with
considerations of the right way we as fallen humans are capable of apprehending God’s will regarding
the way we live in communities with other fallen humans.
79. YODER, supra note 54, at 141–42.
80. Id. at 143, 145.
81. Id. at 144.
No. 4 2012]
LAWYERING IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY
traditional Lutheran doctrine.82 But the key Lutheran point is slightly different
from what Yoder is saying here. The central teaching is not that the family,
state, and economy have autonomous value, but that nothing in the fallen world
can be salvific. No system of laws can be essential for salvation, because
justification is solely by faith. No one can be saved by obedience to the law. In
contrast with the church, which is ruled exclusively by God through the gospel,
the world is governed by the state through the law. The state is still part of
God’s government, but in the world, unlike the church, “the state rules through
law, reason, human wisdom, and coercion.”83 The state is “an independent
sphere of God’s governance,” but it is still a sphere of God’s governance.84
Yoder is correct that the value of state institutions is unrelated to redemption,
but not that it is autonomous in the sense that Hauerwas objects to. The state
always remains accountable to God, not autonomous as a source of self-created
Indeed, Lutheran teaching is no less resistant than Hauerwas to the idea
that humans are genuinely autonomous and morally sovereign, because of its
emphasis on human nature as simultaneously redeemed and sinful.86 This
doctrine is sometimes understood as positing a public–private dichotomy,87 but
it is really a thoroughgoing ontological claim about the paradoxical nature of
humans who are freed by grace but remain in bondage to sin.88 What follows
from this for political ethics is an attitude of humility, recognizing that
“precisely when Christians mount their most valiant public efforts for God, they
run the greatest risk of substituting their righteousness for the righteousness of
Christ, and thereby subverting justification by faith.”89 Working within fallen
human institutions is not only intrinsically corrupting, because everything
created—everything human—is intrinsically sinful, but also intrinsically freed
by God’s grace. Human laws can never fully instantiate God’s law, and human
82. See, e.g., WITTE, supra note 15, at 87–117; STEINMETZ, supra note 76, at 112–25; James M.
Childs, Jr., Ethics and the Promise of God, in THE PROMISE OF LUTHERAN ETHICS 97 (Karen L.
Bloomquist & John R. Stumme eds., 1998). As discussed in this section, all of these authors argue for a
position that is more subtle than the view criticized by Yoder.
83. STEINMETZ, supra note 76, at 122; see also THIELICKE, supra note 19, at 371 (“Luther speaks
of two ‘governments’ rather than two ‘kingdoms’ in order to show that we are not dealing with two
spheres but with two modes of the divine rule.”).
84. WILLIAM H. LAZARETH, CHRISTIANS IN SOCIETY: LUTHER, THE BIBLE, AND SOCIAL
ETHICS 14 (2001) (“Luther’s final intention was to demonstrate God’s twofold rule of the whole world
by law and gospel and not to separate it into two divorced realms of the sacred and the secular.”);
WITTE, supra note 15, at 93 (“All three of these orders, governments, or estates, Luther insisted,
represented different dimensions of God’s authority and law in the earthly kingdom. . . . All three not
only exercised the justice and wrath of God against sin, but also anticipated the more perfect life and
law of the heavenly kingdom.”).
85. LAZARETH, supra note 84, at 71.
86. WITTE, supra note 15, at 94–95.
87. See CHURCH, supra note 11, at 85; THIELICKE, supra note 19, at 362–65 (recounting history of
88. WITTE, supra note 15, at 96.
89. Noll, supra note 16, at 38.
LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS
law is helpless to transform sinners into people who are righteous. As subjects
of God’s law, Christians are in an ongoing state of becoming or transformation,
with the telos of this law being God’s command of love: “Love is the fulfilling of
the law.”90 Because anything human is never fully transformed and always bears
the imprint of sin and rebellion against God’s will,91 any citizen or public official
should be reluctant to trust in the goodness of any human artifact, including
laws and the legal system.
The fact that the legal system is suffused with liberal concepts like rights and
autonomy should not be a reason for Christian lawyers to shun most ordinary
lawyering tasks. Rather, a liberal conception of legality may be a recognition
that we govern ourselves in the first-person plural, articulating reasons for
action that purport to be general and stand in the name of society as a whole.
The law offers a means of democratic self-government that is, at least in
reasonably just societies, responsive to the need to settle contested issues in a
way that is respectful of the entitlement of all citizens to be treated with respect,
as equals. That strikes me as a significant achievement, and one in which a
Christian lawyer, attentive to the imperfections of all human creations, can
Many of the participants in this conference pressed Hauerwas to say
something good about the law, the legal system, and lawyers. Surprisingly, he
was quite willing to do so. Even such a thoroughgoing critic of liberalism as
Hauerwas recognizes that there is some value in maintaining a practice of
constraining the exercise of power by permitting the powerless to assert rights
based in the positive law of a political community. If there is some good in the
law, then there is nothing inherently problematic about the idea of a Christian
lawyer, provided that the lawyer does not confuse the law with the ultimate
source of moral authority. Importantly, however, a lawyer should also not
confuse her own beliefs about what justice requires with what justice in fact
requires. Christian lawyers should recognize that they are simultaneously
redeemed and sinful. Human institutions such as the legal system possess a
similar dual nature. Lawyers should therefore be reluctant to assume that the
law overlaps with justice, as measured by the standard Hauerwas insists upon,
namely God’s justice. Hauerwas might suggest that a Christian lawyer must
understand herself as playing a role in God’s story—not being the author of her
own story, with its own set of values grounded in the autonomy to write one’s
own narrative from the ground up, free from the constraint of tradition and
90. LAZARETH, supra note 82, at 75–78.
91. THIELICKE, supra note 19, at 366 (emphasizing that there is always at work in history “another
factor which is not the providential will of God, namely, man with his sin and rebellion against god’s
will, and that this sin and rebellion are expressed structurally in the historical nexus and institutionally
in specific perversions of family, nation, etc.”).
