Political theology

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Political theology investigates the ways in which theological concepts or ways of thinking relate to politics, society, and economics. Though the relationship between Christianity and politics has been debated since the time of Jesus, political theology has been an academic discipline since the 20th century.[1]

Terminology

The term political theology is often used to denote religious thought about political principled questions. Scholars such as Carl Schmitt use it to denote religious concepts that were secularized and thus became key political concepts.[citation needed]

Another term which often occupies similar space in academic discourse is public theology. It is said that political theology is directed more towards the government or the state, whereas public theology is more towards civil society.[2]

Developments

The term political theology has been used in a wide variety of ways by writers exploring different aspects of believers' relationship with politics. It has been used to discuss Augustine of Hippo's City of God[3] and Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica.[4] It has likewise been used to describe the Eastern Orthodox view of symphonia[5] and the works of the Protestant reformers Martin Luther[6] and John Calvin.[7][page needed]

The recent use of the term is often associated with the work of Carl Schmitt. Writing amidst the turbulence of the German Weimar Republic, Schmitt argued in his essay Politische Theologie (1922)[8] that the main concepts of modern politics were secularized versions of older theological concepts. Mikhail Bakunin had used the term in his 1871 text "The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International"[9] to which Schmitt's book was a response.[10] Drawing on Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan he argued that the state exists to maintain its own integrity in order to ensure order in society in times of crisis.[citation needed]

Some[who?] have divided the approach of political theology between a rightist traditional concern with individual "moral reform" (such as Clyde Wilcox's God's Warriors [1992] and Ted Jelen's The Political World of the Clergy [1993]) and a leftist focus on collective "social justice" (such as Jeffrey K. Hadden's The Gathering Storm in the Churches [1969] and Harold Quinley's The Prophetic Clergy [1974]).[11]

Kwok Pui-lan has argued that, while Schmitt may have come up with the term and its modern usage, political theologies were likewise forming along very different trajectories elsewhere around the world, such as in Asia. In China in the 1930s, for instance, the Protestant Wu Yaozong advocated that a social revolution was necessary to save both China and the world.[12] This would likewise be true of the role of Protestants involved in Korean nationalism in the early twentieth century.[13]

Many major non-Christian philosophers have written extensively on the topic of political theology during recent years, such as Jürgen Habermas,[14] Giorgio Agamben, Simon Critchley,[15] and Slavoj Zizek.[16]

By region

China

Christian political theology in China includes responses from Chinese Christian leaders and scholars who deal with the relationship between Christianity and politics in the specific socio-political context of the region. The relationship between Christianity and politics in China can be seen from the religion's earliest encounters with the country during the imperial period, with the Church of the East's interaction with the Emperor Taizong and Jesuit missionaries in the Ming court. But it has developed the most in the 20th and 21st centuries after the establishments of the Republic of China and People's Republic of China, especially through the establishment of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and rise of house churches.

Germany

The influence of the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) is also evident throughout much of German political theology. This is particularly clear in the work of the Roman Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz (born 1928) who explored the concept of political theology throughout his work.[17][verification needed] He argued for the concept of a "suffering God" who shared the pain of his creation, writing, "Yet, faced with conditions in God's creation that cry out to heaven, how can the theology of the creator God avoid the suspicion of apathy unless it takes up the language of a suffering God?" This leads Metz to develop a theology that is related to Marxism. He criticizes what he terms bourgeois Christianity and believes that the Christian Gospel has become less credible because it has become entangled with bourgeois religion. His work Faith in History and Society develops apologetics, or fundamental theology, from this perspective.

