Bringing The World Home To You

© 2023 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Character Of Virtue

a photo of theologian Stanley Hauerwas
courtesy of Duke Divinity School

The responsibilities of a godparent can range from showering a child with gifts to stepping in as a surrogate in a moment of crisis.

When theologian Stanley Hauerwas became a godparent, he and his godson were separated by distance, so he decided to share his words of wisdom in the form of letters that infuse scripture with personal lessons. Hauerwas combines those with his own personal and religious journey in his latest book  “The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co./2018). Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke University. He joins host Frank Stasio to discuss character, virtue and the friendship behind this book.

On the birth of the book:

Sam (Wells)  wrote his dissertation on me ... We became close friends. They asked me to be the godfather of their first child Lawrence. I said: I’d be happy to do that. I’d be honored as a matter of fact, but I’m just a terrible godfather. I don’t know what to do. Sam said: Well I’ll give you an assignment. Every year at the anniversary of his baptism you’re to write him commending a virtue.

On the truth about virtues:

The virtues are known primarily retrospectively.  We may think we’re being kind, but we may be in the process of satisfying our own egoism in terms of the kind of way we’re being kind.

cover of the book

On the virtue of war:

I’m trained in theology and ethics. When I first came into the academic world the ethics that was thought to be at the center was called situation ethics. And it was sponsored by a man named Joe Fletcher … The questions were always: what would you do in terms of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And he justified that with utilitarian calculus. You do what’s the greatest good for the greatest number. And somehow I thought that was a mistake. The first question is not what to do, but who are you. And where did that come from.

On the virtue of kindness:

The first virtue that I discuss is kindness. To be kind in a violent world will mean your life will be in danger. But you can’t want to live any other way once you discover how wonderful it is to be kind. You don’t become kind by trying to be kind. You become kind by learning to pet your dog.

On understanding the story behind a virtue:

You don’t separate the virtues from the narratives that shape us, so stories are absolutely crucial to know what courage is. For example, if you take courage, it’s often times associated with the training of people in military circumstances that know no fear. That's not courage.  Courage is to have the right fear rightly.


Stay Connected
Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Related Content