22. See , e.g., STANLEY HAUERWAS & WILLIAM H. WILLIMON , RESIDENT ALIENS : LIFE IN THE CHRISTIAN COLONY 61 ( 1989 ) (“To launch out on a journey is to move toward some goal . . . . Perhaps this explains why Jesus' ethic was so thoroughly eschatological-an ethic bound up with his proclamation of the end of history. Ethics is a function of the telos, the end .”); STANLEY HAUERWAS, Christianity: It's Not a Religion: It's an Adventure, in THE HAUERWAS READER , supra note 19, at 522 , 523 [ hereinafter HAUERWAS , Christianity: It's Not a Religion; It's an Adventure] .
23. STANLEY HAUERWAS , A COMMUNITY OF CHARACTER: TOWARD A CONSTRUCTIVE CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ETHIC 9 , 13 ( 1981 ) [hereinafter HAUERWAS, A COMMUNITY OF CHARACTER] .
24. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 79 ( “[A]ll ethics, even non-Christian ethics, make sense only when embodied in sets of social practices that constitute a community .”).
25. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18 , at 61-62; HAUERWAS, AFTER CHRISTENDOM ?, supra note 14 , at 93-101; cf. AVISHAI MARGALIT , THE ETHICS OF MEMORY ( 2002 ) (considering the role of memory and communities in ethics and politics ).
26. HAUERWAS, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, supra note 18 , at 22-26; see also STANLEY HAUERWAS, WITH THE GRAIN OF THE UNIVERSE: THE CHURCH'S WITNESS AND NATURAL THEOLOGY 206 ( 2001 ) [hereinafter HAUERWAS, WITH THE GRAIN OF THE UNIVERSE] (“Modern philosophers and theologians generally do not think stories can do the work of argument. Yet I agree with John Milbank that 'narrating,' exactly because narration is the 'science' of the particular, is a more basic category than either explanation or understanding .”).
27. See ALASDAIR MACINTYRE , AFTER VIRTUE (2d ed. 1984 ).
28. Hauerwas frequently cites his childhood experience learning the craft of bricklaying as an analogy with how excellence in general is transmitted and learned, and how crafts and traditions are preserved . See, e.g., STANLEY HAUERWAS , HANNAH'S CHILD: A THEOLOGIAN'S MEMOIR 36- 37 ( 2010 ) [hereinafter HAUERWAS , HANNAH'S CHILD]; HAUERWAS , AFTER CHRISTENDOM ?, supra note 14 , at 101-07.
29. See HAUERWAS , A COMMUNITY OF CHARACTER, supra note 23 , at 72 , 78 .
30. Id . at 84; HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 79 (“ The goal of this [modern, liberal, Enlightenment] ethic is to detach the individual from his or her tradition, parents, stories, community, and history, and thereby allow him or her to stand alone, to decide , to choose, and to act alone.”).
31. HAUERWAS, Christianity: It's Not a Religion: It's an Adventure , supra note 22 , at 524. In secular legal ethics, David Luban identified as a fundamental weakness in the liberal justification of the standard conception the assumption that autonomy was itself a value, as opposed to being merely a pass-through for the underlying values that explained the choices autonomously made by individuals . See David Luban , The Lysistratian Prerogative: A Reply to Stephen Pepper, 1986 AM. BAR FOUND. RES. J . 637 ( 1986 ).
32. See CHURCH , supra note 11 (expressing the concern that if legal ethics is supposed to be universal and applicable to all lawyers, “regardless of the particularity of the traditions, practices, and places that shape them,” then the profession winds up with “shared moral content [that is] razor thin”).
33. HAUERWAS & WILLIMON, supra note 22, at 63.
67. GASLAND (HBO Documentary Films 2010 ).
68. See Celeste Katz, Hydrofracking Poll: New York Splits, N.Y. DAILY NEWS , May 18 , 2011 , http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2011/05/hydrofracking-poll -new-york-splits (reporting that 41% of New York State residents oppose hydrofracking while 38% support it, with 21% unsure. In the upstate region, 47% are against hydrofracking while 37% support it ).
69. NEW YORK STATE DEP' T OF ENVTL. CONSERVATION, FINAL GENERIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (GEIS) ON THE OIL, GAS AND SOLUTION MINING REGULATORY PROGRAM ( 1992 ) ; NEW YORK STATE DEP'T OF ENVTL. CONSERVATION, REVISED DRAFT SUPPLEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT ON THE OIL, GAS AND SOLUTION MINING REGULATORY PROGRAM 9-2 ( 2011 ).
70. See JEREMY WALDRON , LAW AND DISAGREEMENT passim ( 1999 ).