Redeeming Religion in the Public Square

Redeeming Religion in the Public Square

Abstract

A report addressing why religion is not and never will be ‘a purely private matter’; why the answer to ‘toxic faith’ is not ‘less religious religion’ but a renewal of its resources for faithfulness; why post-Christendom requires non-ideological secularity; how the churches have an opportunity to take the lead in redefining the religion-politics dynamic; how relations between faiths and with secularists needs to change; why an established church, blasphemy laws and selection by faith in public education are bad ideas; and how faith can play an alternative, challenging role in the political arena.

Note: Due to postscript errors in the automatic transfer of this article from our old site, bits of code have appeared instead of some punctuation marks below. These will be corrected in due course. In the meantime, the original 'clean' version is here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/oldsite/content/article_060724redeeming.shtml

[Religion] is a factor in most modern wars and, in many, religious fundamentalism and intolerance exacerbate rather than diminish the ferocity of conflict. I know of no religion that has successfully entrenched the maxim to love one’s neighbour as oneself to political effect.
(Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times) [1]

Overview and summary

The argument of this Ekklesia [2] discussion paper is structured as follows:

  • Religion is not going away ‚Äì but it needs to face change in order to be a healing rather than a divisive force in the public square.
  • A new era is dawning in church-state and religion-politics relations ‚Äì part of a cultural shift away from the West‚Äôs ‚ÄòChristendom settlement‚Äô. Rightly understood, this creates an opportunity for faith communities to disavow attempts to control society or to buttress particular social systems ‚Äì and to become, instead, vibrant sources of alternative values and practices.
  • The government‚Äôs ‚Äònew deal‚Äô for faith groups (whereby they become public service providers in a contract culture) is actually highly problematic for both religious bodies and for a plural society.
  • Two mutually reinforcing principles can reframe the faith-in-public life issue: the quest for a genuine level-playing field regarding religion and non-religion in government and the public square; and a shift in religious practice towards questioning power rather than colluding with it.
  • ‚ÄòPost-Christendom‚Äô challenges negative ways of linking religion and politics on the part of faith-based, secular and public bodies. Such approaches are ones based on ‚Äònarratives of resentment and victimhood‚Äô.
  • The new approach to faith and politics is not just theory. We outline fourteen practical opportunities for the churches and the Christian community to reshape their engagement with society ‚Äì in ways which challenge ‚Äògoverning assumptions‚Äô.

Along the way, we also explain why religion is not and never will be ‘a purely private matter’; why the answer to ‘toxic faith’ is not ‘less religious religion’ but a renewal of its resources for faithfulness; why post-Christendom requires non-ideological secularity; how the churches have an opportunity to take the lead in redefining the religion-politics dynamic; how relations between faiths and with secularists needs to change; why an established church, blasphemy laws and selection by faith in public education are bad ideas; and how faith can play an alternative, challenging role in the political arena.

1. Religion is not going away – but it needs redemption

1.1 It is hard to believe that, only a few years ago, many academics and commentators in Western Europe were still presuming that religion was on the way out. What they failed to appreciate was the primal energy that underlies religious experience, and the diversifying impact of globalisation on the secularisation thesis. [3]

1.2 Now, post-9/11, we are told that faith is back (or never really went away) – and that “this time it’s personal”. Religion is turning against the tide and in some cases it is responding with vengeance. The obvious question is, what do we do about it?

1.3 There are, of course, still ‘idealists’ (some would say, fantasists) who firmly cling to the conviction either that their version of religion must be made to triumph over all others, or that religion per se will somehow wither and die if its opponents try hard enough to expose its contradictions and kick it out of the public square.

1.4 Totalising pro- or anti-religion theories which deal in polar oppositions are un-adapted to the actual complexities of life and belief. The goals of institutionalising one religion or eliminating religion altogether are therefore unrealisable, except through intolerable levels of repression and violence which – sadly – are not beyond the capacity of some people, a potent minority, in most faiths and ideologies. [4]

1.5 Allowing toxic religion or anti-religion to set the agenda is a mistake. [5] The positive question we should be focussing on, whether ‘we’ believe ourselves to be people of reasoned faith or secular persons of good faith, remains: how can faith re-learn to engage with politics in a way that is life-enhancing, and how can politics re-learn to engage with faith (and non-faith) in a way that is open and fair?

1.6 To put it another way, how can particular forms of religion be both redeemed (saved from their worst inclinations) and redeeming (re-rooted in their capacity to do good) within a wider community and polity? [6]

1.7 These are intensely practical matters which require a lot of hard thought beyond the usual headlines. [7] They concern, on the one hand, public and governmental policies towards religion, its social role, and its moral and spiritual impact within modern liberal democracies. [8] And, on the other, challenges to the actual performance of specific religious institutions and persons in societies (such as Britain) where plurality is a reality, a means, and a goal.

1.8 Ekklesia, as a think tank working at the intersection of religion and politics, [9] wishes to suggest that – in spite of Simon Jenkins’ timely warning about the limits and historical difficulties of aspiration in this area – a way forward is possible.

1.9 The first step in identifying that way involves challenging the generalised polarities that dominate religion-politics discussions, and asking instead, both within and across different faith traditions: what kind of religion supports or challenges what kind of social order? [10]

1.10 We can then proceed by taking account of (and identifying different reactions to) the deep changes that have occurred, and will continue to occur, in our belief systems, institutions, cultures and social orders – not least in the West, and in Britain in particular.

1.11 The outcome will not be not a ‘quick fix’. Quite the reverse. Positive change requires us to move beyond tribal responses based on fear and loathing, convenient stereotypes, wishful thinking, cynicism, political manoeuvring, confrontation, awkward accommodation, and merely rhetorical tolerance. That is a challenge to both religionists and secularists alike. [11]

1.12 Instead, positive change (in a situation where, as Simon Jenkins observes, ‘religion’ is deeply implicated in issues of life and death) requires radical reformation (that is, deeply-rooted transformation) in relationships and attitudes between various ‘communities of conviction’, civil society and the practices of governance.

2. A new era is dawning in church-state and religion-politics relations

2.1 Ekklesia disputes the idea that ‘religion’ in general stands in opposition to ‘secularity’ in general. That notion often suits those with vested pro- or anti- interests, but it is not born out by a careful examination of history or experience; and as a guide to action it is a blunt instrument which does more to entrench than to alter current opinion and behaviour. [12]

2.2 We begin instead with a concrete analysis of the current shapes and forms of religious and secular living as they arise through the historical, social, cultural and political reality of modern Britain and of its ‘Christian history’. [13]

2.3 In short-hand, we label the changing reality that emerges from this analysis ‘post-Christendom’ – a feature of which is the seismic shift from a solidified, mutually reinforcing relationship between church and state over many centuries, to a transitional situation where the assumptions and practices underlying the ‘concordat’ approach to unifying religion and politics are being tested towards (some would say beyond) breaking point. [14]

2.4 With whatever resistances and counter-signs (and there are a number of these), the ‘dominance’, ‘mutual dependence’ and ‘alliance’ models of church-state relations which have characterised the last 1,700 years of Western Christendom are coming to an end. [15]

2.5 As a result, religious institutions (and not just Christian ones) can no longer presume upon their capacity to gain control, privilege and influence from government by offering blessing and support for the status quo in return.

