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Church, Gospel, and Empire

Church, Gospel, and Empire

How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West

by Roger Haydon Mitchell
Publication Date: 15/11/2011
RRP  $51.70 $51.00
Synopsis: This book addresses the apparent dislocation of the church and theology from the socio-cultural mainstream and attempts to recover its counterpolitical voice. It argues that early in ecclesiastical history, the tradition's founding and constituent principles were betrayed by a complicity with the prevailing politics of sovereignty that has continued to this day. Following the contours of contemporary theologians who explain the dislocation in terms of a fall in early modernity, an initial subsumption of transcendence by sovereignty is proposed. The genealogy of this fall is then explored in four historical studies focusing on the theopolitical transformations of law, violence, and appeasement from their beginnings in the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea to their culmination in the commodification of life itself. The trajectory is traced through seminal soteriological developments such as the crusade theology of Pope Innocent III, the inversion of the corpus verum and the corpus mysticum, and the conjunction of sovereignty and capital in the mysterious currency of the Bank of England.
The narrative culminates in the seemingly paradoxical concurrence of the politics of biopower and the so-called century of the Holy Spirit. Drawing on a radical substratum intimated in the case studies, the final section develops an innovative christological configuration of kenosis or what is termed 'kenarchy.' This provides a re-imagining of the divine distinct from its implication with imperial sovereignty, which could allow theology to make a more effective contemporary political intervention. Endorsement: "Ambitious, confident in controlling the argument and the evidence, Mitchell's genealogy of church and empire, sovereignty and transcendence, is as important as it is controversial. A radical Christianity announces itself as a subaltern project of resistance and hope. The book lays down a challenge of enormous audacity to previous accounts of secularism as the product of modernity, offering a new political conception of the genesis of modernity. It is a major contribution to contemporary Christian political theology, in fact to Christian dogmatics that takes the incarnation of a loving God seriously. Read it, and you'll see why."
-Graham Ward University of Manchester, England "Roger Mitchell has provided the reader with an original, wide-ranging, thoroughly researched and very well-written critical study of the emergence of Western Christendom as the expression of the theologically perverse assimilation of imperial sovereignty. In close dialogue with the major theologians and thinkers of past and present, Mitchell develops a powerful argument for the Christian praxis of 'kenarchy,' a proposal that passes beyond both imperial theology and the reduced Christology of kenosis. Moreover, this important book is underlaid by a lifetime of pioneer Christian ministry." -Richard H. Roberts University of Stirling, Scotland "What is the relationship between Christian theology and political sovereignty? Why has the Church consistently allied itself with temporal political power from the Roman Empire to contemporary capitalism? And how might we imagine a different kind of theological politics that resists the lure of empire, sovereignty, and power?
In this powerful, controversial, and passionately argued book, Roger Haydon Mitchell offers a genealogy of political theology--its past, its present, and, most importantly, its future. It is a study that will be of interest to anyone working in the fields of theology and politics." -Arthur Bradley Lancaster University, England Author Biography: Roger Haydon Mitchell directs a charitable trust that advises the church on negotiating social change. For the last six years he has been a postgraduate researcher in Religious Studies at the University of Lancaster. He is a member of the Society for the Study of Theology.
Religion: general
Publication Date:
Wipf & Stock Publishers
Country of origin:
United States
Dimensions (mm):

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