Storm by David Redfearn

Reflection on the Ongoing Catastrophe


I cannot say that I hope for more discussions of political theology in 20 years. But I do hope for the endurance of conversation, indeed, for the preservation of the art and wisdom of conversation.

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?

I should begin by expressing my amazement at the popularity — all things being relative, as we are speaking of academic matters — of the phrase “political theology.” The phrase is an old one, of course, and yet I find it difficult not to wonder about the co-incidence, whereby the interrogation of the concept of religion (its Christian colonial history and its general imperialism) was just getting started, when the new phrase was ushered in as a substitute of sorts, with ever more imperial claims. Suddenly — and without the help of missionaries nor of colonial administrators — a new category was deemed immediately relevant and eminently translatable to every possible realm, culture, or period. It is therefore the fact of a proliferating conversation (yet another incitement to discourse) that I want to register as an object of fascination — and wonder.

What conversations working with the concept of political theology do you find most fruitful today?

Within the field, I nevertheless want to single out two trends (if trends they are) that seem to me particularly exciting. First, is what Vincent Lloyd has called “the political theology of race.” The conversation on religion and race is, of course, growing, yet the particular entanglements, indeed, the possibility that, when it comes to race and religion, we may not be speaking of two distinct fields, barely of different analytics, is what the volume promises, which Lloyd edited under that title. The potential for a global conversation is made most manifest, it seems to me, in the work of Houria Bouteldja (who, incidentally, does not mention political theology, but then again, why should she?) whose book Whites, Jews, and Us: Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love opens new and indeed fascinating spaces for conversation.

The second trend I am interested in is represented in the work of Catherine Keller, who refers to a “political theology of the earth,” or, in Michael Northcott’s wording, “a political theology of climate change.” The urgency of a holistic reflection on the ongoing catastrophe is what these scholars foreground, proposing a truly challenging mobilization of the phrase “political theology.”

Where do you hope to see discussions of political theology in 20 years?

I cannot say that I hope for more discussions of political theology in 20 years. But I do hope for the endurance of conversation, indeed, for the preservation of the art and wisdom of conversation.

20 years, 3 Questions

Symposium Essays

Chelsea Mak

The Bible and Politics

The narrow formulation of the concept of Political Theology as the tracing of Protestant theological categories in contemporary political thought presents some challenge for the historically oriented biblical scholar.

Reflection on the Ongoing Catastrophe

I cannot say that I hope for more discussions of political theology in 20 years. But I do hope for the endurance of conversation, indeed, for the preservation of the art and wisdom of conversation.

Rubén Rosario Rodríguez

The “New” New: Challenging Political and Public Theology

Rather than understanding political theology as a single school of thought, I seek to define political theology as a more inclusive category by looking at the rich historical resources within each of the Abrahamic religions that help each tradition unpack the complex relationship between the political and theological spheres

M. Shawn Copeland

Wider and Deeper Analysis

While political theology must possess planetary (global) concerns, it must work locally and collaborate across locales to further understanding, decision, and action to meet those concerns.


Contextual crisis analysis

The question for us, and for the field of political theology, is how do we wish to live in the end?

Danube Johnson

Political Theology and Political Crisis

It seems like an important task of political theology is to critically reflect on moments of political crisis by pulling back the veil on its latent theological content.

Cathleen Kaveny

Law and Political Obligations

“What do I owe my fellow citizens whose conscience reaches different conclusions than my own?”

Faisal Devji

Political Theology in the Absence of Authority

How might we think about political theology in the absence of conventional scriptural, interpretive or institutional authorities together with their conceptual worlds?


Political Theology, Public Life, and Economic Structures

We are currently seeing folks pause to reflect both on what has historically counted as “political theology” and the ways in which those evaluate norms and frameworks need to shift moving forward.

Aristotle Papanikolaou

Practices and Pluralism

Political theology needs to talk more about the role of religion in liberal democratic spaces such that those spaces are constituted as radically pluralistic.

One thought on “Reflection on the Ongoing Catastrophe

  1. Well crafted I must say. Political theology in the next twenty years must seek to expand its conversations, expand its reach, stimulate same in areas where this conversations are relatively new and with little or no significant impact. Theology must be situated within politics as human response to God and His demands for responsibility for what He has given to ma. So we expect increasingly robust conversations looking ahead.

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