2.6 In terms of politics and polity, the emerging transition to post-Christendom within Western Europe (in particular) means that:

a. The state is not readily identified with any one religion (whereas it has been strongly identified with Christianity)
b. Government can be lobbied and witnessed to [16] by faith and non-faith interests alike (but it is not appropriately controlled, run or dominated by any of them)
c. Church and state are distinct and more separate (whereas they have been confused and allied)
d. The state is critically challenged from the perspective of civil society (rather than uncritically supported)
e. The ‘healthy state’ is seen in relation to necessary limits (rather than being seen as all-powerful)
f. The government tries to be neutral on religion (rather than instinctively favouring one or more religion)
g. Law and justice are more separate (rather than being considered as identical)
h. State violence is more often questioned and resisted (rather than being readily sanctioned and justified) [17]

2.7 If such crucial developments (mapped in colourful terms by Jonathan Bartley in Faith and Politics After Christendom, Paternoster Press, 2006) are ignored, or seen simply as a loss, or regarded primarily as an opportunity for aggressive competition among people of different faiths and none, then there seems little hope of change. [18]

2.8 Worse still, things could turn even nastier. With politics and the economy in the ‘attenuated state’ era being increasingly dominated by corporate interests on a global scale, religiously-sanctioned dissent is growing. This is happening not least because traditionally religious institutions and societies have seen their power and influence threatened by globalism’s erosion of traditional hierarchies and boundaries.

2.9 In its most extreme forms, this dissent (which is much bigger, better organised and less constrained by democratic ideals than non-religious anti-globalisation movements) has now moved into two disturbing arenas – insurgent violence and attempts to repress cultural expressions which seem to threaten “our way” .

2.10 From the ‘majority religion’ perspective, which can be both mainstream and sectarian in form, the post-Christendom shift (and its equivalent dynamics within globalisation) appears problematic or unwelcome. It unsettles ‘agreed norms’ and the mechanisms for requiring them. And it produces a backlash, in related but distinct ways and forms.

2.11 Consider, for example, the furious demonstrations by some faith groups against what they see as a blasphemous and immoral social order bent on pushing them aside; accusations of ‘Christianophobia’ against public institutions; [19] the lobbying within corridors of power by the Church of England aimed at preserving its Established status and expanding its role in public education; [20] and the hurt and rage felt by many Muslims towards a Westernised cultures which seem alien, rootless, obscene and inhospitable. [21]

2.12 In different (and even contradictory) ways, all these forces are seeking to preserve or posit a religiously-grounded public political order in the face of Christendom’s demise. As Jonathan Bartley observes, the weakening or disappearance of historic religious sanction at a state level has recently produced a political radicalisation of religious elements which some had wrongly thought were at death’s door (and some of which probably still are).

2.13 This is a picture of religious organisations reacting to the new context with fear and loathing. But it does not have to be so. In post-Christendom better choices are possible, both for those of faith and for those of non-faith convictions. Indeed the political ‘breaking process’ between church and state provides an entirely appropriate context for challenging fragmentation and fratricide, provided that the imaginative and practical means are afforded for it to be taken up in a positive rather than a negative way.

2.14 In particular, it is Ekklesia’s contention that the greater separation of political authority and religious jurisdiction opens up productive opportunities for new self-understandings among faith groups and a relationship of positive difference between government and religious communities.

2.15 This is because the demise of Christendom structures and assumptions puts us in a situation where relationship rather than subjugation makes both political sense and religious sense. How so?

2.16 In terms of Western Christianity, from which the analysis arises, post-Christendom has been helpfully described 22] as a shift in the idea and practice of ‘church’:

a. From the centre to the margins
b. From majority to minority
c. From settlement to sojourning
d. From institution to movement
e. From privilege to plurality, and
f. From control to witness

2.17 Stuart Murray (Post-Christendom: church and mission in a strange new world, Paternoster, 2004) and others point out that this represents a positive opportunity for the churches to be grasped afresh by a vision of the Gospel based on Jesus’ levelling movement in the world. [23]

2.18 By moving away from its accommodation to (and comfortable legitimation of) state power, Christian communities are better able to demonstrate, enact and invite people towards a different ‘way of being’ that is repressed within an acquisitive, violent, confused and atomised society. [24]

2.19 The important point here is to see that this is not a call for the dilution or abandonment of faith, but for its recovery and re-expression. It therefore goes beyond the simplistic ‘liberal versus conservative’ standoff within Christianity and other traditions, or the idea that only ‘secularised religion’ is going to be humanly palatable.

2.20 Instead, it proceeds from a deeper question to people of faith: how can our performance of the traditions and texts which formed us lead us into a positive engagement with modern culture, while confronting the terrible corruptions and distortions that have affected historical religion?

2.21 There are relatively few voices advocating this kind of radical (radix, re-rooted to be re-routed) approach at the moment. And they are mostly drowned out by the dominant assumptions of conventional policy-makers, pundits, religious leaders and secular lobbyists – which is that we somehow have to choose between dominant religion and no religion. That in itself is a sign of the ‘majoritarian’ logjam we are in.

2.22 Moreover, though post-Christendom describes a fresh understanding and opportunity within one faith, Christianity, it is vital to realise that similar arguments for redeeming religion in the public square can (and should) be made from the perspectives of other faith communities.

2.23 At the very least, if a significant number of Christians were prepared definitively to reject the attempt to grasp power for themselves and commit instead to a path of exemplary discipleship, it would create a very different dynamic for interfaith relations and the (presently very feeble) exchange between secular and religious opinion-formers.

3. The government’s ‘new deal’ for faith groups is highly problematic

3.1 If, as Ekklesia is suggesting, most of the ‘old arguments’ about faith and politics are rendered inadequate by the emergence of post-Christedom, then a new approach is needed to the faith-politics relationship, particularly with regard to participation in the public square and the question of governance.

3.2 Once it has been accepted both that that you cannot wish faith communities and their presence in public life away, [25] and that government in plural societies should not be forced into the mould of any one interest or ideal, what possibilities are left?

