Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness
Gushee, David P., Journal of Church and State
Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness. By Luke Bretherton. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 272pp. $89.95 cloth, $39.95 paper.
Luke Bretherton' s extremely important new work confirms that the template for discussions of how to relate Christianity and contemporary politics has changed decisively. Christian theologians and ethicists who address such issues no longer focus exclusively on politics proper- political parties, campaigns, extant ideological options, policy agendas, legal structures, or state institutionsand they certainly do not accept that "political theology/ethics" consists merely of helping Christians discern how to relate responsibly to politics, policymaking, and the state as they currently exist.
Even the broadening of the public theology agenda in the 1990s through the rediscovery of the concept of civil society- as counterweight to both liberal individualism and overweening state power, or as the mediating sector between individual and state- has been superseded. Bretherton's state-of-the-art treatment includes consideration not just of state and civil society but also of the global market economy and of particular places such as the multif aith urban neighborhoods to be found in all of our Western liberal democracies. He asks not just how the church relates theoretically and institutionally to the state, civil society, and the market, but also how Christians and congregations locate themselves in relation to place, time, and identity-and how they practice "theological politics" in particular places, such as Bretherton's own home neighborhood in London.
Bretherton joins many significant contemporary voices in Christian thought by rooting his work in a far richer ecclesiology than was once common in the writing of the most visible Christian public ethicists and activists. He joins Karl Barth and others in an "ecclesial turn," suggesting that only a church that knows how to be the church is prepared to engage in faithful public witness; indeed, that the faithful conduct of its life or worship and neighborlove is itself a politics. But for Bretherton, an ecclesially rooted Christian political theology should not be derived merely from an academic theology of the church; consideration of actual case studies in improvisational Christian public practice/witness is indispensable. In this book, the most extensive of these illuminating case studies includes research on how churches have responded to government's quest for religious partners in delivering social services and strengthening social cohesion (ch. 1), the practices and significance of the broad-based community organizing of Saul Alinsky's movement (ch. 2), the theology and strategy of the ecclesially based Sanctuary …
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Publication information: Article title: Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness. Contributors: Gushee, David P. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 52. Issue: 4 Publication date: Autumn 2010. Page number: 736+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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