Design of the new UChicago library. Ugh.
Daniel asked about a book list of ethics and politics works of the not-so-theological variety for those in political theology. I take this to be a book list both about people who at least are not theologians and/or works that may not even consider the place of theology. It covers political theory, continental philosophy, and a few other subjects, but it certainly is not exhaustive — in fact it may really be a poor introduction to people and writings I think are important to know and work with or against. If you’ve got any books to add, please do.
Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince
GWF Hegel (specifically these editions): Phenomenology of Spirit, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion One-Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827, and Lectures on the Philosophy of World History
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: ‘The Social Contract’ and Other Later Political Writings
Karl Marx: just start with The Marx-Engels Reader (Second Edition) — it has Marx’s important essays on Hegel and Feuerbach, among other writings. Of course there is Capital starting with Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy (Penguin Classics)
Carl Schmitt: The Concept of the Political, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, Political Theology II: The Myth of the Closure of any Political Theology, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol, Roman Catholicism and Political Form, Legality and Legitimacy, and of course Constitutional Theory
An edited volume by Chantal Mouffe on Carl Schmitt: The Challenge of Carl Schmitt
Walter Benjamin, aka anti-Schmitt: Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, an excellent commentary by Michael Löwy Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”, and of course, if you have the time and the interest, The Arcades Project
Michel Foucault: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction, and The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language are all well known, and certainly worth reading, but I find more interesting and helpful his lectures at the College de France: Security, Territory, Population, The Birth of Biopolitics, The Government of Self and Others
Slavoj Žižek: The Parallax View, The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? with Milbank and Davis, and The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity
The publication of Harink’s Paul and Philosophers conference that I was at some years back: Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision: Critical Engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Zizek and Others
Jean Baudrillard: Simulacra and Simulation
Chantal Mouffe: Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics with Ernesto Laclau, The Democratic Paradox, On the Political, and The Return of the Political
Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri:
I just gave a paper at Calvin’s Religion and Politics Symposium. There I was asked about books on political theology by a political science phd student. I thought this list might do well on the internet too, so here is a short list that I believe would introduce well, but certainly not exhaust, political theology for someone in political science.
Editors William Cavanaugh and Peter Scott’s The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology
Michael Kirwan’s Political Theology: An Introduction
And here are more books for further reading if you’re interested:
Systematicians, Ethicists, and Political Theologians:
John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus
Stanley Hauerwas and Rom Cole’s Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian and Stanley Hauerwas’s Naming the Silences
William Cavanaugh’s Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict, and Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ
Delores S. Williams’s Sisters in the Wilderness
Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology
Traci C. West’s Disruptive Christian Ethics
Jon Sobrino’s No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays
James Cone’s God of the Oppressed
Lee Griffith’s The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God
Editors Creston Davis, John Milbank, and Slavoj Zizek’s Theology and the Political: The New Debate
Joerg Rieger, Jun Mo Sung, and Nestor Miguez’s Beyond the Spirit of Empire
Richard Bauckham’s The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically
J. G. McConville’s God and Earthly Power: An Old Testament Political Theology
Walter Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good
Theology, Philosophy, and the History of Thought:
Editors Cole and Smith’s The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory
Michael Gillespie’s The Theological Origins of Modernity
In the past few years, I have made a point to keep track of introductory books primarily because, from time to time, people ask about books to read. And with future prospects for teaching, I pay even more attention to introductory books — particularly on topics that seem to rather misunderstood, like political theology.
Now, I’ve noticed a few different trends in how to introduce a subject. One way is to do something like a reader. The famous Blackwell Companion to Political Theology edited by Peter Scott and William Cavanaugh follows this route and function at times like a reference volume. There are obvious perks to this method: each chapter is written by a specialist and highly informative concerning its focus — be it person, topic, or movement. However, at times, such an introduction sometimes seems to miss conveying that a conversation is at hand and how different schools of thought interact, build off each other, etc. Also, introductions like Blackwell’s are very long, and for some, can be difficult to read through period, much less feel like one has a grip on the scholarly conversation. Simply put, the point of an introduction is to get the big picture and encyclopedic introductions do not always meet this need.