3.3 One, certainly, is revision and modification of the inherited Christendom approach. Though few seem to recognise it explicitly, this is what seems to lie behind the ‘new deal’ that Jonathan Bartley’s Faith and Politics After Christendom shows is being struck by government and faith communities at the moment. [26]

3.4 This deal, which involves a plethora of new consultation mechanisms like the Home Office faith communities unit, concerns an increasing ‘faith-based’ element in social provision, welfare, education and voluntary-based public initiatives. It is a policy and an approach based on two sets of urgent and coinciding needs.

3.5 First, government (of whatever political complexion) faces a crisis of authority and an entrenched difficulty in funding and equipping adequate social provision in a market-dominated, global economy. Greater demand for public services in the face of the increased pressures of modern living runs in tension with the wish to keep taxes low and the problem of adequately delivering provision. This is accompanied by popular anxiety over ‘moral order’ in a fast, fragmented culture.

3.6 Meanwhile, faith communities (not least the churches) are looking for a new role, new finance and a new credibility in their battle against long-term decline and public indifference. However, in spite of their difficulties, they still have not only residual resources (money and buildings, often overtly or covertly state-funded) and a strong moral tradition, but also perhaps the largest pool of volunteers in the country.

3.7 The obvious ‘solution’, both Tony Blair and David Cameron agree, is to give religious groups and institutions a ‘stake’ in a new welfare deal. Arguments ensue over where and how, but the ‘why’ is taken for granted. The vested interests fit together well, questions about social justice and civil rights (the inclusiveness or otherwise of what is being offered) can be ‘managed’, those who oppose the deal can be written off as a few secularists or malcontents, and everyone else – so it is claimed – is happy.

3.8 In reality, however, ‘the new deal’ is not so much a solution to the pressing issues of workable government, economy, welfare, social inclusion and the public affirmation of religious communities in public life – it is more a reconfiguration of the problem with its basic premises in tact.

3.9 It also entails imposing sometimes dubious faith-based strategies on those who lack choice or influence. [27] And it hampers the ability of Christians and others to offer a radical critique of the social order, co-opting them instead into the role of propping up existing policies, projects and structures. In this sense, it is a rather mixed blessing and bane.

3.10 It is important to recognise that the ‘new deal’ is more an extension of Christendom by other means, and in a multi-faith way, than a fresh way forward.

3.11 Politically, it is based on the idea that religion can be ‘incorporated’ into the apparatus of ruling, managing and providing.

3.12 Theologically, it assumes that faith – rather than being rooted in a free choice, a free expression and a free community – can be developed and propagated through statutory, coercive, subliminal or functionalist means.

3.13 All this imperils both plural governance and religious integrity. As a ‘solution’ it is deeply flawed, even if some of its outworking can be shown to have benefits. That is especially evident in current arguments over publicly-funded ‘faith schools’, where elements of inclusion or good practice cannot disguise the wider divisive effect of selection on the basis of religion, for example.

3.14 Similar arguments, moreover, apply to the government’s confused legislation on Religious and Racial Hatred [28] (which many would argue is the ‘new deal’ on Britain’s antiquated blasphemy laws); to the presence of bishops in the House of Lords; and to other privileges and consequences of the Church of England’s establishment under the Crown – which also means that the church is not free in its own polity. [29]

4. Two principles can reframe the faith-in-public life issue

4.1 Ekklesia believes that a more useful and hopeful exchange about faith and politics, church and state, and religion in the public square will only really start to emerge when two premises are accepted as the starting point for future discussion. (They are already implied in the political and religious shifts described in section two above, but benefit from being spelled out explicitly).

* First, the proposition that the proper role of government in a plural society is to maintain a level playing field in public life (society, politics and economy) for people of all faiths and none – without endorsing one faith or ideology to the exclusion or disadvantage of others.

* Second, the proposition that the role of faith communities is to self-organise, to live by example, to participate creatively and critically in civic life, and to seek to exercise a beneficial, questioning influence in society as a whole – without seeking to grasp state power or privilege for themselves.

4.2 It should be noted that these propositions are mutually dependent, and each one also contains a mutual dependence. In other words, they stand or fall together. This is both their strength and their vulnerability.

4.3 Regarding governance, the idea that the role of public institutions is to maintain a level playing field (which naturally opens up a conversation about what, how and where) requires the concomitant idea that the state should not sanction or benefit any one faith or ideology, and vice versa.

4.4 Another way of putting that would be to say that government should be ‘neutral’ towards religion, or that the state should be ‘secular’. If so, the ‘neutrality’ required is of a positive kind, not simply a prohibitive one – if it is accepted that faith and non-faith groups and communities alike are participants in public life, not simply practitioners of private rituals and beliefs.

4.5 Similarly, the ‘secularity’ implied in Ekklesia’s suggested formula is not that of an anti-religious or indifferentist stance, but a positive attempt to keep the saeculum (the sphere of public interaction) open and available.

4.6 It should be added that in the Christian theological tradition ‘the secular’ understood in these terms is not automatically a zone in conflict with faith, [30] but rather represents the positive arena of human freedom gifted within the freedom of God. This is a point that the Archbishop of Canterbury, [31] the Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi have all recently made – even though they still support elements of the Christendom settlement.

4.7 What we are talking about is something grounded in – but much more constructive than – the notion of a ‘separation’ of church and state. As we are seeing in the USA, this paradigm is neither as absolute nor as useful in practice as its proponents allege, both because religion inevitably ‘seeps’ into the public realm (‘uncontaminated’ secularism is a fantasy) and because public institutions cannot avoid a stance towards religion (‘uncontaminated’ religion is a fantasy).

4.8 This means that the issue is not simply about required boundaries and accepted limitations, but about acknowledgment of differences and the positive search for practical relationship in the midst of those differences.

4.9 The term ‘plural society’ may be more helpful than ‘secular society’ here, because it avoids confusing secularity as an inclusive virtue with ideological secularism (a rejection or critique of religion) and secularisation (a contested theory about the appearance and disappearance of religion in society). [32]

4.10 For the same reason, it may be helpful to speak more of ‘faith groups’ and ‘religious people, movements, congregations and organisations’ rather than generic ‘faith communities’ (which may presuppose too much homogeneity) and ‘religion’ (which covers everything from ancient non-theistic Buddhism to modern apocalyptic Christianity).

4.11 A parallel set of issues arises when we consider the ‘religious’ side of the equation in the proposal for a radical reformation (a deep-rooted transformation) of the relations between faith and politics, between religious institutions and public/governing ones.

4.12 The idea that faith groups, movements, congregations and organisations have their own polity and values, and that their role is to participate in public life through example, bold witness and non-coercive persuasion, [33] requires the concomitant idea that they are not in the business of grabbing state power or seeking privilege for themselves.

