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Category: History

Political theological discourse did not begin with Carl Schmitt. Rather, it has a long, plural, and unwieldy genealogy that includes sub-altern voices of dissent, multiple religious traditions, and abiding contestation. The goal is not to create a canon, but rather to explore this contested history and the many divergent perspectives that contribute to it.

Resources

Bibliography:

  1. Gayatri C. Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (1999)
  2. Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (1993)
  3.  Cemil Aydin, The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History (2017)
  4. M. Herrero, J. Aurell, A. C. Miceli Stout (eds.), Political Theology in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Discourses, Rites, and Representations (2017)
  5. Sylvester Johnson, African American Religions, 1500-2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom (2015)
  6. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial and Historical Difference (2008)

Relevant Journal Articles:

  • Maxwell Kennel, “Müntzer, Taubes, and the Anabaptists: Emancipatory History and Political Theology,” Political Theology 20, no. 3 (2019): 191-206
  • Jakub Urbaniak and Blazio M. Manobo, “Canaan Banana, Churches and the Land Issue: Revisiting Theology of Zimbabwe’s Vilified Prophet,” Political Theology 21, no. 3 (2020): 225-246
  • Marcia Pally, “Why is Populism Persuasive? Populism as Expression of Religio-Cultural History with the U.S. and U.S. Evangelicals as a Case Study,” Political Theology 21, no. 5 (2020): 393-414
History and/as Political Theology

There’s a fable I often heard growing up, about a Mennonite man (or Amish or Brethren, depending on where the story is being told) who was asked whether he was a Christian. His response: “Ask my neighbors.” The story encapsulates a certain historicist impulse in the Anabaptist tradition: the commitments we claim matter less than the commitments we embody. I first learned to care about the history of my community for just that reason. We learn who we are by considering honestly how we have lived.

“The Kingdom of Christ is Spiritual”: John Calvin and the Redemption of the Cosmos

One of the great paradoxes of John Calvin’s political theology can be captured in terms of two of the phrases the reformer used over and over throughout his writings. On the one hand, he emphasized, “the kingdom of Christ is spiritual.” On the other hand, through the kingdom of Christ God is bringing about the “restoration of the world.”

Revolutionary Christianity: Friedrich Engels and the Aufhebung of Religion

Friedrich Engels is not often given due credit for his distinct contributions to the socialist tradition, let alone to biblical and theological debates. This neglect is as much the case in Western Marxism as it is in China, where I work for a good part of each year. In order to make a small contribution to rehabilitating Engels, I would like to explore what may be called his own Aufhebung of religion….

Bonhoeffer and the Politics of Friendship

. . . Here, I focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology of friendship. My underlying proposal is that Bonhoeffer’s particular approach to friendship which emphasizes concrete, personal encounter with “the other” in community is uniquely suitable for Christians in an increasingly pluralistic, politically polarized, and techno-social world. My hope is that Bonhoeffers theology and praxis can challenge us to think more deeply and comprehensively about what is required for Christian witness in the 21st century.

The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: Revolutionary Christianity Arrives in China

Is the Taiping Revolution (1850-1864) the moment when the revolutionary Christian tradition arrives in China? I suggest that it is precisely such a moment, for a number of reasons. These include a radical reinterpretation of the Bible, a thorough challenge to the underlying structures of existing power, a communistic way of life, and the development of a distinctly new religious form.

The Revolutionary Poverty of Arnold of Brescia

The Middle Ages were filled with strange, passionate, and fascinating figures, often hidden from our view by the long shadows of the likes of Anselm, Francis, Aquinas, or Ockham. The great theologians earned their influence, of course, but there are also things to learn from some of those to whom history has been less magnanimous. I want to introduce one such figure here: Arnold of Brescia.

The Fetish: Marx and the Aufhebung of Religion

For Marx, the Aufhebung of religion – that is, the end and transformation of religion – takes place with an unexpected idea. This is the fetish (and not opium as one might expect). In Marx’s hands, the core meaning of the fetish is a transferral of properties and power. Human beings transfer properties to an object, which then seems to gain life, power and the ability to affect those human beings.

The Challenge of Peace and the Presumption Against War

This is the fourth, and final, post in a series that was kick-started last September with a short discussion of how the growing field of just intelligence theory might be overly influenced by jus contra bellum thinking, or what Tobias Winright has coined “the presumption against harm version of just war theory.” This particular variant of just war theory is defined at its core by a presumption against war or a presumption against the use of force.

Marx on Genesis 3

In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes: ‘Englishmen, always well up in the Bible, knew well enough that man, unless by elective grace a capitalist, or landlord, or sinecurist, is commanded to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, but they did not know that he had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead black-beetles, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients’.

Foucault’s Care

Foucault’s emphasis on the ‘care of the self’ is usually hailed as a significant challenge to the understanding of ethics. With the tendency of ethics to focus on the ‘other’ and how one relates to that other, the turn to consider the construction of the subject seems to be radical. This was also Foucault’s answer to the perennial problems of ethics . . .

James Childress and the Presumption Against War

….Because war’s constituent ingredients are killing and/or physical harm, and because, in Childress’ argument, those two things are “intrinsically prima facie wrong” because of the prima facie obligation of nonmaleficence, war itself is prima facie wrong. Therefore, for Childress – and those who follow him – just war theory has evolved out of the need to justify the overriding of nonmaleficence but begins with the presupposition of war’s prima facie wrongness.