No, I haven’t posted the sequel to that last reflection. Let the one who can write long theoretical blog posts while starting a Ph.D program cast the first stone, eh?
Anyway, I’ve been thinking, even if not writing, and I wonder what goods can come of Christian reflections on nation-state politics. Theology is supposed to be the disciplined reflection on the practices of the Church for the sake of edifying the Body. What would an analogous practice look like for a Christian reflecting on Caesar’s practices? I’m certain folks have written books on it, but if you’re reading this, you’d prefer what I can cook up here in front of a computer screen, so let me get to cookin’!
I’d say that the Christian’s role within an empire (and I mean that in as neutral a sense as is possible–I don’t think that England or Japan or any nation-state with an armed border is outside the category) is to join and remain a member of a counter-politics, an Ekklesia in the midst of the Imperium. I think that the eucharist and baptism, being transnational and transgenerational practices, stands as the faithfulness-embodying counterparts to the military parades and pledges to flags and other disciplines that make people believe in entities called “nations.” (As is often mentioned in conjunction with space exploration, the lines that we draw on maps don’t show up when one gets high enough above the planet’s surface.) From within that counter-politics, the Christian gains a critical perspective (one that acknowledges neither Jew/Gentile nor male/female nor Scythian/barbarian divisions in the ways that empires do) from which she or he might speak Truth.
That’s the framework from which I’m attempting to operate here. I believe that the Church, as God’s semiotic/martyrological/eschatological Body, can speak to nation-states the truths that their violence would otherwise blind them to. I’m intentionally comparing apples and oranges, churches and states, because I believe that the oranges would be better oranges if they tasted more like apples. (In reality, I’m more of an orange-eater myself.) Against the Machiavellian tendency to excuse nation-states and rulers of nation-states for being Machiavellian, I’ll claim that the Church, the real politics that stand in resistance to the travesty-politics of empire, stands as the standard by which nations now are judged.
Of course, my grasp of theology and my grasp of history in the age of nation-states are both tenuous. That won’t stop me. Instead, I’ll welcome critiques from historians and from theologians as I attempt to forge some kind of theoretical framework, knowing still that others have likely fashioned better ground rules. Such is the hubris of the blogger.
So for those who have waited for my next venture into economics and politics and theology… keep waiting. This was just a taste and some methodological musings. I’ll get back to the task at hand… but right now, I’ve got Shakespeare to read. Back anon.