Is there a conversation around political theology (as concept, field, method, or however you understand it) from the past twenty years that continues to fascinate you?
As I’ve only tuned into “political theology” as such over the past 5 or so years, the 20-year arch of the conversation does indeed still call to me. I cannot understand political theology as a field, let alone a single method; I do understand it as a Be-griff (concept as ‘grasping’ or ‘gripping’) that holds together an interdisciplinary discourse. I wrote Political Theology of the Earth (2018) because I got gripped by Agamben’s reading of Paul, echoing the now-time of Benjamin and for me the old kairos of Tillich and rendering the nose-holding recourse to Schmitt particularly disclosive in a time of “aspirational fascism” (Connolly).
While the early reclamation of political theology by the post-holocaust theologians Metz, Moltmann and Sölle had paled against the vividly particularist tones of the simultaneously emergent 20th century liberation theology and social justice movements (for gender, for race, for sex, maybe even class and ecology), it has seemed to be the moment to insist, with the full force of the particular, on the broad-spectrum assemblage that the generality of political theology facilitates. And key to this potentiality remains the crucial (I do not say cruciform) cross-disciplinarity of theology with political philosophy.
What conversations working with the concept of political theology do you find most fruitful today?
I pulled the above conversation into focus by interpreting the Schmittian “exception” in terms of Kelly Brown Douglas’ womanist reading of Anglo Saxon and then white exceptionalism (Stand Your Ground); this then exposes the links to a series of exceptionalisms—particularly the Christian and the anthropic. I was glad of Michael Northcott’s Political Theology of Climate Change, helping to make the crucial (indeed crucifying) connection of political with anthropocene emergency. As to class exceptionalism, capitalism, no longer simply readable as “neoliberal” (given the intense anti-globalism and treaty-trumping nationalism in play), may be now as dangerously confused as was the term “national socialism.” As I write the predictably fake “state of emergency” has been trumpeted, leaving one grateful at the absence of Nazi-level strategic coherence.
The present white supremacist/ toxic heteromasculinist/climate denialist /Christian fundamentalist regime reveals the importance before now and after to push political theology into a deeper and more coherent intersectionalism.
Where do you hope to see discussions of political theology in 20 years?
The next 20 years will see (too) much materialization of the determinate dangers of the present indeterminate mix of political and planetary volatilities. Eschaton means first of all edge, not end. The edgy theology that takes responsibility for its historical and its apocalyptic politics will avoid the cheap hopes of denialism and the depressive purity of hope-free nihilism.