First, it is important to note that Prof. Hauerwas is doing sexual ethics outside of the mainstream Christian theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas. Therefore, his position and discussion must be understood as a reaction against the Western moral tradition. Having in mind these clarifications could help us to avoid misunderstanding him. Hauerwas is very critical of the Christian large tradition on this topic. He believes the tradition has failed when discussing human sexuality/sexual ethics in a very broad sense by clinging exclusively to natural law. This is something that the church must correct if she wants to avoid confusion and ambiguities, while remaining relevant to current society.
One of the starting points in Hauerwas’s thought on human sexuality is that there is indeed a differentiation between male and female, or the sexes. Such a differentiation is a product of the creational order: God created humanity in both male and female. The goodness of sexuality then makes Hauerwas to depart from the Christian large tradition that has understood human sexuality in negative terms, influenced mainly by Augustine. Hauerwas asserts that human sexuality is a fundamental aspect of the human beings and this should not be something that causes us concern. In addition, human beings were not only created sexual beings; their sexuality is also an important aspect of what means to be human.
Besides establishing the goodness of sexuality, Hauerwas also thinks the creation of human beings as male and female is connected with a particular end or general purpose, even that primary end has been interpreted in different ways within Christianity. In Hauerwas’s thought, the fact there exists differentiation among the sexes is that this fact must be connected to the process of procreation, although it is not always possible to reach this goal in every union. He explains this exception in the sense that although every particular marriage might not procreate children, the idea of marriage as an institution does have such a purpose. Interesting to highlight here is how Hauerwas agrees with the tradition that has seen a primary goal in the creation of both the male and female as sexual beings. Despite his lack of comments on roles of each sex, Hauerwas seems to assume, at least, the existence of these.
In his comment on Matthew 19, Hauerwas explicitly affirms that not only the fact that humanity was created male and female is a gift, but also the differentiated attraction between male and female, their purposeful union on marriage, and their ability to procreate. In other words, all of these aspects mentioned earlier are also gifts given by God. This has a very significant moral and social implication: this sexual differentiation between the male and female should not be a cause to discriminate against the female. We can deduce more implications from the Scriptures. In this respect, Hauerwas makes a bold suggestion: Out of Christianity people cannot really know what it means to be a male or female. According to this belief, Hauerwas thinks divine revelation constitutes the source to learn more about the sexes. In this regard, Hauerwas does not forget to note that the Scriptures offer several metaphors (e.g. Jesus/the church) that help us understand better the relation between the sexes. Hauerwas’s emphasis on revelation as the source of Christian sexual ethics allows him to find support for a reformulation of such ethics, including the reformulation of Christian marriage as a divine calling and not as a necessity. It caught me the attention that Hauerwas believes this reformulation is a must-have aspect in order that Christians can fulfill their vocation (i.e. living a life of faithfulness) as believers.
One might observe that by emphasizing his proposal regarding Christian sexual ethics, Hauerwas focuses on the church as one of the fundamental communities/groups within our society, but not the only one. His sexual ethic suggestions are only applied to Christians. Under this framework, the definition of sexuality, the roles of the male and female, and their impact on society must all interpreted under the lens of Scriptures and church institutions. For Hauerwas this is a good way to go, considering the privatization of sexuality in our culture.
Regarding the significance of sexuality for theological anthropology, it must first be noticed that Hauerwas does not indicate that procreation is the only purpose of human sexuality, but a fundamental one. In his reasoning, the fact that procreation is the fundamental of one of the primary purposes of human sexuality does not prevent other social or moral purposes. Second, Hauerwas defends the position that sexuality encompasses the whole human person, and not only a part of him or her. Sexuality, therefore, would do more than merely defining physical characteristics. It would also affect a person’s attitudes, behaviors, and life goals. In simpler words, Hauerwas’s assertion that sexuality deals with the whole person also implicates that it deals not only with the individual in the private sphere but also with the contextual community and institutions where the person lives and deals with.
Amazing! I really like his ideas about the existence of several ethical communities and his welcoming attitude.