I have been out of touch for quite some time now, largely due to all the commitments associated with the beginning of the academic year. I may have to rename this blog “Civil Religion Alert,” however, since that seems to be my “shtick” these days.
Now that 9/11/11 is behind us, much could be said about what transpired. Our church service was unfortunately consumed with 9/11, some parts good, some bad, some ugly–the last of these being a call to worship that included a psalm text about shattering our enemies. (Ouch.) Fortunately, in the providence of God, the lectionary readings for the day made it virtually impossible not to say something Christian and uncivil (i.e., not civil-religion-ish), so the sermon was (largely) part of the good.
Another antidote to civil religion has appeared in the form of a new book by William T. Cavanaugh at DePaul University, author of the important book Torture and Eucharist. The new book is called Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church (Eerdmans, 2011).
Indebted to Hauerwas but carving his own way, the Catholic Cavanaugh has written an excellent well-written and well-argued series of essays critical of American civil religion and its liturgies, and constructively presenting an alternative theology of liturgy and ecclesiology.
It is a book that I will be recommending to many folks, including those in my current class on the book of Revelation. (I interpret Revelation as a manifesto against civil religion, ancient and contemporary, in my book Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness, from Cascade, 2011).