The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics

The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics

The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics

The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics

Excerpt

A project as evocatively titled as this one is likely to arouse a range of reactions: suspicion, approbation, hopefulness, alarm, or even disdain. Whatever the response, taking on things sacred and sovereign in international affairs calls for careful explanation. A panoply of objections usually comes to mind whenever the topics of religion and international politics are broached together: worries over the commingling of church and state; trepidation about oppressive theocracies and militant fundamentalisms; and worst-case scenarios — of crusades or wars of religion. These were the ghastly spirits that modern secular politics, beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so arduously sought to exorcise — at least, that is the most common rendering of the story. As a result, we rightly worry when events seem to augur their return. Are there ways to broaden our idioms and understanding beyond associations with intolerance, prejudice, violence, and oppression that seem to follow whenever religion and politics are joined in international contexts? These assumptions are distinctly modern, born out of a history of religious strife and violence in Europe that was resolved — again, so the story goes — finally by erecting sovereign firewalls of statehood to contain conflict.

However, the modern arrangement of nations and states that has lasted for several centuries, including most of the twentieth century, has now begun to show signs of wear. Is it not appropriate to revisit some of the terms and foundational assumptions that have sustained our politi-

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