4.13 This is not a matter of disguising interests (any organisation will have interests that it seeks to exert or defend to some extent) or of pretending that clashes of values and practices will not occur. Rather, it arises from the moral and religious integrity of the faith body and of persons of faith – theologically speaking, the transcendent (God) cannot be imposed without losing its inherent character as gift rather than possession, invitation-and-response rather than domination. [34]

4.14 At the same time, in order to be truly free in their own expression and activities, faith groups, movements, congregations and organisations require the government and other public institutions to maintain an ‘interested neutrality’ towards religious and non-religious ideologies.

4.15 The other underlying post-Christendom assumption here is that since religion (like cultural and social association) is by its nature a free choice of individuals and communities who adopt or assent to the beliefs, practices and jurisdiction of their faith, it cannot force others under its governance or control. Nor can it accept imposed control that unjustly abolishes its own freedom.

4.16 The ‘free choice’ we speak of here is not necessarily (and not usually) the kind of choice required in a market or contractual system, it should be noted. It is not about license but about gift, and for people of faith – as for others who choose a particular political or lifestyle option – it may involve the decision to accept some obligations which others reject. The refusal to make oaths or kill, for example, in the case of the historic peace churches. The point is that this kind of ‘choice’ cannot be compelled.

4.17 That is one of the key things that distinguishes a ‘post-Christendom’ from a ‘Christendom’ perspective, or – in other faith traditions – an ‘established’ from a ‘voluntary’ understanding. Within the various religious traditions positive voluntarism has to be argued and contended for against alternative outlooks. There is nothing automatic or ‘natural’ about it. Indeed it has been eroded in public and consciousness by the practice of censorious religion and the quest for a ‘Christian county’ instead of the search for a peaceable kingdom. [35]

5. Post-Christendom challenges the negative way of linking religion and politics

5.1 How does post-Christian happen and what difference does it make? In Faith and Politics After Christendom, Jonathan Bartley suggests that before it is an idea or a commitment, post-Christendom is an emerging fact. As a matter of observable reality, religion in the West is losing its immediate capacity to impose its will on others, and concordats between church and state are dissolving.

5.2 In other words, post-Christendom is happening, not as a ‘settlement’ but as a cultural and social process of the unravelling and re-weaving of existing settlements between faith and politics, church and state, religion and the public square.

5.3 The key issue in specific settings such as Britain and its constituent parts, then, is what stance do we take within and towards post-Christendom? That applies whether the ‘we’ is the Church of England, an association of temples, a religious charity, the British Humanist Association, an MP, a policy maker, a civil servant, the Evangelical Alliance, an ecumenical body, the Muslim Council of Britain, a pro-life group, the National Secular Society, Christian Aid, the new Sufi Council, or a local congregation, mosque or gurdwara (to name but a few).

5.4 Of course each of those bodies and persons will start from very different places, with lesser or greater complexity in their range of understanding and received ideas and practices.

* For those of other faith or humanist conviction, for instance, the question might be, “what issues and questions does post-Christendom raise for the way we see our own role and what public policies or practices we sanction?”

* For a church or similar congregation, the concerns might revolve around how witness and engagement in the community and in public life is conceived and performed.

* For politicians, policy-makers and civil servants, the issue might be about the identity, role and remit of the faith or secular group or organisation they wish to engage with.

* For all religious groups, the reality of living in emerging post-Christendom certainly raises profound theological questions – about the nature of God and humanity, for example. It (hopefully) disturbs and troubles and well as inspires and stimulates.

5.5 All this is positive, because the danger of the current standoffs in religion and politics is that they often assume that the start and end point is fixed, whereas our traditions of thought and expression actually show the fruits of diversity as well as commonality. It is not ‘unfaithful’ to recognise this. It is untrue to the tradition (the biblical texts, for example) not to.

5.6 But that still leaves open the question of how to arrive at concrete responses. This paper has already given examples of what might be seen as ‘negative’, ‘unaffirmative’ or ‘reactive’ approaches to the diminishing power of religious bodies in public life and governance – and to the strong counter-assertions that are being made by some, over issues like the recent Jerry Springer The Opera row, for example. This kind of angry reaction often arises from a narrative of resentment or victimhood – a picture of the world as deliberately mocking or marginalising what we hold dear, and a fear of the loss of power this represents. Such an outlook is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. [36]

5.7 We have been arguing instead that a positive account of post-Christendom, plurality and (non-ideological) secularity is also available, both practically and theologically, for all Christians. This is where Ekklesia stands – seeking to offer alternative perspectives and approaches to long-standing issues where (bereft of a post-Christendom understanding) existing arguments show little progress and cause continuing damage. [37]

5.8 The point here is not for one think tank to unwisely claim a monopoly of wisdom, but to suggest ways in which a radical change in the way we conceive the religion-politics divide and/or elision can make a big difference for public policy, for the performance of faith, and for the chances of building a different culture where – in the words of Martin Luther King Jr – we are able to realise that if we do not live together we will die together. In the face of religiously sanctioned war and terror (the ‘myth of redemptive violence’ shared, ironically, by both Bush and Bin Laden), this is no small matter. [38]

5.9 So how do we move forward with ‘post-Christendom’? Isn’t it basically a Christian conception? How, then, can it offer anything useful for those who are not Christians? And in what ways does it resolve existing dilemmas and create concrete new policies?

5.10 These are valid questions, but the answers may not be along the lines we have taken for granted to date. They may require more thought, experiment and reflection than our media, our political systems and our instant culture usually allows.

5.11 First, yes, post-Christendom is a ‘Christian idea’ – or, rather, it is a re-picturing of the ‘state we are in’ by Christians who find themselves in a more marginal position than they have hitherto been used to. That does not make it irrelevant or unapproachable to those of other faith or no faith.

5.12 Rather, it provides Christians who take a positive view of post-Christendom with an opportunity to demonstrate the alternatives they are beginning to perceive, in sympathetic conversation and critical partnership with others.

5.13 In fact that approach embodies the message itself. What Ekklesia, as a Christian think tank rooted in the radical Gospel tradition is saying, is not “this is what you as another Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Sikh, a humanist or a Muslim should think and do”. Nor are we saying to government or religious institutions, “this is the solution we want to impose”. [39]

5.14 Rather, what we are asking is: “How does a positive post-Christendom understanding help us to work autonomously and together, beyond the battle lines and politicking involved in the ‘majority religion’ approach, and (say) in appraising the ‘new deal’ on faith-based welfare that the government is currently implementing?”

5.15 Our desire is to open up practical alternatives as well as challenges. But bypassing the challenge in a rush for policy does not work – as those in government, under constant media and public pressure to “do something”, often discover.