Now, there is another way: something like an informed conversation-lecture. This kind of introduction is incredibly difficult to do well: one must balance space, intellectual depth, readability — all the while conveying accurately the complex and multiple conversations, concerns, and stories. Until recently, I had felt that the contemporary discussion in political theology lacked such a volume. That is until I ran into Michael Kirwan’s Political Theology: An Introduction released last year.
Kirwan has written an excellent book. I have considered going back through his book to outline it here and list those who are given a voice, so as to show you how much ground he really covers, but this has proved more difficult that it appears. Crucial to writing such an excellent book is interweaving a multiplicity of voices, and this he does so from page one. To do him justice in summary, I simply do not have the time — he has covered much ground — and nor do I think I could faithfully convey the tone of the book. The way he engages material reminded me of the better conversations I have with professors in their offices: I had the feeling that I was in Kirwan’s office listening to him explain the field. His engagement with material was as if he pulling books from his shelves, showed me his worn copy, and talked about what was inside, all the while gesturing to books he already mentioned now piled on his desk, or ones we would get to still on the shelves.
Any teacher looking to touch on political theology should include this book in their class. Anyone looking for a reading list -– who they should read next or at least be aware of — should read this book. And just as important, those looking for why to read someone included in the book should read this book as well. As Kirwan makes connections between thinkers, he invariably provides answers to “Why” questions: primarily “Why should I care about so-and-so when I am concerned with this other conversation?” So not only does this book simply broaden one’s horizons, but challenges the reader to stretch themselves in the future — to read someone who initially seemed beyond their interests. This everyone needs, no matter how old they are.
I do not believe that the Blackwell Companion removes the need for Kirwan’s book, and vice versa. These two books together would set the interested reader on a strong path. But people already know about Blackwell’s Companion. So the conclusion here? Go read Kirwan’s book. You will not be disappointed.
If I were Kirwan’s Jesuit superior, I would lock him in an office all day long and order him to write many more introductions like this. This, among many other reasons, is probably why I am not his Jesuit superior. The University of London is lucky to have him.
In case you live in Portland, or the general north west, the best bookstore in Portland has a new webpage here: http://windowspdx.wordpress.com/.
Sure, I worked there for a time, and you could say I bought my way into that job (yeah, I bought a lot of books), but still, good job, and a better bookstore.
Right. So I’ve been busy. This is one reason why:
Now I can put most of my books in one place. Wheee.
P.S. Nerd conundrum: How does one organize lots of books? Oh the ways are legion!
I’ve been cursing French the past few weeks. I am sure I’ll curse it for a few more, partly because I’m taking a class in French and partly because the class has pushed aside nearly all my reading, much less theology reading (save for The Monstrosity of Christ).
Some of the literary books I am eager to get to after French I’ve known about since undergrad. Two specific ones are A Life of Jesus and Silence by Shusaku Endo. However, I suppose I should make time to finally read Gilead as well. And maybe this summer, I’ll finally get to the Russian novelists — yeah, how’s that for a confession? Perhaps this will be a summer of pure catch up for literature. The rest of the reading list is, of course, an assortment of theology books.
I am curious, what books are you reading this summer? And are there any I should consider that makes your heart three sizes bigger when you read it?
I’ve compiled a list of books that aims for a range from semi-popular to semi-technical covering systematics, bible, ethics, politics, history, and even a couple novels. The purpose is to be a bit of a challenge, but not too much, I suppose. This list is meant to be combined with other lists for an organization that has been asked for a list of books they find interesting, helpful, etc.
