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Category: States of Exception

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule” (Walter Benjamin). Political theology takes up considerations of law and its exception, with a critical eye to the tradition of the oppressed. States of exception considers questions of law, governance, sovereignty, and violence.

Resources

Bibliography:

  1. Paul W. Kahn, Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (2011)
  2. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952)
  3. Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign (2001-2002)
  4. Ted Smith, Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics (2014)
  5.  Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: for a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (2011)
  6. Nicole Loraux, The Divided City: On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens (2001)

Relevant Journal Articles:

  • Andrew Krinks, “The Color of Transcendence: Whiteness, Sovereignty, and the Theologico-Political,” Political Theology 19, no. 2 (2018): 79-98
  • Kyle Lambelet, “Lovers of God’s Law: The Politics of Higher Law and the Ethics of Civil Disobedience,” Political Theology 19, no. 7 (2018): 593-610
  • Bonnie Honig, “Is Man a ‘Sabbatical Animal’?: Agamben, Rosenzweig, Heschel, Arendt,” Political Theology 20, no. 1 (2019): 1-23
  • Sarah Hammerschlag, “Believing in the USA: Derrida, Melville and the Great American Charlatan,” Political Theology 21, no. 1-2 (2020): 56-70

. . . The concept undeniably has a certain appeal, and few slogans are better calculated to capture the imaginations of the young and disaffected than “Towards eucharistic anarchism” (Bill Cavanaugh’s phrase in Radical Orthodoxy) and other such brazen assertions of liturgical politics. But in all the talk of eucharistic politics, a surfeit of aesthetic appeal seems to have usually compensated for a shortfall of logical clarity.

Prophetic politics: Forgiveness and restorative justice

A recent article in the New York Times provides a fascinating account of the profound impact that Christian forgiveness played in a Florida murder case. This forgiveness set in motion an amazing chain of events that culminated in the murderer receiving a greatly reduced sentence of 20 years in prison. How did this happen? The answer lies both in the victim’s family’s practice of forgiveness, and also the practice of restorative justice that was employed during the sentencing process.

The Politics of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12): Epiphany as Disorientation

The lectionary readings for Epiphany bathe the reader in the language of light. Isaiah 60:1 commands the people of Zion to “Arise, shine; for your light has come.” Psalm 72:5 invokes those celestial light-givers, the sun and moon. And of course Matthew 2:2 gives us the splendid star-following magi and their sparkly gift of gold. In our most domesticated and tamed interpretations, we bask in the warm and cheerful glow emanating from these readings. Like our fireplaces keeping the gray winter at bay, these passages have become homey and cozy for many readers. Truth be told, I rather like that warm glow this time of year! Yet when these passages are let out of the house, they open up a larger landscape filled with things other than light and joy. Yes, they celebrate divine justice for the poor and the leader’s power to create it. They also illuminate the darkness and deception of power politics. They lift up the vulnerability of the divine sovereign made flesh, but also blatantly seek world dominion for the Davidic king. They rejoice in the manifestation of God, but also point to places where God‘s justice is eclipsed by political animals. In short, these passages for Epiphany disorient us about God and politics as much as they reveal God‘s relationship to the world…

If it is at all possible, a Muslim hopes to live in a society where Islamic norms, morality and etiquette flourish, and where they cannot be publicly violated. Similarly, if it is at all possible, provided that he does not perpetuate further harm, every Muslim should command the right and forbid the wrong.

Marriage equality is a hot topic in Christian communities. Recently, Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, came to Fuller to talk about the freedom to love. As a result, many students at Fuller are beginning to rethink their heteronormative understandings of marriage. While I am all for LGBTQ equality in all arenas (anything else is shenanigans), the resurgence about the right to marry and marriage as an existentially important institution worries me […]

With this sort of starting point, we take an altogether different approach: our task, short of the full in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, can never be any partisan agenda. This is because anything short of the full consummation of the Kingdom of God will necessarily still be tainted, or worse, corrupted, by sin. All political activism then—in the sense of being active in talking to the contemporary powers-that-be in western culture—is always and necessarily ad hoc, never utopian, and never idealistic. We deal with each concrete question and issue as it arises, and seek to bear faithful witness as best we are able.

Beiner suggests that I want a politics, and by politics he seems to mean what the state does, that is at the service of Christianity. As someone deeply influenced by John Howard Yoder’s critique of Constantinianism, that is precisely what I do not want. Of course I should like Christians to be free to try and convince their non-Christian neighbors that war is a bad idea, but….