5.16 Ekklesia believes that in the matter of forging a better relation between faith and politics, church and state, and religion in the public square (one where there is more win-win and less win-lose for all parties) we must resist the temptation to go for ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions; to look for, or demand, a straightforward policy or set of prescriptions to ‘solve’ the dilemmas we face.

5.17 In practice, this is not how politics, society or religion changes. Certainly, major initiatives and movements can change the landscape and open (or close) certain possibilities. But more often change happens incrementally, by unilateral initiatives as part of (rather than opposed to) multilateral processes, and by pressure from the margins placing restraints upon (and opening up space within) existing power structures.

5.18 Understood rightly, subversion and voluntary conversion are the keys to a significantly different way of doing religion and politics, not imposition and coercion. [40]

5.19 In terms of policy formation, this means: (i) Begin with the commitments and resources of (say) actual Christian communities, rethought in terms of a rejection of claims to power and an embracing of Gospel liminality. (ii) Look at what particular practices can be / are being developed on the basis of the church’s polity and its external relations (‘foreign policy’). (iii) Look at the impact and constraints of this in terms of public policy ideas. (The usual procedure is to produce the policy and then to try to get people to inhabit it.)

5.20 That clearly does not presuppose or entail an end to disagreement. Indeed Jonathan Bartley explores ways in which a post-Christendom church will be a greater threat to the state than a Christendom one. [41] Nor, obviously, does it require people to abandon their claims to truth or a ‘better way’. But it does imply that the way we disagree can reflect the commitment to plurality (a ‘space to be human’ spoken of in many traditions) inherent in the desire to work with, rather than just against, one another. [42]

6. Fourteen practical challenges for the churches and for society

6.1 Since both Ekklesia and the post-Christendom analysis starts from a Christian experience, albeit one in open conversation with those of other convictions, it seems appropriate to end by outlining some practical challenges which Redeeming Religion in the Public Square and Jonathan Bartley’s Faith and Politics After Christendom could pose for the churches – in terms of their own actions, and in terms of how they relate to public policy.

6.2 Adopting the ‘exemplary’ approach of a positive response to post-Christendom, rather than the ‘prescriptive’ style of an imposed Christendom settlement, we therefore offer the following fourteen opportunities for change among the churches as something both Christians and those of other faith, spiritual orientation and secular/humanist outlooks might respond to in different ways.

[i] As Christendom recedes, the churches in Britain have an opportunity to embrace their marginal, liminal and minority status not as a problem, a threat or a sign of defeat – but as an opportunity for faithfulness to a Gospel which offers good news to those who are wounded and oppressed, and challenge to those who are powerful and comfortable.

[ii] The establishment of one faith by law under the Crown inhibits the Church of England from the freedom and radicality of the Gospel’s call to create a new kind of community based on Jesus’ sacrificial love rather than on might and privilege. Dependence upon power rather than upon the vulnerable companionship of Christ also undermines the churches’ witness, and is seen to be both unfair and unsustainable in a plural culture.

[iii] Post-Christendom therefore provides an opportunity to move away from the top-down, established, settler-church paradigm, and to develop instead dynamic, sojourning models of church life and engagement drawing on a creative blend of the inherited (historic) and the emergent (fresh expressions). The old ‘choice’ of either sect or state church is redundant.

[iv] Churches do not need the protection of blasphemy laws, which violate free expression in plural cultures. They can expect and hope to be safeguarded against violence and intimidation, and will also feel called to express solidarity with all people (whatever their faith or lack of it) who experience threat and oppression. But in following Christ they will not want or need to claim special forms of protection denied to others. This is not where there security can or should lie. [43]

[v] Schools which could legitimately be called ‘Christian’ would be those in which particular regard was paid to those otherwise excluded from society, and in which practices of restorative justice, forgiveness, compassion and peacemaking were central. Christians can and should encourage and demonstrate such practices in all walks of life – but seeking state funding for proprietorial ‘faith schools’ that discriminate or select on the basis of religion [44] contradicts the Gospel message and may act as a counter-witness to the favour-free blessing faith claims to offer.

[vi] Similarly, the UK law which requires general, publicly-funded schools to put on a daily act of predominantly Christian worship is a legacy of Christendom which can now be seen to be unjust on those who experience it as an imposition. Such a practice, even with opt-outs, fails to reflect the diversity of society, misrepresents the true nature of worship as the free offering of a confessional community, and compromises (rather than enhances) the attempt to develop broad spiritual awareness and understanding.

[vii] In a world of religiously-sanctioned and justified violence, and in a society where state and church need to be distinct and separate, Christians have no need to endorse violence as a solution to human problems when it contradicts the alternative testimony of the Gospel and Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. The church may not be able to stop war, but it can and should seek to undermine the idea that ‘violence saves’, and it has a constructive opportunity to transcend the tribal struggle between ‘pacifists’ and ‘non-pacifists’ by investing its efforts instead into voluntary initiatives for practical peace-building, conflict transformation and violence reduction in situations of conflict and injustice.

[viii] After Christendom, where the state used the sword to protect the church and the church blessed the state’s use of the sword when it felt that was appropriate, a reconsideration of the implications of Christian baptism into a new community (the Body of Christ) might suggest that a minimal commitment not to kill other members of that same Body is a logical and inescapable requirement of being initiated into the death of Jesus – and his resurrection, which is God’s restoration of life beyond the power and sanction of death and killing. [45]

[ix] Similarly, in bearing witness to the alternative way of life that the Body of Christ in the world is meant to exemplify (the ekklesia of equals [46]), it would be logical for Christians to forswear the use of empire, economic aggression or state power over others – whatever their conviction or condition. The mutually reinforcing love of self and of neighbour commended in the Decalogue and in the New Testament is not a prescription for individuals, but a binding description of the character of a community a expressed in the way it relates out of that character as it moves beyond itself.

[x] On questions of marriage and partnership, post-Christendom enables us to distinguish more clearly between the church community’s act of blessing (or withholding blessing) from human relationships, and the state’s desire to give legal protection to a range of people who enter opposite-sex and same-sex partnerships of different kinds. The church will naturally want to witness to its own understanding of marriage (which for some is a sacramental reality) [47] and will have to choose whether to extend that understanding to lesbian and gay people who are currently denied it (we hope it will eventually). But it has no need to require its own definitions to be adopted by the state or sanctioned by tax privileges. Indeed to do this may weaken Christian marriage understood as beneficial precisely because it is a voluntary commitment sustained by God and a community of faith, rather than one which requires law, contract, civil sanction and financial benefits. [48]

[xi] Though there are differences on this, many Christian communities believe that abortion or euthanasia (especially when practiced routinely) are contrary to God’s gifting of life. But this does not mean that it is necessarily appropriate or positive to seek to make abortion and all assisted dying illegal and punishable for others in society. On the contrary, post-Christendom raises tough questions about both bio-ethical issues and the unacceptable way Christians have acted towards others (not least women) or have sought to impose their own will and judgement in the name of God. A better response would involve Christians repenting of their own failure to evidence God’s love in these matters, and working against the poverty, isolation, social alienation and gender inequalities which contribute to some women feeling they ‘have no alternative’ in such matters – the antithesis of choice and life. Again, a better and more compassionate discourse is needed than one that polarises and divides.

