Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Expanded Edition)

Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier
InterVarsity Press
Published Year: 
Cover image of a a feature for “Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness” book

Editor’s note: In February 2020, L'Arche International announced the findings of an investigation into the role of founder Jean Vanier and the Rev. Thomas Philippe, who Vanier considered his “spiritual father.” Vanier died in 2019 and Philippe in 1993.

In a statement, the organization said, “The inquiry received credible and consistent testimonies from six adult women without disabilities, covering the period from 1970 to 2005. The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment…. The relationships were found to be manipulative and emotionally abusive, and had a significant negative impact on their personal lives and subsequent relationships.

“The inquiry made no suggestion that Jean Vanier had inappropriate relationships with people with intellectual disabilities.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Ph.D., the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke University, and Jean Vanier, Ph.D., founder of the worldwide L'Arche communities, have expanded their 2008 book on how fragility, friendship, and the witness of people with disabilities might transform the Christian church.

The expanded version of “Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness” was published in July 2018 by InterVarsity Press. Part of a series of books that pairs academics and practitioners to examine issues of Christian life and thought, this expanded edition now includes a study guide for individual reflection or group discussion.

The book's chapters alternate between the mostly theoretical voice of Hauerwas, a world-renown theologian, and the personal stories of Vanier. For many years, Hauerwas has reflected on the lives of people with disability, the political significance of community, and how the experience of disability addresses the weaknesses and failures of liberal society. While Vanier’s L'Arche communities in the United States provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers; create inclusive communities of faith and friendship; and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries.

Together, Vanier and Hauerwas explore the contours of a countercultural community that embodies a different way of being and witnesses to a new order—one marked by radical forms of gentleness, peacemaking, and faithfulness.