On the surface Captain American: the Winter Soldier is a cinematic triumph of patriotic romanticism. Whatever injury has been done to the American psyche in the early part of the twenty-first century, Marvel has done its best to bind these wounds and produce a tour de force of idealism for a less than idealistic age. Captain America has done for democratic virtue what the West Wing did for American government.
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.
And so it was this past Easter Saturday that thousands of South Africans, supported by religious leaders, “evoke[d] the spirit of the 1980s, when the faith community intervened to promote and defend democracy.” Leading the procession was the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba.
In the academic setting of Religious Studies, developing curricular spaces in which to thematize the relationship of religion and politics is a highly effective way both to engage undergraduate students, and to tap into and develop the research interests of graduate students. Over the past several years, I have developed courses at both levels in this area.
In most reflections about Good Friday and the events surrounding the Passion, the focus is squarely on Jesus, and to be sure, one can hardly deny that this is where it should be. However, it is interesting to note the extent to which the Gospel authors are quite interested in what these events reveal about the disciples that had followed Jesus up to this climactic point in his ministry—not just the Twelve, of course, but all those who had heard his word and believed in him.
Christ’s actions on Maundy Thursday present a challenge to Enlightenment views of property. Through the Eucharistic vision of Christianity, we become more like Christ, and we do so together enveloped in an all-encompassing commandment of love: we grow together, not only in that we all simultaneously grow, but the barriers between us dissolve and our original love is mended.
The encounter of Mary Magdalene with the risen Christ provides us with a model for understanding political theology. The elusive presence of the resurrected one and the emptiness of his tomb forbid all our attempts to secure his presence in our praxis and open up new ways of perceiving our social task.
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.
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” Nietzsche wrote.
As the global neo-liberal order slowly unravels before our eyes, that recognition holds more true today than ever.