Political Theology Today A forum for interdisciplinary and interreligious dialogue

All posts by Roland Boer

Letters from the Road: Lenin the prophet

We can prophecy for you (Lenin 1907 [1962]-a: 329). A little recognised feature of Lenin’s writings is his complex invocation and transformation of the category of prophecy. While he denies the traditional theological tradition of the prophet, he also engages with it to develop an alternative, revolutionary prophecy that relativises […]

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Lenin and the Partisanship of Freedom

Freedom is openly partisan: this is the apparently paradoxical key to Lenin’s argument concerning freedom. Contrary to one of the more popular recent assessments of Lenin on freedom,[1] the crucial issue is not the distinction between actual and formal freedom, but on what happens with freedom after the revolution. In […]

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Letters from the Road: Ministering in the DDR

A common impression of Christianity in the DDR (East Germany) is of the persecution of the church. Given the atheistic basis of communist states, the very act of confessing that one was a Christian was enough to land one in prison. Faithful ministers were persecuted, church buildings were ransacked, and the Christian churches went through a dark period comparable to that of the early church. Those who worked with the state or even – God forbid – dared to support communism were merely Stasi agents who had compromised the ‘true’ faith.

In order to offer very different perspective, I would like to tell the story of Dick Boer. In 1984, he was called to be a minister in Dutch Ecumenical Congregation in the DDR (Niederländische Ökumenische Gemeinde in der DDR). He was minister for eight years, until 1990, after the fall of the wall and the end of the DDR.

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Letters from the Road: Lenin on Miracles

‘In certain respects, a revolution is a miracle’ (Lenin 1921 [1965]-a: 153). Revolution = miracle; революция = чудо: this is the arresting formula I wish to explore. This formula is by no means an isolated occurrence in Lenin’s texts. So let us see how Lenin deploys the term, thereby enriching his sense of miracle.

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Lenin’s Interpretation of the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat

The telling feature of this interpretation (of Matthew 13: 24-30) is not that it is a passing allusion, but that it becomes a key mode for organising Lenin’s struggles with various opponents in the socialist movement. His interpretation is both close in spirit to the biblical parable and yet has its own twists. The similarities first: the crucial issue is discernment, separating the tares from the wheat, the former appearing in a negative register as one’s opponents and the latter belonging to one’s own side. Further, the tares must be pulled up or cut down, so that it becomes clear who is part of the wheat. And the task falls to the ‘reapers’, who come to scythe away the weeds for the sake of the wheat.

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Letters from China: Rethinking Religion and the State

To begin with, if there has never been a clearly identifiable religion of the state – as in Europe – or if China was not established in reaction to such religions – as with the USA – then what does that mean for the traditional and defining terminological opposition of religion and state? The way in which the narrative of political theory has been bequeathed to us in the West moves from inseparable connection to radical rupture. Or, it may trace a constant conflict between temporal popes and European emperors, only to lead to the humiliation of the pope’s temporal claims. Or, it may argue that all theories of the state are really secularised theologies (Schmitt). Yet all of this presupposes a strong contest between two powerful entities, which move back and forth between identity and difference. In a situation where there has never been such a struggle between two powerful entities, let alone a sustained and close alignment of religion and the state, the relation itself cannot be thought in these terms.

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2010 June 50a

Letters from China: On Imperial Tombs

Last week I spent a couple of days in the very appealing city of Nanjing. Although a city of seven million, the contrast with Shanghai was immediately noticeable. I had thought Shanghai was relatively laid-back, people taking their time about life. On arrival in Nanjing, I realised that I had […]

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2010 June 53a

Letters from China: Early Chinese Christian Socialism

Christianity in China: a story of early engagements, Nestorians in the seventh century, Roman Catholics in the sixteenth, Reformed Protestants with American haircuts and accents in the twentieth. Add to that the differences between the official and ‘underground’ churches (that is, not recognised by the state but known to everyone) and the picture is complete … Or is it?

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