[xii] Christian and Jewish tradition gives very high regard to hospitality, to welcoming the stranger and to supporting the vulnerable – regardless of nationality, status, creed or ability. This is a realisable sign of God’s favour-free love. Christians and churches may therefore rightly wish to assert their identity as international communities, to act as places of sanctuary, and to question or resist the claims of nation states to be able to exclude vulnerable people. This is an example of an issue in which a post-Christendom perspective may bring faith communities into conflict with government – because they may not be able to accept the unjust restrictions which the authorities deem wise or acceptable. [49]

[xiii] At present Britain also continues to imprison a vast number of people, and there is little evidence that this is making society safer, better or more secure in the long run. On the contrary, it may actually be institutionalising the criminality it seeks to address. Under Christendom, Christians often justified imprisonment and slavery though they also worked for reform and engaged in chaplaincy. Today, as Christendom withers, there is an opportunity to promote a more radical approach explicitly based on restorative justice – which has deep roots in Christian and other traditions.

[xiv] Similarly, after Christendom Christians will want and need to share the pastoral responsibility for people in public institutions (prisons, schools, hospitals, universities and so on) with a range of people from other faith and secular backgrounds. There is a role for a distinctive Christian contribution, but alongside others rather than through arrangements which enshrine privileges for the church over others. This again is a matter of integrity, witness and good practice.

6.3 Taken together, such stances and practices would begin to constitute the church as an alternative society-within-society – one which would, in turn, require a model of economy based on generosity rather than restriction, gift and need rather than supply and demand, and the suasion of neighbourliness rather than the coercion of the market. This is an area where much more work is needed. [50] It includes the challenge of environmental sustainability which is central to any workable doctrine of creation - that is, an account of the world which understands its evolving process and realisation as gift.

7. Undertaking the post-Christendom journey in hope

7.1 Post-Christendom creates the opportunity (as briefly outlined above) for churches to develop, if they wish, a more radical, subversive and challenging identity built around practical expressions of the coming kingdom (kin-dom) of God. Their understanding of politics can be more firmly based on Jesus’ redefinition of ‘lordship’ as service, his rejection of violence, his refusal of established religious and political definitions of who is ‘acceptable’, and his willingness to be killed by a state founded on diametrically opposed values and practices. This implies the possibility of conflict when the state is corrupt.

7.2 But it also implies the possibility of cooperation with those of other faith and of faith who share common commitments with Christians, often against the self-interest of corporate and governing powers. A recent example is the Jubilee Movement (based on a biblical principle revisited and extended) which united believers of different kinds, humanists, political groups, agencies and those of spiritual or non-spiritual orientations in a common cause to tackle global poverty through fair trade, debt relief, better aid and social justice.

7.3 All told, another encouraging feature of post-Christendom may therefore be the surprising alliances, unexpected conversations, hopeful signs and fresh possibilities it opens up on a range of concerns and across a range of issues.

7.4 These are just some examples of the radically new approach to faith and politics, church and state and religion in the public square which the emerging reality (and growing idea) of life after Christendom opens up for Christians and others. A number of these clearly have profound implications for politics, for governance, for action in civil society, for those of other convictions – and for the practical dialogue of all concerned.

7.5 For this reason, we think it is not too hyperbolic to suggest that the post-Christendom analysis and vision, if received positively, can contribute significantly towards redeeming religion in the public square.

7.6 Commentator Simon Jenkins says that he knows “of no religion that has successfully entrenched the maxim to love one’s neighbour as oneself to political effect”. This is sadly true, not least in terms of majority religions. The history of Christianity and other faiths, and indeed of secular ideologies too, does include some shining examples to the contrary, however. But all too often these are minor, marginal and dissident in character.

7.7 This, of course, is what we would expect, given that the tendency of human beings is to find the love of power more ‘natural’ than the power of love. But there is no reason why this must be so. The Christian Gospel, certainly, is all about the personal and social transformation which makes another path possible, though never easy.

7.8 In any event, after Christendom, Jenkins’ important comment – and the suffering that is still being perpetuated in the name of religion and of politics – should be the best possible motive to seek that different path, if not to prove him wrong.

