Cavanaugh’s book Theopolitical Imagination is one of the books that (in spite of its small size) has had the most influence on me. He tends to repeat the central argument in that book – the construction of ”religion” as a means to rob the church of power – in every book he writes, so also in this new collection of essays. I still enjoyed reading it, though, and some of these texts I think are important.
The first article ”Killing for the Telephone Company”, expands on the above mentioned argument by showing the way ”society” does not preceed the state as most of us would think, but in fact it is the other way around, that society imagined as a more or less organic whole is in fact the creation on the nation state. This is an important point, of course, because it makes it possible for the church to reimagine its relationship with the world. Instead of relating to one society, it can return to the Augustinan two cities model. (The argument in chapter 2).
Chapter three is an interesting if not that original meditation on tourism, contrasted with the Christian notion of pilgrimage. Chapter four deals with American Messianism. Chapter five discusses how one could answer the question ”What about the Inquisition”. Chapter six explores the Liturgies of Church and state, and in a way returns to the argument of his first book Torture and Eucharist.
The last three chapters deal with the church as a political body, and I especially find the way Cavanaugh counters the critique against Hauerwas-type ecclesiologies, that the ”idealize” the church, important. Essentially the alternative community the church represents is not a ”perfect” community but a sinful one. However, it is also a community that is aware of its sinfullness and has ways to deal with it that is not available to the world.