Friday, December 16, 2005

Liturgy As Politics

I just wrote a fan letter to William Cavanaugh, a Catholic theologian whose most well-known work is Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics And the Body of Christ and whose article in the most recent Christian Century is the most exciting thing I've read in a long time.
He's cute, no?

Some quotes:

"We try to 'read' the liturgy for symbols and meanings that we take out and apply in the 'real world' -- the offering means we should give of our wealth, the kiss of peace means we should seek peace in international relations, and so on. This is fine, but it doesn't address the liturgy as an action that forms the body of Christ."

"The church is more than just a Moose Lodge for Christians. The church is a social space in its own right, an enactment of the politics of Jesus. This does not mean that the church should become a political party or interject party politics into the liturgy. It means the church should help create -- in collaboration with non-Christians, too -- spaces of peace, charity, and just economic exchange."

"The modern nation-state is founded on violence. If the church is going to resist violence, it has to emerge from its privatization and have a political voice, one that seeks not to regain state power but to speak truthfully about it."

You have to get this article for what he says about the myths of religious violence... let me quote at length here:

"I worry, however, about the way that the great myth of religious violence serves to justify certain kinds of violence: 'Those people over there are crazy religious fanatics; their violence is irrational, absolutist and divisive. We live in a democratic, secular state; our violence is rational, modest and unitive. They have not learned the lesson we learned: religion should be kept out of the public sphere. So we need to help them by bombing them into the higher rationality.' This way of thinking is, I think, one of the subtexts of the Iraq war...
This myth helps us to think of ourselves as the most peace-loving nation on earth at the same time that our military budget exceeds those of all other nations combined. Our violence doesn't count as violence, because we are just trying to spread democracy, rationality, and peace."

Look for it online at in a week or so. I can't promise it will be up there, but he has a book Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy As A Political Act In An Age of Global Consumerism (T.& T.Clarke).

Feel free to get it for me for Christmas.


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