Two of the other major developers of political theology in Germany were Jürgen Moltmann and Dorothee Sölle. As in Metz' work, the concept of a suffering God is important to Moltmann's theological program. Moltmann's political theology was influenced strongly by the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, and both Moltmann and Sölle were influenced heavily by liberation theology, as was Metz. Another early influence was the Frankfurt School of critical theory, especially Walter Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School's broader critique of modernity.[18]

Middle East

Christian political theology in the Middle East is a religious response by Christian leaders and scholars to political problems.[citation needed] Political theologians try to balance the demands of a tumultuous region with the delicate but long history of Christianity in the Middle East. This has yielded a diversity of political theology disproportionate to the small size of Middle East Christian minorities. The region's importance to Christians worldwide – both for history and doctrinal authority for many denominations – also shapes the political theologies of the Middle East.[citation needed]

For many Christian leaders, the dominant approach to political theology is one of survival. Many Arab Christians see themselves as the heirs of a rich Christian heritage whose existence is threatened by regional unrest and religious persecution. Their chief political goal is survival, which sets their political theology apart.[19]

At times, Arab Christian leaders have appealed to Christians outside the region through both denominational challenges and broader calls to Christian unity for humanitarian or political aid. In other cases, Christian politicians downplay their faith in the public sphere to avoid conflict with their Muslim neighbours.[20]

In the mid-20th century, many Christians in the Middle East saw secular politics as a way out of their traditional status as a minority community in the Islamic world.[20] Christians played prominent roles throughout the pan-Arab nationalist movement in the mid-20th century, where their experience with Western politics and generally high educational attainments made their contributions valuable to nationalist governments around the region. One prominent example was Michel Aflaq, an Eastern Orthodox Christian who formed the first Ba'ath group from students in Damascus in the 1940s. His belief was that Christians should embrace Islam as part of their cultural identity because nationalism was the best way for Christians to be successful in the Middle East.[20]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Political theology in sub-Saharan Africa deals with the relationship of theology and politics, arising from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and nationalist campaigns of the mid to late twentieth century elsewhere. The increasing numbers of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa has led to an increased interest in Christian responses to the region's continuing issues of poverty, violence, and war.[21] According to the Cameroonian theologian and sociologist Jean-Marc Éla, African Christianity "has to be formulated from the struggles of our people, from their joys, from their pains, from their hopes and from their frustrations today."[22] African theology is heavily influenced by liberation theology, global black theology, and postcolonial theology.

Notable thinkers include Itumeleng Mosala, Jesse N. K. Mugambi, and Desmond Tutu.

United States

Reinhold Niebuhr also developed a theology similar to Metz in the practical application of theology. During the 1930s, Niebuhr was a leader of the Socialist Party of America, and although he broke with the party later in life socialist thought is a prominent component of his development of Christian Realism. The work by Niebuhr that best exemplifies his relationship with political theology is Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics (1932).

One of the most influential developers of recent political theology is Stanley Hauerwas, though he considers his work to be better termed a "theological politics".[23] Hauerwas has actively critiqued the political theology of both Reinhold Niebuhr and H. Richard Niebuhr, and has been a frequently critic of Christians' attempt to attain political power and align themselves with secular political ideologies. Moreoever, he has been a severe critic of liberal democracy, capitalism, and militarism, arguing that all of those ideologies are antithetical to Christian convictions.[24]

See also

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ Bowker 2000.
  2. ^ Bell 2015, p. 117.
  3. ^ Doody, Hughes & Paffenroth 2005; Elshtain 2004.
  4. ^ Bauerschmidt 2004.
  5. ^ McGuckin 2008, pp. 391–395.
  6. ^ Höpfl 1991, pp. xxii–xxiii.
  7. ^ Höpfl 1991.
  8. ^ Schmitt 2005.
  9. ^ Marshall 1992, pp. 300–301.
  10. ^ Maier 1995, pp. 75–76; Schmitt 2005, pp. 64–66.
  11. ^ Williams, Rhys H. (1998). "Political Theology on the Right and Left". The Christian Century. Vol. 115 no. 21. Chicago. pp. 722–724. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2017 – via Religion Online. 
  12. ^ Kwok 2016.
  13. ^ Wells 1990.
  14. ^ Afrasiabi 1998.
  15. ^ Critchley, Simon (1 February 2012). "Simon Critchley on 'The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology'". Political Theology Today. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  16. ^ Breger 2001.
  17. ^ "Johann-Baptist Metz", The Vocabulary of Political Theology, Gonzaga University.
  18. ^ Osborne & Charles 2015.
  19. ^ Wessels 1995, pp. 203–227.
  20. ^ a b c Cragg 1991, pp. 143–227.
  21. ^ Katongole 2010, pp. 1–4, 22–23.
  22. ^ Stinton 2004, p. 25.
  23. ^ Hauerwas, Stanley. "Bonhoeffer: The Truthful Witness". Homiletics Online. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
  24. ^ Hauerwas, Stanley (2002). "Stanley Hauerwas: An Interview". Cross Currents. Vol. 52 no. 1. Interviewed by Quirk, Michael J. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 

