God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church

The U.S. political landscape is changing once again… For anyone interested in the history of the Religious Right and how Social Conservatives have changed politics in the U.S., especially that of the G.O.P., I would refer you to the following articles and books. Where do or how do Catholics work into this equation?

The American Conservative
Bachmann Country – How evangelicals remade the Midwestern right

Crossing the Tea – Evangelicals are not a part of the Republican coalition—they are the coalition.

Dr. William T. Cavanaugh, Dr. D.G. Hart, and Frank Schaeffer have new books on this topic worth checking out.

Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church by William T. Cavanaugh

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism by D.G. Hart

Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway by Frank Schaeffer

Migrations of the Holy
Whether one thinks that “religion” continues to fade or has made a comeback in the contemporary world, there is a common notion that “religion” went away somewhere, at least in the West. But William Cavanaugh argues that religious fervor never left — it has only migrated toward a new object of worship. In Migrations of the Holy he examines the disconcerting modern transfer of sacred devotion from the church to the nation-state.

In these chapters Cavanaugh cautions readers to be wary of a rigid separation of religion and politics that boxes in the church and sends citizens instead to the state for hope, comfort, and salvation as they navigate the risks and pains of mortal life. When nationality becomes the primary source of identity and belonging, he warns, the state becomes the god and idol of its own religion, the language of nationalism becomes a liturgy, and devotees willingly sacrifice their lives to serve and defend their country.

Cavanaugh urges Christians to resist this form of idolatry, to unthink the inevitability of the nation-state and its dreary party politics, to embrace radical forms of political pluralism that privilege local communities — and to cling to an incarnational theology that weaves itself seamlessly and tangibly into all aspects of daily life and culture.


Table of Contents
1. “Killing for the Telephone Company”: Why the Nation-State Is Not the Keeper of the Common Good
2. From One City to Two: Christian Reimagining of Political Space
3. Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Identity and Mobility in a Global Age
4. Messianic Nation: A Christian Theological Critique of American Exceptionalism
5. How to Do Penance for the Inquisition
6. The Liturgies of Church and State
7. The Church as Political
8. The Sinfulness and Visibility of the Church: A Christological Exploration
9. A Politics of Vulnerability

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin provides an iconoclastic new history of the entrance of evangelical Christians into national American politics. Examining the key players of the “Religious Right” — Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and many others — D. G. Hart argues that evangelicalism is (and always has been) a bad fit with classic political conservatism.

Hart shows how the uneasy alliance of these unlikely political bedfellows has contributed directly to the fragmentation of today’s conservative movement. He contends that the ongoing burden of reconciling the progressive moral idealism of religious conservatives with the sober realism of political conservatives increasingly threatens their precarious partnership. Moreover, Hart suggests that evangelicals are unlikely to remain politically conservative in the long term unless they stop looking to big government to solve societal woes at home and abroad and at last embrace classic small-government conservatism for its own sake.

“A transition is under way in which the born-again Greatest Generation is giving way to a generation of evangelical baby-boomers every bit as unpredictable as their secular, Roman Catholic, or mainline Protestant counterparts. This generational succession suggests that the days of goodwill and harmonious relations between evangelicals and conservatives are coming to an end. Whether the final break will be on the order of an ugly divorce or simply a mutually-agreed-upon decision just to be friends, the tensions surfacing between evangelicals and the Right are reaching the threshold of irreconcilable differences.”
— from introduction

Related Links:
William T. Cavanaugh

Stanley Hauerwas

3 Responses to God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church

  • I recommend one of the latest videos from Michael Voris of Real Catholic TV:

    Red Church, Blue Church

  • I recently listened to these online audio messages addressed to Pope Benedict, essentially saying to him: “You are better than that.”

    What I like about these messages is that it reminds him that Serving God is not the same thing as serving one’s superiors, no matter what titles they hold.

    Here are a few excerpts:
    “…“This switch is why you confessed to a certain Austrian priest that two things weighed on your Soul. One of those events that you told the priest was about your mishandling of the Message of Fatima on June 26, 2000. You confessed to the Austrian priest that in the Fatima situation, “My hand was forced”…”

    “….My sources inform me that you wanted to reveal both the 4 page text of the vision and the one page of Mary’s prophecy, on June 26, 2000, but that Cardinal Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, vehemently disagreed with any thought of releasing the prophecy.”…”

    The entire series of messages can be found here:


    – J

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