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Pieces of Eight


Jarvis Lecture to Focus on American Fear of Death

Duke ethicist Stanley Hauerwas will examine America’s love of longevity and fear of death Oct. 13. His talk, “Why No One Wants to Die in America” is part of the annual Jarvis Lecture on Christianity and Culture series at East Carolina University. The free, public lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m., at the Harvey Banquet Hall at Minges Coliseum.

Calvin Mercer, ECU professor of philosophy and lecture organizer, said Hauerwas will compare American versus Christian views on death and dying and talk about why Americans tend to put too many expectations on physicians and the medical profession.


“Hauerwas argues that Americans are deathly afraid of death and as a result lead deadly lives,” Mercer said. “As a result, those expectations threaten to overwhelm the care physicians can provide for bodies destined to die.”

The comparison between Christian and American views about death, Hauerwas said, is both relevant and important to consider.

“Traditionally, Christians have not thought death the worst thing that can happen to them or those they love,” Hauerwas said. “As a result, the way Christians approach death is very different than the American way of death. No where is this more determinatively seen than in Christian refusal to do everything we can do to keep ourselves alive.”

Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at the Divinity School of Duke University. His work draws on a great range of literatures—from classical, philosophical, and theological texts to contemporary political theory. He also writes about medical ethics, issues of war and peace, and the care of the mentally handicapped.

The Jarvis Lecture is sponsored by the Religious Studies Program, the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at ECU and the Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church.

This page originally appeared in the Sept. 2, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at