Bibliography

Afrasiabi, K. L. (1998). "Communicative Theory and Theology: A Reconsideration". The Harvard Theological Review. 91 (1): 75–87. doi:10.1017/S0017816000006453. ISSN 0017-8160. JSTOR 1509790. 
Bauerschmidt, Frederick Christian (2004). "Aquinas". In Scott, Peter; Cavanaugh, William T. The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing (published 2008). pp. 48–61. doi:10.1002/9780470997048.ch5. ISBN 978-0-470-99735-2. 
Bell, Daniel M., Jr. (2015). "Postliberalism and Radical Orthodoxy". In Hovey, Craig; Phillips, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to Christian Political Theology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 110–132. doi:10.1017/CCO9781107280823.007. ISBN 978-1-107-05274-1. 
Breger, Claudia (2001). "The Leader's Two Bodies: Slavoj Žižek's Postmodern Political Theology". Diacritics. 31 (1): 73–90. doi:10.2307/1566316 (inactive 22 August 2017). JSTOR 1566316. 
Bowker, John, ed. (2000). "Political Theology". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press (published 2003). doi:10.1093/acref/9780192800947.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-172722-1. 
Cragg, Kenneth (1991). The Arab Christian. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-264-67257-1. 
Doody, John; Hughes, Kevin L.; Paffenroth, Kim, eds. (2005). Augustine and Politics. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-1009-6. 
Elshtain, Jean Bethke (2004). "Augustine". In Scott, Peter; Cavanaugh, William T. The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing (published 2008). pp. 35–47. doi:10.1002/9780470997048.ch4. ISBN 978-0-470-99735-2. 
Höpfl, Harro (1991). Introduction. Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority. By Luther, Martin; Calvin, John. Höpfl, Harro, ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press (published 2002). ISBN 978-0-521-34208-7. 
Katongole, Emmanuel (2010). The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa. Eerdmans Ekklesia Series. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8028-6268-6. 
Kwok Pui-lan (2016). "Postcolonial Intervention in Political Theology". Political Theology. 17 (3): 223–225. doi:10.1080/1462317X.2016.1186443. ISSN 1462-317X. 
Maier, Heinrich (1995). Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-51888-6. 
Marshall, Peter (1992). Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-217855-6. 
McGuckin, John Anthony (2008). The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture. John Wiley & Sons (published 2010). pp. 391–395. doi:10.1002/9781444301229. ISBN 978-1-4443-9383-5. 
Osborne, Peter; Charles, Matthew (2015). "Walter Benjamin". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (fall 2015 ed.). Stanford, California: Stanford University. ISSN 1095-5054. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
Schmitt, Carl (2005) [1934]. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Translated by Schwab, George. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-73889-5. 
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Wells, Kenneth M. (1990). New God, New Nation: Protestants and Self-Reconstruction Nationalism in Korea, 1896–1937. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-1338-3. 
Wessels, Antonie (1995). Arab and Christian? Christians in the Middle East. Kampen, Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House. ISBN 978-90-390-0071-7. 
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