War is America’s Altar: Violence in the American Imagination

in Peace, Culture, and Violence
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‘Alasdair MacIntyre has shown the fundamental incoherence that the justificatory theory used by liberal theorists to advocate for democratic institutions entails, arguing that their insistence on the limited and neutral nature of the state makes them blind to the sacrificial elements and the radical demand of allegiance that actually sustain the liberal project. In fact, the monopoly of violence, the demand of absolute loyalty, and the rhetoric of sacrifice occupy an important place in the social, political, and theoretical imaginary created by liberal democracy, especially in the United States. Even if its role remains mostly unnoticed by the theorists of political liberalism, war is a decisive issue to understand the nature, problems, and characteristic of liberalism, which is why theologian Hauerwas has delved on it and made it one of the signature contributions of his scholarship. War is a constitutive element of our current social arrangement, and confronting its reality is one of the most urgent tasks for both political theorist and Christian theologians. The latter, in particular, have the responsibility of helping the church realize the real goals and presuppositions of the nation-states to which it usually grants allegiance, so as to help it recover the critical distance that it has almost completely lost. The chapter analyzes, first, the foundational role that war plays in the contemporary American imaginary. Second, it gives an account of the main cultural and political consequences that follow. Third, it reflects on Hauerwas’ pacifism and its significance for the life of the church and of the broader society.

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