Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sacral Secularity

"The public is not so much desacralized as it is de-Christianized to bathe the new secular public in a kind of sacral secularity. New rituals of formation take the place of Christian liturgy and serve quite different ends. The secular is not areligious, just differently religious - a religion of immanence and autonomy.... The advent of modernity and the birth of the secular, therefore, do not entail the creation of a secular public space where the state merely manages temporal goods, distinguished from a private sacred space where individuals and communities are free to pursue a supra-temporal telos. The state does not take a merely temporal regulatory role and leave salvation in the hands of the church; rather, the modern state seeks to replace the church by itself becoming a soteriological institution. It is in this sense, then, that the modern state is a parody of the church: 'The body of the state is a simulacrum, a false copy, of the Body of Christ' (RONT, 182). As a result, while political rhetoric may suggest that the state is confined to a 'public' sphere or that the reign of the secular is circumscribed, in fact the modern state demands complete allegiance, and the reign of the secular does not tolerate territories of resistance. The state is happy to absorb all kinds of private pursuits under the umbrella of civil society, but it cannot tolerate a religious community that claims to be the only authentic polis and proclaims a king who is a rival to both Caesar and Leviathan. In such a case, this community's allegiance to its king ultimately trumps its allegiance to the state or empire, and its understanding of the nature of human persons does not fit the normative picture of liberalism. This the state cannot tolerate. It is in this sense that 'every worship service is a challenge to Caesar.' Thus, Cavanaugh defines the state as 'that peculiar institution which has arisen in teh last four centuries in which a centralized and abstract power holds a monopoly over physical coercion within a geographically defined territory.' James K. A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology, pp. 131-133
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