21 August 2010

Book: Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History

Just published: C.C. Pecknold, "Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History" (Cascade Books, August 2010):


Publisher's description: "It is not simply for rhetorical flourish that politicians so regularly invoke God's blessings on the country. It is because the relatively new form of power we call the nation-state arose out of a Western political imagination steeped in Christianity. In this brief guide to the history of Christianity and politics, Pecknold shows how early Christianity reshaped the Western political imagination with its new theological claims about eschatological time, participation, and communion with God and neighbor. The ancient view of the Church as the 'mystical body of Christ' is singled out in particular as the author traces shifts in its use and meaning throughout the early, medieval, and modern periods – shifts in how we understand the nature of the person, community and the moral conscience that would give birth to a new relationship between Christianity and politics. While we have many accounts of this narrative from either political or ecclesiastical history, we have few that avoid the artificial separation of the two. This book fills that gap and presents a readable, concise, and thought-provoking introduction to what is at stake in the contentious relationship between Christianity and politics."

Endorsements: "Political theology – thinking theologically about politics and understanding all political thought as first-and-last theological – is a lively field that until now has lacked a lucid and elegantly brief introduction. Pecknold's book fills that gap, and more: it makes a real theoretical contribution of its own, most notably in its treatment of the migration of the treatment of conscience from church to state, and the effects of that migration on the understanding of freedom, political and otherwise." (Paul J. Griffiths, Duke University)

"Modern life and thought has a centripetal force, separating into discrete units what should be held together: politics, economics, theology, metaphysics, liturgy, and history. This division of labor creates specialists who can see the units but lack focus for a larger vision [...]. This comprehensive work shows connections that only someone of [Pecknold's] breadth of knowledge could see. The result is a first-rate work that sets the bar for political theology." (D. Stephen Long, Marquette University)

Chad C. Pecknold is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America.

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