Publication Date

2020

Abstract

[Extract] Some theorists argue that religion relates to politics in one of two ways: either it asserts its authority over the public sphere or it withdraws from the world in preference for spiritual concerns.1 In response, this special issue offers an expanded vision of what political theology can contribute to public reflection. Against those who appropriate divine authority in support of a given regime, Jewish and Christian negative theology argues that God is radically elusive. Where resistance movements sometimes struggle to transition from opposition to governance, negative theology models a critique that allows for robust affirmation. Although the tradition does not directly address democratic politics, it demonstrates that a commitment to radical transformation does not rule out the compromise required to enact concrete policies. In this way, negative theology offers resources for addressing the crises that currently threaten democratic politics in the West. The contributors to this special issue suggest that, in contrast to quietism and theocracy, negative political theology can contribute to the politics of pluralist democracies. By design, however, they do not speak with one voice. The authors met together in 2017 for four days of intensive conversation.2 The discussion of each paper was preceded by a prepared response, and the conversation that followed was energetic and unpredictable. At the end of each day we ate, drank, and talked together, and the community that formed enriched our conversations in turn. These fissiparous papers display the benefits of this process, and the response that follows each one conveys the push‐and‐pull of genuine collaboration. Because the authors differ in their understanding of negative theology, political theology, and disciplinary identity, this introduction does not attempt to harmonize the contents of this special issue. Instead, I will describe what I believe it offers the world.

School/Institute

Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

Document Type

Journal Article

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