Please let me know of any books you think should be included. For instance, I don’t have many books by women and only a few books on race, economics, and media. And now in the order I pulled the books off my shelves:
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus and Community
Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope
Lieven Boeve, God Interrupts History: Theology in a Time of Upheaval
Johann Baptist Metz, The Emergent Church
Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology
Jon Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays
Archbishop Oscar Romero, Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements
Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You
Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way
James Cone, Risks of Faith
Ivan Petrella, The Future of Liberation Theology
Alain Epp Weaver, States of Exile: Visions of Diaspora, Witness, and Return
Chris Heubner, A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity
Tripp York, The Purple Crown: The Politics of Martyrdom
Richard Church, First be Reconciled: Challenging Christians in the Courts
Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown
Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character
Stanley Hauerwas, The Hauerwas Reader
Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament
Emilio Gentile, Politics as Religion
Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology
Albert J. Raboteau, A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History
Michael Budde and Robert Brimlow, Christianity Incorporated
J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account
William Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist
William Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination
G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Lee Griffith, The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God
Nathan Kerr, Christ, History, and the Apocalyptic
Arthur McGill, Death and Life
Thomas Merton, Love and Living
Cornel West, Race Matters
N. T. Wright,
John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus
John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom
C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context
Daniel Izuzquiza, Rooted in Jesus Christ: Toward a Radical Ecclesiology
Gabriel Santos, Redeeming the Broken Body: Church and State After Disaster
Ed. Brent Laytham, God is Not: Religious, Nice, “One of Us,” An American, A Capitalist
Below are books of promise that I haven’t gotten to:
John Colwell, The Rhythm of Doctrine
Ed. by Randi Rashkover and C. C. Pecknold, Liturgy, Time, and the Politics of Redemption
Ed. By Meg Cox, Cynicism and Hope: Reclaiming Discipleship in a Postdemocratic Society
Ed. Brent Laytham, God Does Not…: Entertain, Play Matchmaker, Hurry, Demand Blood, Cure Every Illness
Mike over at Catholic Anarchy has alerted his readers to a new Cavanaugh book coming out in August from Oxford University Press. It is titled The Myth of Religous Violence Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. Amazon gives the following description:
The idea that religion has a dangerous tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies, and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of religion to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East. William T. Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom by examining how the twin categories of religion and the secular are constructed. A growing body of scholarly work explores how the category ‘religion’ has been constructed in the modern West and in colonial contexts according to specific configurations of political power. Cavanaugh draws on this scholarship to examine how timeless and transcultural categories of ‘religion and ‘the secular’ are used in arguments that religion causes violence. He argues three points: 1) There is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion. What counts as religious or secular in any given context is a function of political configurations of power; 2) Such a transhistorical and transcultural concept of religion as non-rational and prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of Western society; 3) This myth can be and is used to legitimate neo-colonial violence against non-Western others, particularly the Muslim world.
I’m eagerly looking forward to it.
This post, an introduction to Liberation theology, has been churning in me for weeks, ever since I saw The Incredible Hulk in theatres and knowing how misunderstood liberation theology is on the popular level (and sometimes even on the academic level as well). Admittedly, the Hulk movie was first and foremost a commodity by Hollywood, as Wood correctly surmises. However, I could not, and cannot still, get past the correlation between movies like The Hulk and Hellboy and Liberation theology; the Hulk’s body struck me half way through the film. In fact, because there is such a strong and specific correlation, I began to wonder if movies like The Hulk and Hellboy could do something that science fiction and fantasy has done for years — use a different story to talk about something very real. I’m one of those people who must, and I mean must analyze what they watch, and generally I do it out loud, much to the frustration of those around me. I was able to keep my mouth shut for the movie, thankfully, so instead, it has become a blog post. So, below, I’ll attempt to note some very specific parallels between their different bodies than ours, our experience of the film, and liberation theology.
Quite simply and obviously, the Hulk and Hellboy have very different bodies than us. Now let that sentence sit. Believe it or not, it is pregnant with meaning, just as pregnant with meaning as the sentence, “In this culture, Britney Spears is famous.” To rush past this observation about flesh is to short circuit Hellboy’s and the Hulk’s existence. To rush would do injustice to the trouble and pain it takes for them to live because others find their body revolting or something to be feared.
In its most basic essence, this is generally what liberation theology seeks to deal with: a creation of God that lives a suffering existence because of other creations of God, albeit, perverted creations. Oppression is the word. Oppressed and oppressor are the names. The relationship it seeks to address is oppressive, abusive, perverted. Hellboy, near the end of Hellboy 1, summarizes the conflict between his body and the fear people have of it, saying to the female protagonist that Hellboy has feelings for, “I wish I could change this” while gesturing to his face. And earlier in the movie, in fact in Hellboy’s introduction to the audience, it is mentioned that Hellboy files his horns down to fit in. Hellboy has learned to feel ashamed of his own body. I dare to venture that Hellboy was told this — the vault that encapsulates his room certainly sends a signal. Likewise the Hulk is rejected because of who he is. His body itself is considered dangerous, and therefore potential for the army, but it must be controlled. However, the Hulk is not allowed to control it on his own will, rather it is the army that seeks to control him — not only is the Hulk’s body an enemy when not in shackles, but his very effort to do right is rejected.
