A new short-essay series on what Political Theology is and why it matters.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the diversity and quantity of cosmologies, in your sense, that exist in the world -- I'm not even convinced that any two people have precisely the same cosmology; even what seems like a small difference can have a large effect, if consistently applied. Of course, intellectual beliefs and the beliefs one demonstrates through how one lives can diverge.
A question I've been considering for a long time is how people with different cosmologies can live together, or at least live without conflict, war, and violence, in a healthy way. It was Daniel Quinn in his book 𝘐𝘴𝘩𝘮𝘢𝘦𝘭 who pointed out that one of the underlying cosmological tenets of Western civilization is that "there is only one right way to live". It seems like this is everywhere nowadays in our politics -- everyone is trying to prove that they have the truth and are right; their way is the only way, and any other way is evil and terrible, etc.
How can we step back from this? But more importantly, how can we live together when we have such incredibly different cosmologies and political theologies?
I'd be curious if you have a cosmological explanation for a feature of political conversation that irks me endlessly. And that is, the habit of assuming that whatever bad things are done in the name of 'enemy' state XYZ, it shows something fundamental about their cultural character or their at least politicians or their political system and is 'actually bad'. While all of the brutalities enacted in the name of Western Civilisation never ultimately say something about either it, or even, frankly, the statesmen who commit them. They are all just somehow 'things that happened'.
I utterly despise this rhetorical trick. Maybe it's just bog standard moral myopia and propaganda though and not that deep. But honestly, in my bad moods I feel like blaming Christianity for it and it's preoccupation with sin. Certainly the ancient Romans just went without all that fudging in their brutality.
Are you familiar with Rune Rasmussen's work? I think the content in this video speaks to some of what you are delineating here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8GKbimnMj8
Just the other day I was wondering about the political economy of (a Christian) Heaven, and th implications for us, here, ‘below’.
Thanks for the essay Rhyd, looking forward to what's to come!
I have been looking more closely at Eastern Orthodoxy lately, and I have been struck at how some of the fundamental tenets that Protestants and Catholics hold are simply not the same in EO even if they sometimes share the same name. And in exploring how the doctrines between the different supposedly Christian traditions differ, I have come to really question the Western Christian assumption that all these different traditions really are different versions of Christianity, and instead are different traditions that all claim to be following Jesus Christ. Specifically, I would like to push back on the notion that "Western Christianity" represents Christianity. Just like how one can have faith that they are a woman and be mistaken, one can have faith in Jesus Christ and be mistaken that they are a Christian if they are not following Christian tradition.
For instance, EO believes in a different relational Trinity and, more relevant to this essay, a different conception of Original Sin. In EO understanding, we all suffer from the effects of Adam's sin in being human, but we are not guilty of anyone's sins but our own.
A book that has really helped me understand the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and other traditions is Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: Finding the Way to Christ in a Complicated Religious Landscape by Andrew Stephen Damick and published by Ancient Faith Publishing. Doesn't do a very good job of representing animism, but I didn't expect it to, it's best for comparing the different supposedly Christian traditions.