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From the Archives: Zionism and Genocide

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the journal Political Theology, we are diving into the journal’s archives to share highlights of what we have published. In this installment, here are some of the articles and blog posts we have published on questions of apocalypse and the apocalyptic.


Clare Amos, Text, Tribulation and Testimony: The Bible in the Context of the Current Middle East in Political Theology 4, no. 2 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.175–91, 2003). “In this article Clare Amos looks at some of the ways that the interpretation of the Bible has affected or might affect the current situation in Israel/Palestine. She explores the question using her own experience in the region as a backdrop. Particular attention is given to the dilemma confronted by Christian Palestinians in view of the way that the Old Testament has been used in some strands of Christian Zionism. She also looks in some detail at the story of Hagar and Ishmael in view of their important place in Islamic and Arab tradition. A distinctive reading of Gen. 15 and 16 is offered which suggests that the biblical writers ‘wrote in’ a demand for justice for Hagar and her descendants in the fabric of the covenant with Abraham. The author argues that the recovery of the importance of the ‘other’ (as in the work of Emmanuel Levinas) is important both for Christianity and Judaism.”

Julie E. Cooper, Heretic or Traitor? Spinoza’s Excommunication and the Challenge That Judaism Poses to the Study of Religious Diversity in Political Theology 21, no. 4 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.284–302, 2020). “When political theorists talk about “religious diversity,” they usually intend the multiplicity of “religions” in a given society. Yet we now know that the secular, liberal framing of the problematic presupposes a controversial definition of “religion.” My primary goal, in this paper, is to reorient scholarly discussion around what we might call “the critical religion conception of diversity” – not the multiplicity of “religions,” but the myriad ways that the sacred intersects with national and political identity, some of which resist assimilation to the “religious” paradigm. Toward this end, I relate a story about Spinoza’s Hebrew reception in the interwar period. For Zionist intellectuals, Spinoza symbolized the deformations that “religion” imposed on Judaism’s self-understanding and the constraints that it placed on Jewish intellectual horizons. Studying the Zionist critique of “religion” exposes the limitations of received theoretical frameworks, which cannot address the kinds of diversity that were politically consequential for twentieth-century Jews.”

Sean Durbin, Mediating the Past through the Present and the Present through the Past: The Symbiotic Relationship of American Christian Zionists’ Outsider and Insider Enemies in Political Theology 15, no. 2 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.110–31, 2014). “This article examines what is described as a symbiotic relationship between individuals and groups that make up “outsider” and “insider” enemies within a conservative strand of American Christian Zionism. It argues that a particular construction of Islam and Muslims as inherently violent is given a timeless quality through a particular reading of the sibling rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael in the Hebrew Bible, a reading which simultaneously unites Christians and Jews as heirs to God’s covenantal promises. It argues that this description of “outsider” enemies produces a particular kind of knowledge which is used to define and criticize what are termed “insider” enemies. As with Christian Zionists’ outsider enemies, these insider enemies are also given a timeless quality through a Christian Zionist reading of the Passion narrative and history of early Christianity that places them in a position of instruments of Satan, and a danger to the state.”


Duncan Macpherson, The Politics of Preaching the Promised Land for the Canaanites in Political Theology 10, no. 1 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.71–84, 2009). “This paper explores issues around European Christian theological prejudice against Jews and Judaism and asks whether attempts to make amends for the wrongs done to one people have blunted the conscience of Christians to the sufferings of another. It is ironic that the division between those who attribute anti-Semitism to New Testament texts and those who blame the misuse of the texts mirrors division over colonialist ideologies in the Old Testament. Should we blame the text or its interpreters? There is irony in the fact that those who wrestle with anti-Judaic texts in the New Testament are seldom the same people who perceive problems with the land traditions in the Old—or indeed the other way round! Evangelical Christian Zionist insensitivity towards the Palestinians derives from biblical fundamentalism. Mainstream Christian Zionism derives partly from guilt over past Christian crimes against the Jews but it also reveals a residual fundamentalist underpinning.”

