Sunday, February 15, 2009

Theopolitical Imagination

February 15, 2009

I have not been writing blog entries too much recently as I have been preparing for one of the occasional meetings of a continuing education group of parish pastors who read and write theology. The theme for this year is ‘Allegiance and Apologetics’ or how the church can be relevant in a ‘Post Christian Age’. Our primary texts for the year are Daniel and Augustine’s Confessions. The other primary test for this meeting is William Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination. I have been writing an introduction for the group.

In essence he looks at the development of the modern nation-state as something that instead of saving us from the wars of religion, rather dominates religion rendering it ‘private space’. He argues that the dominance of religion by the state has actually increased conflicts over power, further exacerbated by globalization and multi-national entities. This gross over simplification of his complex argument get s him where he wants to be which is arguing that the Church is not like (and should not be like) a multi-national corporation. The Church contains the universal in the local celebration of the Eucharist.

I find this quite helpful in thinking about the current state of Anglicanism and what I have understood to be our long standing commitment to allowing relationship to shape doctrine when push comes to shove, rather than by demanding intellectual assent to doctrinal propositions as a precondition to relationship. This could also be expressed as a commitment to being shaped more by liberating story than liberating ideas while fully recognizing the importance and interrelatedness of both emphases. There is something about our discussions of sexuality that make that emphasis worth discarding in favor of a more centralized (and juridical) ‘authority’ in the Anglican Communion, allegedly necessary in order to ensure ‘communion’ and argued for by primates some of whom are currently unwilling to gather at the Lord’s table with other primates with whom they disagree. I, for one, resist this move, and look to local celebrations of the Eucharist worldwide to undermine this well meant but likely misguided effort to find unity at the expense of a scapegoat population.

I reconnected with an old acquaintance this week who is a natural political conservative and who is ‘hanging on to the Episcopal church by his fingernails’. He likes his local clergy but not the ’national leadership’. I responded that I hope he was able stay with his church, that our conflicts (always claimed as the ‘last straw’ by some are ephemeral, and that tricky conversations are always best held by people who have engaged common prayer around the Lord’s Table.

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