Christian Theological Arguments Supportive of an Abrahamic Theopolitics

There is insufficient space here to show how these scriptural readings may underwrite a broader, Jewish theological argument on behalf of Abrahamic theo-politics. In the context of this Companion to Political Theology, however, it seems fitting to close by sampling the contributions some of the book's previous chapters could make to Christian theological arguments on behalf of this theo-poli-tics.4 While these chapters are all devoted to Christian-specific theo-politics, and to theo-politics articulated once-and-for-all-times, I will suggest that some of their claims may, nonetheless, also contribute to an Abrahamic theo-politics within the specific context of this third epoch of salvation history. In order to offer this suggestion, I adopt the axiom that a Christian-specific eschatology does not necessarily contradict Jewish- and Muslim-specific eschatologies, nor a more generally Abrahamic eschatology. To be sure, within the logic of the first two epochs of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian theological history, I could assume, to the contrary, that all these eschatologies contradict and compete and that this competition supersedes any overlapping, Abrahamic vision. But, since this vision is situated only in this third epoch, and since there is no reason to assume that eschatologies are leveled by some universal law of excluded middle, I see no compelling reason to adopt the latter axiom, and I will stick with the former. In these terms, Abrahamic theo-politics shares these (among other) features of Christian theo-politics.

A Bible-based and, in this sense, a story-based, narrative theology

In Robert Jenson's words, Christian theo-politics belongs to "a dramatic story [that] can truly be told about reality as a whole" (Jenson, ch. 28, p. 1). For Stanley Hauerwas, Christian reality is thus "narratively constructed" (Reno, ch. 21, p. 7).

Life led according to this story is always theological and always political. Theo-politics is labor offered to redeem humanity

In Jenson's words, "the Scriptures' eschatology . . . are directly and almost exclusively a discourse about politics" (p. 1). For Bonhoeffer, in Hauerwas' reading, Christian theology is always political: "sanctification ... is the church's politics" (ch. 10, p. 5), since "it is essential to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ that it occupies space within the world" (p. 8). We have already noted that, for Abra-hamic theo-politics, religion becomes the theo-political labor of redeeming Cain and repairing the world he has polluted. In Hauerwas' terms, the scriptural story nurtures Christian virtue, and virtue, as I understand Reno and Hauerwas, is our capacity to engage in this labor (Reno, ch. 21, 5ff.) In Walter Bruggemann's terms, "Israel is attentive to social pain as a datum of the politics that is evoked in the public process of power" (ch. 1, p. 6). This means, as I read it, that Israel's prophetic religion is to remove the source of this pain, which is ultimately the violence of Cain.

This redemptive labor is always eschatological. And the Kingdom of God for which we labor is also always already present among us as the immediate motive, end, and guide for our labors

In Jenson's words, "Christians and Jews are working for the end, or eschaton of all history (ch. 28, p. 1). The "kingdom of Heaven" is the end of Abrahamic as well as of Christian theo-politics. Abrahamic theo-politics is, indeed, an escha-tological vision of the unified kingdom of Heaven, operating here and now as the rule and condition of our redemptive labor. This kingdom is here in Shabbat, in prayer, in blessing, in communion, in the life of church and synagogue and mosque, and only because it is here can we be led by it to perform our repara-tive work. God pushes us by way of the present kingdom and pulls by way of the future kingdom. The Tent of Abraham is erected to serve as one meantime instrument of the kingdom. In Brueggemann's words, the eschaton was (and is) present here and now in the political imagination through which Israel creates and labors for "an alternative world of justice, mercy, peace, hope, and fidelity" (ch. 1, p. 13).

Abraham's call is for all time and on behalf of redeeming the entire world

For Jenson, the call to Abraham "was not to found a new cult. . . , but to perform an historical act with political significance . . . : the creation of a new nation with a specific relation to other nations, that she would be their 'blessing'" (ch. 28, p. 2). In terms we used earlier, Abrahamic religion is no longer an effort to perfect Cain's offerings, but an effort to redeem his being on earth. In Brueggemann's words, it is illustrated in Israel's efforts, under Nehemiah, to "stop this taking of interest, [to] restore . . . their fields, their vineyards" (ch. 1, p. 11).

Augustine's distinction of a city of God and city of the world does not reflect a dyadic theo-politics; it responds to a dyadic secular politics. In these terms, his distinction serves the eschatology and practice of Abrahamic as well as Christian theo-politics

As interpreted by Jenson and by Jean Elshtain, Augustine's doctrine of the two cities is surprisingly pertinent to Abrahamic theo-politics. The division of the two cities appears dyadic only from the perspective of worldly politics, for which both the earthly and heavenly cities are crafted by humans: political leaders on the one hand, priests on the other. From the perspective of the city of God, however, which is the present kingdom of heaven, no law of excluded middle can separate earth and heaven, but only the recalcitrant human will. The earthly city is not contrary to the heavenly city by definition, but only if its citizens refuse to give God a place in their hearts and institutions. In Jenson's words, "God intends a res publica... , with sovereignty and citizenship and mutual duties: . . . [one that] must co-exist with creation." It is only Rome's choice to pursue a politics that is as much at odds with creation as with the divine legislator, so that is therefore "destabilized" by its own "inner contradiction" (ch. 28, pp. 5, 6). In Elshtain's words, Augustine's city "creates barriers to the absolutizing and sacralizing of any political arrangement" (ch. 3, p. 11), condemning the "lust for dominion that distorts the human personality" (p. 13). Like "God's city," Abrahamic theo-politics also comes to resist and subvert the violence of Rome's politics: that is, of the totalizing politics of any tower-nation or tower-empire.

Hauerwas notes that, for Bonhoeffer, "the Creator does not turn from the fallen world but rather God deals with humankind in a distinctive way: 'He made them cloaks.'" For Abrahamic theo-politics, these cloaks become the words of the Noahide covenant, through which humanity is to repair its own troubled creatureliness. Bonhoeffer has a term for the distinction: the words represent the "orders of preservation" (or, later, "the mandates"), through which humanity is to be led away from the "distorted passions" and violent politics of the "orders of creation" (ch. 10, p. 9).

The point, I take it, for both Augustine and Bonhoeffer, is that God alone redeems humanity from its errant creatureliness: "I and not an angel" (as God speaks in the Passover Haggadah; and Brueggemann, ch. 1, p. 8). That is why God's presence must itself join CHAI participants together under Abraham's Tent.

In their empirical life in this world, both Israel and the church display inner tensions and divisions that reflect the dyadic divisions of the secular city. Both Abrahamic and Christian theo-politics labor against tendencies of any of the houses of God to succumb to the temptations of Cain

In Brueggemann's words, ancient Israel's theo-politics was marked by deep tensions between "centralized political authority" and "local authority," between "haves" and "have nots," between autonomous polities and imperial regimes, and generally between "covenantalism" and "totalism" or accommodation to it (ch. 1, pp. 1, 2, 9). This, he suggests, is not a creative tension, but an inner battle between the direct influence of God's word - displayed through Israel's redemptive imagination - and submission to the temptations of Cain. For Hauerwas, this tension is reflected within the church, in the opposition of Jesus' story to the power of Constantinianism (Reno, ch. 21, p. 8). For Abrahamic theo-politics, this is the tension between the twin temptations of totalizing secularism/totalizing orthodoxy and the redeeming work of Abraham's covenant, what Bonhoeffer calls sanctified politics - provided, that is, that this "covenant" or this "sanctified politics" refers to the divine presence in our theo-politics, and not to our own conceptualizations of it or desires for it, no matter how well intentioned these may be.

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