Erica Weiss, Divergent and Emergent Political Theologies of Peace Amongst Jewish Israelis in Political Theology, (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.1–19, 2024). “In this article, I consider the emergent political theology of a peace from within the religious Zionist community. Given the dismal state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it is surprising that the last decade has seen the spontaneous emergence of several grassroots Israeli peace initiatives, and even more surprising that many of these initiatives have emerged from the religious Zionist community rather than the Israeli peace camp. The article presents ethnographic data on the scriptural interpretations of one of these initiatives, the Citizens Accord Forum. The article illustrates their hermeneutic labor on questions of Jewish sovereignty and questions of non-Jews within the Jewish state. The article considers how this alternative political theology is emerging between two far more hegemonic political paradigms: the “religious right” and the “secular left.”


John Pawlikowski, The Significance of the Christian-Jewish Dialogue and Holocaust Studies for Catholic Ethics in Political Theology 13, no. 4 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.444–57, 2012). “When I survey the vast field of literature on social ethics, including that from progressive Christian scholars, I find little, if any, recognition that the positive development in the understanding of the Christian-Jewish relationship these past forty years have any relevance for shaping Christian perspectives on social ethics today. In this presentation I share some reflections on various areas of study within the context of the Christian-Jewish dialogue, especially the experience of the Holocaust, which in my judgment do make an important difference in the way we present Christian thinking on social ethical questions. The positive impact of the Hebrew Scriptures is one important area as is the enhanced understanding of law in the Hebrew Scriptures and in Judaism generally. Also of significance is the growing body of literature linking Jesus positively to the Jewish tradition of his time, including in terms of his moral teaching. The same holds true for new studies on Paul’s positive relationship to Judaism. Finally the Holocaust provides us with important links to contemporary moral issues such as genocide and human rights.”

Pekka Pitkänen, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Deuteronomy and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Political Theology 11, no. 3 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.399–409, 2010). “Deuteronomy portrays itself as Moses’s speech at the edge of the promised land. This article examines the book’s attitudes towards the other within this rhetorical setting by concentrating on the indigenous peoples, also in contrast to those outside the land of Israel. It is pointed out that the ideology of Deuteronomy is very exclusive, and its treatment of indigenous peoples compatible with ideologies that accompany genocides and conquests. Mitigating such exclusive thinking can serve as a model for human interactions today, and this would also seem to be compatible with the overall thinking of the New Testament canonical documents.”

Peter Safari, Church, State and the Rwandan Genocide in Political Theology 11, no. 6 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.873–93, 2010). “This article takes a critical look at the experience of the Christian Churches during the time of the Rwandan genocide between 6 April and mid July 1994. It is established that in about 100 days about one million people faced death at the hands of soldiers, militias and ordinary civilians. Most victims were killed in churches and other church premises where they had gathered in hope of protection. The genocide in Rwanda was extensive both in its scale and execution. In this article we attempt to understand why and how the churches were involved in the killings, and the implications of such involvement in contemporary efforts towards reconciliation.”

Special Issue: Settler Colonialism and Political Theology

Mohamed Abdou, Conquistador Settler-Colonialism & the Crises of Migrant Muslim Complicity in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.720–38, 2023). “Many migrant Muslims to “conquistador settler-colonial” U.S./Canada are driven to become good – settlers because of the devastating imperialist conditions reaped upon our original homelands. However, no Muslim political-theological works address Indigenous struggles or seriously engage settler-colonial studies. Migrant Muslims assume that the U.S./Canada are democratic-secular despite their animation by white-supremacist religious doctrines as Manifest Destiny. This contribution addresses the Qur’anic bases for a globally applicable decolonial, anti-statist/capitalist, social justice, Islam or what I refer to as Anarcha-Islam Drawing on the Qur’anic perspective of ethical-political responsibilities of Muslim hijra (migration), I argue how non-Black migrant Muslims in exile must seriously re-examine their ethical-political commitments and construct mutual alliances with Indigenous and Black peoples in their demands for land’s repatriation as well as reparations.”

