The Legacy of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Biggar, 2016)

Nigel Biggar examines the impact on national identity of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. He reports recent social scientific evidence showing that the steady upward trend of Scots identifying themselves as British continues unabated, and argues that this implies that a large majority of Scots want ‘independence’ only within the United Kingdom.

Messianic Nation: A Christian Theological Critique of American Exceptionalism (Cavanaugh, 2005)

I want to distinguish between two broad types of American exceptionalism, one with Judeo-Christian roots, and the other with its roots in the Enlightenment. There is of course much mixing of the two types, but they represent two quite distinct ways of approaching the question of exceptionalism. The first explicitly appeals to Christian theological concepts such as the election of Israel and God’s providence. The second appeals to Enlightenment concepts concerning the universal applicability of the American value of freedom…. My basic argument is that when a direct, unmediated relationship is posited between America and a transcendent reality – either God or freedom – there is a danger that the state will be divinized.

The Liturgies of Church and State (Cavanaugh, 2005)

Today the most significant misunderstanding of the Christian liturgy is that it is sacred. Let me clarify. The problem is that “sacred” has been opposed to “secular,” and the two are presumed to describe two separate—but occasionally related—orbits. The problem is not simply that this separation leaves the church’s liturgy begging for relevance to the “real world.” The problem is rather that the supposedly “secular” world invents its own liturgies, with pretensions every bit as “sacred” as those of the Christian liturgy, and these liturgies can come to rival the church’s liturgy for our bodies and our minds. In this brief essay I want to explore in particular some of the liturgies of the American nation-state. I will suggest first that such liturgies are not properly called “secular,” and second, that the Christian liturgy is not properly cordoned off into the realm of the “sacred.”

Pledging Allegiance: A Theological Reflection on the Kobasa Case (Cavanaugh, 2006)

Christians have a word for putting earthly things in the place of God: idolatry. Furthermore, the Church has not hesitated to identify the danger of idolatry attendant to the modern state. Pope Pius XI said that nationalism is “an ideology which clearly resolves itself into a true, real pagan worship of the state—a Statolatry which is not less in contrast with the natural rights of the family than it is in contradiction to the supernatural rights of the Church.” In its section on idolatry (2113), the Catechism makes clear that “idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith.” The Catechism continues, “Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God,” and includes “the state” in a list of examples. Elsewhere, the Catechism warns against the “idolatry of the nation” (57).

“A Fire Strong Enough to Consume the House”: Wars of Religion and the Rise of the State (Cavanaugh, 1995)

My purpose in this essay will be to focus on the way revulsion to killing in the name of religion is used to legitimize the transfer of ultimate loyalty to the modern State. Specifically I will examine how the so-called “Wars of Religion” of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe are evoked as the founding moment of modern liberalism by theorists such as John
Rawls, Judith Shklar, and Jeffrey Stout.

Cardinal Pell and the Theology of the Nation State (Cavanaugh, 2005)

How might a Christian envision the way the world ought to be and how humans ought to live in community. I guess if you take the biblical story, which I do with my very beginning students, and you look at the biblical story as a whole, it can be told as the story of primordial unity and then scattering and gathering again, salvation as a kind of gathering again into a harmony amongst humans and between humans and God. And so the way the story of the Fall in Genesis is told it encapsulates the whole thing: that there is this Creation that begins good and then through sin kind of falls apart and so on and then we are to be gathered back together.