Bernd Wannenwetsch

In contrast to the prevailing modern tendency to identify the political meaning of the church primarily or exclusively in respect of its relationship to the state or the influence it seeks to bring to bear on civil society, this essay explores the political nature of the church as a politeia in its own right (Wannenwetsch 2003). The church as a political entity finds its constitutive and restitutive act in worship, which is the central praxis of the "fellow citizens of the saints" (Eph. 2: 19). Though the political relevance of worship has oftentimes been overshadowed by other accounts of both worship and politics, it was an essential feature of the original self-understanding of the church from the New Testament on and has re-emerged throughout the history of Christian theology.

Historically and conceptually, the revolutionary novelty that the political worship of the church as politeia in its own right has brought about in the world of politics can be seen in its challenge to the reign of political antinomies such as public/private, freedom/necessity, and vita activa/vita contemplativa. To the extent those antinomies prevail in various guises, the critical capacity of the Christian political experience of worship will always remain relevant.

In order to understand the conceptual implications of "political worship," a twofold rediscovery is needed: on the one hand of the political dimension in liturgy, and on the other of the liturgical dimension of politics. The first section of this essay describes the historical and conceptual novelty of the Christian understanding of politics, as it was inherent in its liturgy. The second and third sections seek to provide a narrative account of the main threats to the political character of the worshipping church, of the struggle to formulate and reformulate this character in changing historical circumstances, and of exemplars of its rediscovery. Concluding remarks address the inherent liturgical character of politics where, according to Rom. 13, those in authority are known as God's "deacons," ordained to serve the people eis to agathon: toward the common good.

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