Natalie Avalos, Indigenous Stewardship: Religious Praxis and ‘Unsettling’ Settler Ecologies in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.614–31, 2023). “Settler colonialism has been described as a structure, not an event, meaning it is sustained over time through discursive and material means. As settlers began to monopolize lands, new ecologies were built from Indigenous ones, transforming the landscape but also human relations with lands. I expand on Kyle Whyte’s concept of settler ecologies to understand these ecologies as drawing from a metaphysic, a Christian cosmo-logic of divine hierarchy that positions some humans as having ontological superiority over the natural world and other humans. I draw from decolonial, Indigenous, and settler colonial theory to explore how settler ecologies reterritorialize the land through racial-religious formations, what Aboriginal scholar, Aileen Moreton-Robinson calls the white possessive, and become naturalized in a modern context through secular, biopolitical discourses of development. I argue that these settler ecologies are “unsettled” through the sacred directive of stewardship movements that emerge from the unifying, intersubjective relations of ceremonial life.”

Sarah Dees, A Bitter Poetics of Differentiation: Cultural Evolution in the Verse of John Wesley Powell in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.666–86, 2023). “The famed explorer, scientist, and U.S. government administrator John Wesley Powell (1834–1902) was a significant contributor to cultural evolutionary thinking in the late-nineteenth century. In addition to scientific publications, he also – curiously – used the genre of poetry as an outlet for his ideas. This article analyzes two of Powell’s obscure published poems. I argue that his poetry is significant, not for its literary value, but for what it reveals about theories of cultural evolution that were operative for a significant U.S. government agent who played a critical role in the production of knowledge about Native American religions. This article contributes to the theme of political theology and settler colonialism by examining the ideological features of settler colonialism – the production of ideas, knowledge, and theories that have supported and justified U.S. settler colonialism. I demonstrate that there was an aesthetic as well as a scientific register to racialized cultural evolutionary thinking.”

Abel R. gomez, We Survived This’: California Missions, Colonialism, and Indigenous Belonging in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.632–49, 2023). “The California mission system linked Spanish Catholic and political institutions. To secure land and convert Indigenous peoples, the Spanish built 21 missions from San Diego to Sonoma in the 18th and 19th centuries. These missions were sites of disease, violence, and mass death. They were also places built by Native people, on Native lands, where they lived, prayed, and were buried. As a result, missions are fundamentally Indigenous places and important touchstones for descendants today. This article examines such meanings in the lives of several Ohlone peoples, Indigenous peoples of the San Francisco-Monterey region. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Ohlone tribes, I argue that we can understand relationships they sustain with California missions by considering such places as Indigenous cemeteries, Indigenous churches, and especially both. While dominant narratives restrict “missionized” Indigenous peoples to an irrecoverable past, this paper theorizes California mission as sites of violence, survival, and belonging to homeland.”

Himanee Gupta, Spiritual Dimensions of Farming Amid Settler Colonialism in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.756–73, 2023). “This autoethnography explores how the author’s work with farming led her to learn from such Indigenous knowledge practices as listening to Nature and forming a familial relationship with land in pursuit of a spiritual life focused on social change. In doing so, it highlights how such pursuits as farming at a small-scale level contributes to food sovereignty efforts worldwide that question and resist settler-colonialist structures. While incorporating Indigenous knowledge into one’s own practices risks contributing to harmful appropriation, the author argues that such knowledge has much to offer allies who wish to learn.”

SueJeanne Koh, Misreading’ Calvin: The Question of World-Making in the Texts of Settler Colonialism and Theology in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.706–19, 2023). “Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s account of European settler colonialism in the United States notably focuses on Calvinist communities as a primary catalyst in rationalizing land seizure, identifying covenantal theology as supporting settler claims to sovereignly held indigenous lands. This article argues that while she rightly identifies a correspondence between divine providence and a settler colonial logic of replacement, a vertical orientation, her analysis of theology as settler colonialism can be completed through a recourse to a rhetorical and literary analysis of Calvin’s Institutes. That is, settler colonialism also possesses a horizontal component, a logic of replicability that describes the temporal and spatial movement of settler colonialism. To make this argument I turn to Michelle Sanchez and Ford Lewis Battles’ respective explorations of literary genre and the language of accommodation. My analysis points to how Calvin’s covenantal theology can conjure the “imagined community” that is then embodied as settler colonialism. I end by suggesting that further careful articulation of the nexus between theology and settler colonialism is necessary for us to reckon the present and ongoing possibilities of inhabiting space and sharing life together, settler and indigenous alike.”

