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Hannah’s Child and Mental Illness

February 17, 2011
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Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics and “America’s Best Theologian” (according to Time, although Hauewas commented that “best” is not a theological category), spoke yesterday for the first of three lectures at Fuller’s Integration Symposium (connecting the dots between theology and psychology).

Hauerwas recently published Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir, and yesterday’s lecture consisted of readings from the memoir along with occasional commentary.  Offering a slight apology for this, Hauerwas suggested that perhaps hearing the words read by the author might offer a story other than that which one might find reading the book on one’s own.

While reports of his reputation as a brash and fiery scholar may or may not have been exaggerated (I’m guessing not), hearing Hauerwas speak on the deeply personal and intimate subject of his family’s struggle with mental illness gave me a new appreciation for his life and work.  His story is painful and profound yet he insists that his life is not exceptional in any way.  He acknowledges that this situation would, for many, cause unresolvable anger, yet his primary expressed emotion was sadness at the irreconcilable situations brought about by mental illness.  He reflected on the capacity of humans to overcome and persevere - to survive.

All in all, profound and provocative – definitely worth a listen when a podcast of the lectures are posted (hopefully somewhere nearby this site).

Since large portions of the lecture were readings from Hannah’s Child, I will refrain from posting any large quotes, but here are a few sound byes (thanks to Matt for a visual/artistic record of the talk that provided some recall):

Exactly what marriage promises is a fidelity in which two people can change together in such a way that they can look back over their life and call it love.

God, how desperate are we to make the world alright.

I’m a Barthian.  I don’t trust my experiences.

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