Simon Barrow
Ekklesia
July 2006

[1] Writing in The Guardian, 30 June 2006.
[2] Ekklesia (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk), founded in 2002, is both a think tank and a news service. It advocates progressive Christian ideas in public life, examines the emergence of ‘post-Christendom’, runs the ISP http://www.peacenik.co.uk, is a partner in the Westminster Forum, explores the intersection of theology and politics, and in 2005 raised £130,000 for peace and justice causes. It takes its name from a Greek word that denotes both the church as alternative community and simultaneously a public political space.
[3] A hard look at the evidence suggests that the ‘religion impulse’ doesn’t simply disappear – it mutates into new forms, both ‘secular’ and ‘spiritual’. Past forms of religious explanation have retreated vastly in the face of the natural sciences, and plural forms of governance are entrenched in the West. But as a reservoir of personal meaning and social organisation it remains far stronger than the secularisation thesis allows. In some forms and places it is resurgent, in others declining. Simple accounts of ‘rise and fall’ are inadequate and tend to be over-determined by ideology (or wishful thinking). Regarding the nature and power of ‘religious experience’ respectively, see the different but complementary depictions of Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary: Reflections on Human Experience and the Knowledge of God (University of Notre Dame Press, 1990) and Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century (Addison-Wesley, 1994).
[4] Critically deficient ‘pro-religion’ discourses emerge when faith leaders perceive secularity as the main threat and construct an ‘alliance of believers’ against non-believers, downplaying or ignoring the contradictions and problems of specific religious forms. Critically deficient ‘anti-religion’ discourses do the same thing in reverse, by adopting an essentialist view – that all religion is, at root, pathological. This requires a simplistic, ideologically over-determined account of belief and its impact. An example would be parts of Sam Harris’s best-seller The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (W.W. Norton, USA, 2004). For a different take on toxic religion, see, for example: Simon Barrow, ‘Does Christianity kill or cure?’ (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/barrow/article_050130religion.shtml, January 2005).
[5] This does not mean that we should ignore violence, hatred and other forms of ‘toxicity’ practiced in the name of religion. Far from it. Religious communities have to be encouraged and enabled (from within and from without) to tackle the sources of damage in their midst. That includes challenging the ‘persecution narratives’ which grow up in certain kinds of sectarian faith. Similarly, dealing with religious terror means “talking to people we suspect or don’t like”. Without engaging with wounds, grievances and anger – however difficult to face – there is no real possibility of hope, and the narrative of unending conflict triumphs.
[6] Redemption (rescue, re-appropriation and redefinition) is a consciously religious concept – which applies also to religion. Faith must be redeemed in order to be redeeming. Critique is built into the structure of healthy faith – ‘faith’ being the considered trust by which we move from the known to the unknown. (These days the word ‘faith’ is often used, both by those who despise it and those who reify it, as a simple antonym to ‘reason’. This is superficial and inaccurate, though it has its roots in actual distortions.)
[7] At the moment, ‘headline understanding’ undoubtedly dominates. Many religious websites, for example, give an entirely positive account of themselves and their religion, tending to ignore the dark side of faith. On the other hand, the National Secular Society’s ‘What the Papers Say’ (though useful in its coverage) paints an overwhelmingly negative and dismissive picture of religion. Neither approach does justice to the complexity of what is going on. We all need to be teased out of our trenches to face those aspects of the truth which require us to do more than simply reinforce ‘our side’.
[8] Modern liberal democracy is not (and should not be) beyond criticism. But whatever its limitations and faults, it is an attempt to construct a political settlement which recognises plurality as an inescapable feature of life. It also highlights and instantiates many of the problems which the Gospel seeks to address – the persistence of centrifugal power and violence, for example. This is why an honest dialogue is so necessary.
[9] See also: ‘God and the politicians – where next?’, a response to David Aaronovitch’s BBC documentary (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/article_050929godandthepoliticians.shtml).
[10] See also: Simon Barrow, ‘Keeping the wrong kind of religion out of politics’ (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/barrow/article_2003_09_7_2737.shtml, September 2003).
[11] Eminent political scientist and biographer Sir Bernard Crick has issued a call for positive engagement between progressive religionists and secularists. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_051025crick.s....
[12] More nuanced accounts of the relation between religion and non-belief (and deconstructions of popular misconceptions of ‘the religious’) are to be found in: Nicholas Lash, The Beginning and The End of Religion (Cambridge University Press, 2002), and Michael J. Buckley, At the Origins of Modern Atheism (Yale University Press, 1987).
[13] See Jonathan Bartley, Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy (Paternoster, 2006).
[14] Stuart Murray and Jonathan Bartley have rightly defined Christendom and post-Christendom as cultures, not simply as contrasting relationships between church and government. This is important because post-Christendom is about the whole Christian story moving to the margins – something that impacts not just the Church of England as an established church (or the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which has a special relationship with the state) but all churches which were nevertheless part of the Christendom settlement. A narrower definition also belies the historical complexity of Western Europe.
[15] This typology is Simon Barrow’s. Philip Jenkins has also written of The Next Christendom (Oxford University Press, 2002) emerging in Africa and elsewhere. There are reasons for contesting his theory while appreciating his analysis. But such arguments fall outside the scope of this paper, which is specifically examining the situation in Western Europe, notably Britain.
[16] The word ‘witness’, in its New Testament origins, means ‘costly testimony’. It is the source (martyria) of the word ‘martyr’. In its authentic sense, “witnessing” is not about cheap sloganising any more than “martyrdom” is about sanctimonious or murderous sacrifice – though sadly this is often how they are defined today.
[17] Note that I have somewhat modified and elaborated on the schema outlined in Bartley, p. 188.
[18] A considerably enlarged and expanded account of post-Christendom and its political and religious implications is needed. This is undertaken in the Paternoster Press ‘After Christendom’ series, which includes the titles by Jonathan Bartley and Stuart Murray. See: http://www.postchristendom.com.
[19] See Ekklesia’s response on this issue: ‘Why Christians should not cry “Christianophobia”,’ July 2006.
[20] See Jonathan Bartley, Faith and Politics After Christendom (Paternoster, 2006), pp. 72-82 for more examples of the ‘negative’ response to the loss of overt religious power. Cf. pp. 128-9.
[21] Regarding ‘Westernised cultures’, it is worth noting that Christendom, modernity and Westernisation – respectively religiously, technologically and culturally driven socio-political forces – are not necessarily the same things, though they share some important features. For a useful account of the required distinctions and their significance, see Bert Hoedemaker’s important essay, ‘Mission beyond modernity’, in (eds.) Simon Barrow and Graeme Smith, Christian Mission in Western Society: Precedents, Perspectives and Prospects (CTBI, 2001).
[22] See Bartley, p.3, drawing on Murray, op. cit.
[23] A good, popular account of the Gospel as inherently subversive of an overbearing political and religious status quo is Donald Kraybill, The Upside-Down Kingdom (Herald Press 1978, Marshalls 1994).
[24] Along this path, Christians will find many points of convergence and common commitment with people of other convictions – as in the campaigns against global poverty and debt, for example. The approach we are commending here is certainly not based on an exclusive claim to righteousness.
[25] It is argued by some hard-line secularists that religion is or should be ‘a private matter’ – some quixotic or eccentric outlook which should be quarantined from public life. Such an attitude, born out of a particular history, seems to underlie what is often called ‘the French model’ of secularity. But it is not feasible to deny the public impact and profile of religious commitment, any more than it would be reasonable to try to make humanism or atheism ‘a purely private matter’. Faith will also always be a political threat at some level. Jesus rejected the kind of political messiahship rooted in the overthrow of the state, but his alternative way and community was still seen as a nuisance by the religious and political elites who killed him. And understandably so. It was inherently questioning their exclusive claims and the methods they used.
[26] See Bartley, chapter 8, ‘The New Deal’, pp. 131-149 (op. cit. ).
