The debate in the United States over the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities earlier this month brought to the fore the issue of state sovereignty. Since Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris, Catholic social teaching has taught that an international political authority is necessary to solve today’s global problems, but also that such an authority must be limited, respecting the legitimate authority of states. This post outlines this teaching, pointing out the inherent tensions present in it.Read More
Archive for 2012
Last month’s presidential election was characterized by unprecedented rancor and bitterness. With the election over and Obama still in office, the partisan posturing has shifted to the “fiscal cliff” debate and the prognosis that huge spending cuts and an increase in taxes could send the American economy into a tailspin. The issue seems to have changed, but the political climate has not. Even worse than the puerile behavior of elected officials is the level of acrimony displayed by American citizens toward those who disagree with their political affiliation…Read More
We are in the middle of a trial of strength between two populations of political actors: guns and children. And children are vastly more powerful. We don’t have to idealize them to recognize that they are far more important as political partners than are our guns. And, if neo-liberals do idealize them, so much the better. I don’t know if the kingdom is ever going to come, but I do know that one way to move toward it is to play idolatries against each other, mitigating the worst features of one by means of appeal to another, rather like alcoholism is sometimes overcome by nurturing substitute addictions.Read More
In response to the slaughter of the innocents in Connecticut last week, President Obama quoted Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth (2 Cor 4:16-5:1). So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For […]Read More
Now that the election season is over in America, it might be a good time to take a step back and take a longer, more substantive look at some of the principles of Christian social thought than is sometimes possible in the midst of soundbites and stump speeches. Given the religious makeup of the candidates at the top of the tickets, Catholic Social Teaching (CST) was the focus of some attention in the national political conversation. It’s been noted that the political overlays onto religious faith are often just as constricting and reductive as partisanship itself. As Robert Joustra has observed, “Isn’t it ironic that the ecclesial conversation is essentially a thinly-baptized version of exactly the same disagreements in the secular world, but with less technical capacity and more theological abstraction?”
This is in some sense what has happened to principles of CST like subsidiarity and solidarity.Read More
From the introduction: Let’s get this straight. Political theology is not the same as religion. Instead, we take it to name a form of questioning that arises precisely when religion is no longer a dominant explanatory or life mode. Political theology reflects and feeds on a crisis in religion, whether […]Read More
For three weeks now, I have been listening to Mary’s Magnificat sung as a part of the mid-week evening prayer service in my congregation. Last week, I leaned over to my five-year-old and told her, “This is the story of Jesus’ Mommy when she was pregnant with him.” Rereading a paper that I wrote on this text in college, I critiqued an over spiritualization of these words that are “a vivid proclamation of God’s eternal justice and intention to uplift the weak and lowly in a ministry of love…a call to social action on behalf of humanity.” Now, as I sit with the text, I can only say that it is all of this and more…Read More
People say that our wedding was one of the most moving events they’ve ever attended. Now of course, people are supposed to say that about their friends’ weddings. But, at the risk of bragging, I’m pretty sure our wedding was something special. It wasn’t just because two women were getting […]Read More
Redeeming Judgment arose from my sense of urgency. The Protestant church in which I grew up and to which I belong has largely grown silent about the judgment of God. It seems that we are bent upon living up to H. Richard Niebuhr’s caricature of liberal Protestantism: “A God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (Kingdom of God in America, p. 193).
Redeeming Judgment is meant to remedy this aversion to judgment. Judgment accompanies God’s saving work throughout the Bible. Redeem has been prefixed to judgment to indicate that I am proposing to reclaim this theological teaching. Moreover, judgment is itself a component of the redeeming action of God. Thus, we are out to reclaim a teaching that is essential to the redeeming purposes of God.
Although the book was not written specifically for those engaged in political theology, the concept of divine judgment should be at the foundation of any political theology that aspires to be rooted in the Bible. Judgment is a component of practically every interaction between God and humans in the Bible. The reader’s understanding of how the concept can be faithfully applied to historical and contemporary events will be enriched by studying “paradigm cases.”Read More
This is what is at the heart of the story. John comes preaching a message of the kingdom in the strongest possible terms—You brood of vipers! As part of his message, to which people seem to be responding, is that they need to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” That is, don’t just sit there saying you did wrong. Get up and show that you understand by doing something different. And of all the people who might have grasped this message, low and behold, its those nasty tax collectors, the worst people imaginable, who come and ask what they should do to show they really mean what they say about having been transformed. Which is to say, that the narrative presents the very embodiment of a social outsider, confronting the epitome of the empire in the form of the tax collector, who is fundamentally transformed by the encounter.Read More
The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) is really three books rolled into one, with three separate but overlapping arguments. Because of this, it can be hard to follow the different strands. I thought the most helpful way to introduce my book to readers would be to unpack each of the arguments. Before I begin, though, let me define briefly my subjects, the “old ecumenical Protestant left.” Like the old left it was affiliated with, the old Protestant left has often been reduced to a few of its leaders, namely Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich; the community orientation of the movement has thereby been lost…Read More