Joëlle M. Morgan, The Stones Cry Out and the Trees Talk: A Praxis of Epistemic Disobedience Toward a Settler Theology of Aurality in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p. 739–55, 2023). “Epistemic disobedience (Mignolo) to settler-coloniality in Canada requires conscientisation to Indigenous peoples’ stories and a decolonial turn (Maldonado-Torres) in epistemology and ontology of relations (Tinker) between Indigenous and settler peoples. One group of primarily settler Christians on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin/Anishnaabe territory engaged such a praxis, through Right Relations with their United Church in Ottawa, toward social healing (Lederach and Lederach) of colonial wounds, transformationally engaging in oral-aural praxis to relationally receive hi/stories of local Indigenous communities. Stan McKay, Cree elder and former moderator of the United Church of Canada, through Indigenous peoples’ understanding of creation invites a decolonial turn with hermeneutical listening in which one hears teachings of Jesus as cry of creation – such that even “the stones cry out” (Luke 19:40) and the trees teach – which has implications for a settler theology of aurality.”

Bahia Munem, Manifold Nakbas and the Making of a Palestinian Diaspora in the Americas in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p.650–65 2023). “This article considers how ongoing Palestinian dispossession, manifold Nakbas (catastrophes), stemming from the active frontiers of Israeli settler colonialism and catalyzed by religious nationalism and international impunity, continues to extend and expand the Palestinian diaspora into the Americas and other regions. This also structures Palestinian personhood beyond the active space of the settler-colony. I utilize three seemingly disparate cases to make this argument. I begin with Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza in May 2021. I then offer a personal account, followed by ethnographic research conducted with Palestinian Iraq War refugees resettled in Brazil and also examine other military conflicts in the Middle East that have resulted in continual forced Palestinian displacements. Throughout, I demonstrate how Israeli settler colonialism is not an event but a structure (Wolfe. Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event. London: Cassell, 1999) which impacts Palestinian life far outside of the original space of displacement.”

Raef Zreik, Zionism and Political Theology in Political Theology 24, no. 7 (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Online, p. 687–705, 2023). “This paper is an attempt to identify what is unique about the political theology of Zionism. It also explores what the consequences of this uniqueness might be, particularly with regard to future decolonization projects of Israel-Palestine. Dealing with the case of Zionism and Israel is interesting because it allows us – in fact, it forces us – to ask questions about the nature of modernity, liberalism, secularism, colonialism and nationalism writ large. Zionism itself combines many aspects of modern Europe, including nationalism, colonialism, religion, liberalism, and socialism; this raises the question of whether we can offer a critique of Zionism that is not also a critique of the modern Europe that invented all of these categories and practices. All these issues raise the question of how we are to judge Zionism. Can we offer a critique of Zionism that is not at the same time a critique of Europe?”

Political Theology Blog

Shamara Wyllie Alhassan, Critical Race Theory in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2023). “CRT is a framework or an approach to understanding the way racism is foundational to systems of judicial, political, social, cultural, religious, and theological power. The author argues the Holocaust is an example of teaching CRT because in order to understand the genocide against Jewish people in the mid-20th century, we must understand that laws passed in Germany were partially based on the history of Eugenics, the state-sanctioned genocide against Native Americans, and legalized racial segregation in the United States.”

Gerald Beyer, Atrocities in the Heart of Europe Again: On the War in Ukraine in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2022). “The author is Christian theologian who abhors war and believes that all other reasonable means should be exhausted before the use of lethal force is undertaken. At the same time, he is convinced that there are times – albeit rare – when the evil is so great that no measure other than force will prevent grave atrocities on a massive scale. In this article, the author outlines the various genocidal efforts in Europe with attention to a modern-day example in Ukraine.”

