Whether you find him inspiring or exasperating (and I sometimes find him both!), the work of US theologian Stanley Hauerwas provides a challenging alternative vision of church as subversive, exemplary community - rather than the cement or glue of society, as in the top-down Christendom model.
Soothing 'Christmas messages' have become practically unavoidable, says Simon Barrow. But most of them are bland beyond belief. In truth the birth of Christ confronts us with something much more demanding - a choice between two ways of living in a world dominated by empire.
BBC Radio 4's stimulating 'Start the Week' programme, hosted by Andrew Marr, ran a special edition this morning (18 October 2010) discussing morality, religion and politics. It featured irascible and creative US theologian Stanley Hauerwas.
Often Christians behave as if their central convictions about God has little practical bearing on the world and its problems, says Simon Barrow. On the contrary, being engaged by the Trinitarian mystery of God is central to facing up to the world's lesions with realism and hope.
Our parliamentary politics is about mediating different interests in a society of strangers, says Simon Barrow. But bioethical decisions confront us with the need to move beyond accommodation and confrontation to moral community.