I’m drawing to the end of my church and state paper, still tentatively titled “Imagination and Exploration in Church and State Relations: Rowan Williams, Sharia, Social Space, Christianity, and America.” Of course I’ve got a few books out and in lieu of having twitter, I’ll use this blog: “David is surrounded by his Metz books. His heart feels strangely warmed.”
I’ve also got an excerpt here from near the end, where I’m juxtaposing State and Christian ideas of justice and peace. I’m still editing it, but this is a blog, so I don’t think it all has to be perfect. That is also the reason why I haven’t put in footnotes from the actual work. As far as content, its also a bit of a playful “screw you” to those who understand reconciliation in terms of regression. I’m looking at you Milbank and Bridges.
While reconciliation is not the operative lens for the state, it is for Jesus and the church, among other foundational, interrelated politics like the economy of grace and forgiveness. However, the divine economy of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation are not limp wristed, passive attempts at mediating relationships. Importantly, Christian peace and justice also does not trivialize the rift or violation, instead it takes seriously the violation, the people, and the redemption. Human involvement in grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation on this side of the parousia does not disappear transgression, as if it never happened, but transforms relationships today into how they will eschatologically be – swords beaten into plowshares and the lion laying down with the lamb. Even much of liberation theology can be read this way, as it seeks to redeem people, oppressor and oppressed, and their oppressive relationship.
In fact, even the church today as the mission of the basileia of God does not achieve a thoroughgoing justice throughout the globe. It is a participant in what can be achieved locally throughout the globe – in the interruption of the way of death by God – before the parousia. Thus, reconciliation today is not particularly retrogressive. The Jews, homosexuals, and handicapped killed in the Holocaust and the Germans who designed and implemented the programs are both dead and beyond the reach of the church (as is the case in 9/11 or some of Darfur or some of Iraq, etc.). We live in the aftermath of dead, irreconcilable generations and only God can enact a full redemption at the end of time; nevertheless, the church has plenty of redemptive work to do today. In fact, to stop death in its tracks is the key to redemptive work; the past will not tyrannize the present or the future. Despite the shortcoming of the church, it is formed by the memory of Christ and eschatological hope and can therefore seek a true sense of justice and peace; the ecclesial vision is comprehensive and holistic. It attempts to live the interruptive action of crucified and resurrected grace that declares the end of death’s sting. Death will not have the last word; it shall be stopped, interrupted this very day, so as to make way for divine peace – the flourishing of people and relationships. The church, rightly understood even in its brokenness, seeks to embody the in-breaking of the basileia; if we act right, if we live up to our call to witness, we can participate in making space where the basileia breaks in and creates a social space of reconciliation, of redemption, of peace. It is this Christological power embodied in social existence that the State in its individualist anthropology cannot rightly account for. With these Christian relational definitions of justice and peace in mind, Paul’s exhortation for Christians to settle relational breaks among themselves – and so to be the “witness to the inauguration of the kingdom of Christ” – is intelligible.
The difference between State and Christian notions of peace and justice should make clear to the reader that Christianity attempts to go far beyond the State in the ecclesial endeavors to rightly remember Jesus (specifically anamnesis of the Christ). Thus, when reconciliation is achieved in lieu of, say, litigation, something better, something holistic and healthy has been achieved. Supported by Rowan Williams’ argument, this seeking of the global common good through prophetic reconciliation should be recognized as legitimate and helpful. The social body of Christianity, the church, and its jurisprudence should be recognized for the sake of the faith’s adherents (who are also citizens of the State), to avoid an oppressive exercise of law, and to embrace those who seek, and arguably achieve, the common good by peaceful means.
Before moving on, I want to make very clear that this understanding of equal jurisprudence and transformative accommodation is not to be understood within the categories of something like a chaplain in the United States army. Christian jurisprudence crosses the borders of human categories because it is relational. It is not to be coerced to enable the status quo as it seeks to continue oppression, of say, the Native Americans in the United States, rather it aims to achieve reconciliation that interrupts the abusive relationships and works towards a flourishing peace. The church is not to be behind the soldiers enabling them kill and absolving them of guilt, but in the crossfire and in the trenches, working for reconciliation. The church in its very being inherently works for this global common good. This is the natural political outworking of ecclesial/communal, ethical embodiment of its memory of Jesus that has been stripped by the State, as the church has been fragmented by the monopolistic jurisprudence of the State.