John Boopalan, Choosing God, Choosing Land, Choosing Peoples in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2023). “Choosing God, choosing lands, and choosing the peoples one lives with, both then and now, is no easy task. Nevertheless, the good news, while not always easy or comforting, is that the borders of our identities and lands have always been permeable. Could that be our embodied witness?”

Richard Davis, Settler Colonialism in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2022). “I propose Decolonial Settler Theology as a contextual political theology that is uniquely the task of the settler, who must face their own complicity in narratives of ongoing colonization and aim at their undoing.”

Richard Evans, Contagion, a Lament in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2020). “However our times will be remembered—as the triumph of fascism or its nadir, as the end of capitalism or its beginning, as the death of the planet or its rebirth—this young century has been an era of contagion. Contagion is also the favorite metaphor of authoritarianism, of genocide.”

Anderson Jeremiah, Prophetic Truth Telling as a Christian Witness in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2021). “The God we meet in Amos and John demands righteousness, solidarity and justice as the foundations of faithful living. Neutrality scuppers justice. When we drift away from God, our fellow human beings and the life-giving environment, prophetic truth-telling tempered with an imagination for a different world becomes a necessity. The author looks to examples of genocide throughout history to conclude justice is always demanded of Christians.”

Siobhan Kelly, Judith Butler in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2021). “Judith Butler’s work has altered the trajectories of multiple disciplines in the last thirty years; what can they teach scholars of political theology, queer theory, and Zionism?”

Nitzan Lebovic, Martin Beuber in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2021). “Meeting Martin Buber, in other words, means meeting the voice behind the words, a man who did not always know how to “recover from institutions.” Buber is known, for the most part, as the author of “I and Thou” (1923), a theological interpretation of relationship between self and other that suggested a radical inter-personal and inter-religious or inter-cultural stress on equality before and through the divine. Buber is also known for his writings on theo-politics where he argued that political Zionism could lead in the wrong direction because it held “possibility of physical killing.”

Dana Lloyd & Jan Pranger, Decolonization at the Intersection of Political Theology and Settler Colonial Studies in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2023). “From the perspective of political theology, the presence of Indigenous peoples and settlers shaped by historical and ongoing settler colonial relations raises important political and religious questions about the possibilities and conditions of sovereign Indigenous existence and the (im)possibities and conditions of restorative or reconciled settler futures.”

Shaista Abdul Aziz Patel, Who is Afraid of Allah? On Muslims Sans Muslimness in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2022). “For Muslims to become worthy of any empathy and solidarity, whether in the west or in staunchly anti-Muslim India, what must first be shed is our very religiosity. Islam is to be tolerated only when reduced to culture in which the dominant-caste or white friend can joyously celebrate Muslim festivities, visit Muslim friends and restaurants for biryani in Toronto or Delhi, or post Sufi songs on their social media. Those are the parameters set around reception of a Muslim sans Islam.”

Christy Randazzo, The Myth of ‘Cheap’ Reconciliation in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2020). “The God present in the book of Jonah is a God who never gives up hope on anyone, even those who have perpetrated the worst evils. Also, the God present here is a God who demands that we repent thoroughly, completely, and without reservation. This is not a cheap reconciliation, but a very costly one indeed.”

Justin Reed, Breaking Barriers from our Background in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2023). “We all learn ways of negotiating life from our histories, families, religions, and our broader society. These passages suggest that some of what we learn can be deadly to our siblings and our neighbors, but we can explore different visions of God and abandon the toxic ways of thinking that are so often deeply embedded in our world.”

Amrah Salomon, Decolonizing the Disaster: Defending Land & Life During Covid-19 in Political Theology Blog Post (Political Theology Network Online, 2020). “The current conjuncture of crises – climate change, genocide, pandemics, the rise of fascism and state violence, the backlash of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy against anti-racism, feminism, and queer/trans liberation, the deepening extractivism of capitalism, the further dispossession and disposability of mass incarceration and deportation, etc. – can be dismantled, swiftly, like a flood, a hurricane, a wildfire – if we can organize ourselves.”

Thanks to Shayla Jordan for her help compiling this list.

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