This fear, control, and oppression has happened and it still happens in our story. Liberation theology seeks to address this. Liberation theology seeks to help the oppressed, telling them that their humanity, that their body, is valued and loved by the one who created them. The oppressed are not abnormal, nor should they ought to feel ashamed of who they are. While responsibility is necessary for the oppressed, they are oppressed because there is an oppressor who seeks to determine their value and significance in a harmful way — an oppressive way. The oppressed cannot and ought not be blamed for the actions of the oppressor. The oppressed therefore need not stand for the abuse. They can be liberated from their circumstances and it is God who knows their suffering as well, after all, Jesus was crucified. Jesus was tortured. Jesus was lynched.
However, Liberation theology is not one sided. It seeks to attend to both parties because it focuses on a relationship. Like the oppressed, the oppressor must be liberated from their oppressive ways. The oppressors are doing harm to themselves as they do harm to creation. They have been perverted so as to come to a point that oppresses other aspects of God’s creation. The oppressors need help, they need liberation. In The Hulk and Hellboy one can see this as well, although each story treats the antagonists, or antagonist to become a protagonist, differently.
Lastly, Liberation theology does not see a clean cut between oppressor and oppressed. Instead, Liberation theology seeks to address reality, that no victim or victimizer are only all good or all bad. Rather, there is the mix of both in each, but nevertheless, Liberation theology recognizes that while individuals may have a complex mixture of good and bad within, social evils like racism, sexism, etc. are somewhat cut and dry, but which everyone is guilty of, at the very least on the basis that our society is racist, sexist, etc. and we are a part of that society.
Hopefully this served as a helpful, although small, introduction to liberation theology. I think I left room for the reader to watch the movies, if they care to, or continue on in their life reflecting on the implications of liberation theology.
As for those who may want to read deeper, here is a short book list of important books by Liberation theologians:
James Cone, God of the Oppressed (or his shorter and more accessible, but very, very good for grasping Cone quickly, Risks of Faith)
Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation
Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology
Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk
Delores Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness
Ada, Maria Isasi-Diaz, En La Lucha
Robert E. Goss, Queering Christ
Larry L. Rasmussen, Earth Community, Earth Ethics
In other nearly unrelated news, I can’t wait for Hellboy 2. I absolutely love, love, love Guillermo Del Toro’s use of colors and wide shots.
Oh, and Wood has another great post on what I consider to be a near worthless movie series, Star Wars. Yeah, you read it right.
About two hours before I left from home, at the end of this last Christmas break, a brother of mine asks me if I have some books to recommend. Admittedly I was shocked – He didn’t read much last time I checked. I checked again, yep, still not much of a reader. Right. So he wants a book or two to read? Now this is a challenge. I can’t overwhelm him, but he is asking for a book. It has to be at a high school reading level, but still call him deeper. The language needs to be simple, but maintain his curiosity. Over all, I am unsure as to what he really thinks theology is. I just hope he isn’t expecting wrote memory with the “objectivity” of Grudemn or Erickson, but in pill form.
With the help of Halden and some others in the book business, I decided on two books: Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp (think Yoder but in easier language) and Simply Christian by N. T. Wright (think Mere Christianity but for Christians).
Hopefully this will get him thinking about his goal to fly and build planes through the air force and the theological implications of the Christian life. Then again, theology is so much bigger than designing bombs, and so ultimately, I am looking for conversational books that will draw him deeper into thinking critically/theologically about his life now and in the future. I think Camp and Wright fit that well. I just hope it sticks.
Does anyone else have other suggestions? I’m still somewhat at a loss. This seems like a particularly hard audience to find a good book for.
Ha! The semester is over for me, as of… ten minutes ago. One word I would use to describe it? Ugh. Academically I’m doing good, but still, sometimes a semester is just kinda lame, then again, it might have something to do with Ph.D. applications and personal circumstances going to hell. Anyways, I’m done. Woo hoo!