[27] By ‘dubious’ we mean those initiatives that smuggle a prayer-for-food type deal into social provision, which use services and projects as a covert way of growing Christian institutions and power, or which disguise Christian interests through the language of partnership. This is not to discount or devalue all faith-based projects. Far from it. There are some fine examples of good practice – such as Praxis in East London, a multi-agency organisation for displaced people which started out as an initiative of the Robert Kemble Christian Institute and has become a genuine partnership where the church plays a supportive (but not dominant) role, where there is inter-faith cooperation, and where faith is not used as a basis for selection, staffing or provision. See also the critique in Simon Barrow, ‘A friend in deed? Care and the community’, in ed. Michael Simmons, Street Credo: Churches and Communities (Lemos and Crane, London, 2000). [28] See Ekklesia’s response to the Racial and Religious hatred Bill: ‘Rethinking hate speech, blasphemy and free expression’, http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/article_051024racialandreligioushatred....
[29] See: Kenneth Leech (ed.), Setting the Church of England Free: The Case for Disestablishment (Jubilee Group, 2002).
[30] Walter Wink and others suggest that the Gospel of divine reversal (which favours the last, the least and the lost) is in conflict with the powers-that-be. But the conflict lines are not ones simply delineated by ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’. Indeed in the biblical narratives it is often the believers who turn out to be the enemies of hope, while non-believers are surprising instruments of liberation. See Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Fortress Press, 1992)
[31] See, for example, Rowan Williams, The David Nicholls Memorial Lecture: ‘Law, Power and Peace: Christian Perspectives on Sovereignty’ (http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/sermons_speeches/2005/050929.htm). For further background, see: David Nicholls, Deity and Domination: Images of God and the State in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Routledge, 1989) and (ed.) Paul Hirst, The Pluralist Theory of the State: Selected Writings of G. D. H. Cole, J. N. Figgis, and H. J. Laski (Routledge, 1989 rev 1993).
[32] It should be noted that ‘plurality’ and ‘pluralism’, used in political discourse to indicate systems which seek to recognise and work with political diversity, have a different field of meanings in relation to religion. ‘Religious plurality’ is a neutral observation about a state of diversity. ‘Religious pluralism’ often denotes an ideological commitment to the mutuality or posited equal value of different belief systems. It is possible to be committed to practical plurality without regarding all political or religious convictions as equal in value or truthfulness.
[33] For a thoughtful theological basis of this stance, see: John Howard Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State (Herald Press, USA, re-issued 2002).
[34] Rowan Williams emphasises this point with his characteristic clarity and vigour in a review article in The Tablet, 10 November 2001: “Freud was wrong. The fundamental problem we human beings face is not how to negotiate with the voice and image of the Father, but how to stop ourselves regarding our brothers and sisters as displaced “fathers”. We have one real Father, the transcendent source of our identity: a father who is not part of the competitive world in which the power of one means the weakness of another. What we must learn is how to live fraternally with human beings. The chief task of human maturing, therefore, is to get beyond ascribing sacred authority to other human beings, with all the rebellion and resentment, the longing to invert existing power relations rather than transform them that this involves, and rediscover the inclusive and hospitably eucharistic love – fraternity, in other words – that allows us to live together without murder. This is precisely what Jesus once and for all makes possible by his teaching, his death and his resurrection. This is the Gospel; this is what the sacraments enact.”
[35] The term, which has a longer lineage, is from Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (SCM Press, revised 2003).
[36] This isn’t to deny that there is mocking going on. It is to question whether counter-assertions of power and the fuelling of resentment are the best way of dealing with this. This is especially a challenge for Christians who have come to presume that they live in a ‘Christian country’ and are entitled to get their own way. For Muslims, say, the issue is different. The added difficulty for them is that what is perceived as cultural marginalisation or religious offence is part of a larger pattern which often also includes alarming experiences of social vulnerability and racism.
[37] There is a burning question here about which religious traditions really can support a response that accepts plurality and recognises the spiritual and moral strength of resisting attempts to impose our will on behalf of God. For some this is a new, surprising and difficult concept which can sound like weakness – but it is actually about an alternative valuation of strength. (What is needed to redeem religion from domination is a tradition-based case for plurality, rather than a confrontation between pluralism and religion.)
[38] For a deconstruction of ‘the myth of redemptive violence’ (the archetypal belief that chaos can only be controlled by order based on violence) see: Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (Galilee Trade, 1999).
[39] That kind of approach calls to mind the deeper imperial relations implied by the Christendom settlement in its wider geographical and historical context, including ‘imposed peace’ among the religions. See: Tomaz Mastnak, Crusading Peace – Christendom, the Muslim World and Western Political Order (University of California Press, 2002).
[40] For a broader historical perspective on ‘conversion’ (in Gospel terms metanoia, a spiritually generated personal-social-political turn-around), see Alan Kreider, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Trinity Press International, 1999).
[41] See Bartley, chapter 11, pp. 183-200.
[42] We can accept a ‘traditioned’ account of reason (with McIntyre and others) without supposing that this rules out cross-tradition communication or that it entails irresolvable conflict. But we may still think that cooperation requires something more concrete and relational than, say, the elaborate discourse apparatus of Habermas. See Alasdair McIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy and Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991) and Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action (Beacon Press, re-issued 1985).
[43] See: ‘Rethinking hate speech, blasphemy and free expression: An Ekklesia response to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill’, October 2005. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/article_051024racialandreligioushatred...)
[44] See: Andrew Copson, ‘Why education should not divide on faith’. Copson works for the British Humanist Association. This paper was originally delivered to the Westminster Forum, in which Ekklesia is a partner. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/features/article_060428faithschools.shtml)
[45] See also: ‘Becoming a Peace Church’: an Anabaptist Network study guide [Adobe Acrobat *.PDF file] (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/services/peacechurch.pdf).
[46] See: Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Discipleship of Equals: A Critical Feminist Ekklesia-logy of Liberation (Crossroad, USA, 1993).
[47] Sacramentality understands the material as an expression of God’s grace in and through its recognition and honouring as such. For some the positing of ‘heightened’ or specific (restricted) sacraments affirms this – for others it lessens or distorts it.
[48] See: ‘What future for marriage? A discussion paper’, by Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/article_abolishmarriage.shtml).
[49] See: Vaughan Jones, ‘Are immigration controls moral?’, a paper for the Westminster Forum (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/article_050428jones.shtml).
[50] Within the ecumenical movement, as in Catholic Social Teaching, there has been a powerful tradition of critique of both command and free market economies. This has sometimes descended into what some see as mere oppositionalism. But it has the potential to be combined with concrete practices of resource sharing, ecological sustainability and the encouragement of socially rooted enterprise so as to move in the direction of alternative economic models – ‘accountancy’ which takes labour and environment as part of ‘the bottom line’, for instance. ‘Monetary justice’ is another concern of some Christians. For a variety of stimulating perspectives see: Simon Barrow, Is God Bankrupt? An Ekklesia response to [CTBI’s] ‘Prosperity With a Purpose’ (Ekklesia, 2006 - Adobe Acrobat *.PDF file); Nicholas Boyle, Who Are We Now?: Christian Humanism and the Global Market from Hegel to Heaney (University of Notre Dame Press, 1999); Peter Selby, Grace and Mortgage: The Language of Faith and the Debt of the World (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997); ‘Towards an Economy in the Service of Life: An Account of an Ecumenical Journey’ (World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation and World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 2005); and drawing on Anabaptist perspectives - Alan Kreider and Donald Hay, Christianity and the Culture of Economics (University of Wales Press, 2001).