Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dempsey, Deirdre A.
Christian theopolitics presupposes that every salvation narrative entails a politics, and that every politics presumes a story of salvation. This means that the church faces a host of theopolitical structures contending with the Christian story for the allegiance, formation, and identity of Christians. However, theopolitical scholarship has largely overlooked or misunderstood one of the church's major challenges today: nationalism. Moreover, this scholarship is unable to properly address the challenge of nationalism due to an inadequate engagement with biblical theopolitics--particularly that of Old Testament Israel--which, in distorted form, is central to nationalism emanating from within the church.
In order to supplement theopolitical studies in this regard, this dissertation engages nationalism scholarship to better understand the phenomenon and its relationship to Christianity. It finds that within certain nationalist movements, theological moves are at work that make possible both the formulation and propagation of a national identity that places the nation squarely within the Christian salvation narrative, usually as an extension of Israel, and thereby supplanting the church.
In response to this problem, the study develops a biblical theopolitics from both Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. This theopolitics presents Israel as the elect and covenanted People of God whom Yahweh establishes as a visible sign of salvation to the nations, the definitive social, political, and economic human community. While Israel diverges from this vocation, Yahweh still provides for its fulfillment by incarnating both Israel and Yahweh in the person of Jesus Christ, culminating in Christ's suffering and exaltation. Christ subsequently establishes the church to carry on the embodiment of covenant fulfilled, dissertationing it to the rest of humanity.
By way of example for the theopolitical scholarship it is intended to supplement, the final part of the dissertation examines Christian nationalism in the United States, both in the form of popular narratives put forth by the American Christian Right, as well as more sophisticated academic political theologies. It evaluates these discourses, determining that their attempts to authenticate a particular national identity inevitably distort Christian understanding of the biblical narrative, and thus the identity and practices of the ecclesia.