Now for Christmas break, I’m planning on reading these books:
For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann
The Violence of Love: The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J.
Romero: A Life by James R. Brockman
State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben, trans. by Kevin Attell
Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty by Carl Schmitt, trans. by George Schwab
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World by Elaine Scarry
Eschatology and Hope by Anthony Kelly
Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought by Eugene McCarraher
I could spend hours looking at and living in these libraries. Preeeetty.
As I try to work out faith and life, I keep finding holes and flaws in American Christianity and so I attempt to fill the gaps or correct the theological warping. Some ways I change are through theological constructions and seeking out the conclusions (which is more often than not, other people). But there are also works outside of Christian theology where one can find rest.
Finding places of rest cannot be underestimated. Some places are between the hurting human and the divine, but there are also other places that deal with the situation of pain but are reflections by humans on these human experiences and sometimes may indirectly lead us back to the divine.
I have found some rather helpful, “current” works and figured I would mention a couple of them for the benefit of those who are searching who are likewise in pain. But by all means, anyone with a suggestion please leave a comment.
In the middle of this past August, Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet was finally released on dvd and I got myself a copy. I was already a huge fan of the play and this movie’s interpretation ever since high school, but now I find this work incredibly helpful, especially disc 1. Father murdered by the brother. Brother now becomes king and very quickly marries widowed queen. Son Hamlet is also rejected by Ophelia, while he reals from the parental problems and whether or not Hamlet will take revenge. And in all this, Branaugh does an excellent job.
Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier is nearly 600 pages of mourning, in all its fluctuating manic glory. You can pick it up and start reading almost anywhere and put it down whenever you want. There is no push to read an argument or finish a plot, but instead to see that the fellow anguished exist in highs and lows as well. This is Jewish grief expertly written. And all the heartache aside, Wieseltier tells some really good history stories within the text, as he searches his Jewish tradition.
And there is always some melancholic music. I suggest Brahms Cello Sonatas.
Edit: If you, the reader, have any suggestions for something fairly theological, but still half way accessible, by all means leave your suggestions.
I wrote a book list for a friend of mine awhile back. It turns out that he wants a little more theology and that Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination is really giving him a lot to chew on. The argument is simple, but the implications are vast.
Anyways, I figured if one was curious and willing enough to brave some theological language, I recommend these following books for those who’s world has been turned upside down by Cavanaugh. The thing is, while his book tears down one’s relationship to the world, it doesn’t build up much of an idea of the church beyond the metaphor about the body of Christ, hence some of the books I’m recommending to now begin the constructive task of imagining what Christianity should look like.
Torture and Eucharist. This is if you really want to give Cavanaugh a shot, and I think you would if Theopolitical Imagination really did do a number on you. Cavanaugh spends more time in Torture and Eucharist on the church, mainly because the book is bigger, still its good times. And it’ll keep you busy; its not so much harder to read, just bigger.
If you want something to screw your head around farther than you thought it could go, try Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope and The Crucified God. He writes… well, there is a specific name for it, but its basically a flow of thought style. He is repeats himself in a spiral like way, reviewing and expounding on points multiple times. The language might be a stretch but if you can work up to it, it’ll blow your mind. Certainly he isn’t perfect, or even the best to voice what he does, but its still, importantly, rather accessible. It’ll give you the future back instead of leaving it all to those dispensationalists with the left behind series. Moltmann will realign how the church should orient itself with a Christological dialectic – a suffering Christ and hopeful, resurrected Christ. Welcome towards moving to a real eschatology, just don’t stop with Moltmann.
Griffith on Terror will continue to work with Cavanaugh on how messed up the nation-state is.
God is Not will also continue that sort of thing, but cover more topics than just nationalism and so you’ll see more implications of what it means to be about the church.
Hauerwas’ A Community of Character will help one envision what relationships in the church ought to look like.
Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, while unfinished will just keep the themes already established moving.
Those books are quite a bit bigger than the stuff I previously recommended. Also some are more language intense, but they’re all worth it. I also have a bit of a solution for the harder books to follow, theological dictionaries: Essential Theological Terms, Handbook of Theological Terms, and Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms all work fairly well. Choose your poison, or drink from each one if you want. I own all three and they helped a great deal when I “started.”