Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Ecclesial Unity, Political Division

It seems important to me that in all parties (including even in the communist party) there should be Christians and that the role of these Christians should be to be well in tune with and serious comrades for those who are in the same party, but that they unceasingly remember, and that is the significance of their political commitment, that they are more united with their brothers in Jesus Christ who belong to the opposite party than with their comrades of the same party.

These are the words of Jacques Ellul, in an essay titled, “Christian Faith and Social Reality.” I read these words for the first time the week before leaving for Chicago for AAR/SBL, as I was proofreading the typeset pages for a forthcoming book on the thought of Ellul—Understanding Jacques Ellul, co-written by Jeffrey P. Greenman, Read M. Schuchardt, and Noah J. Toly. It’s an excellent book, and I commend it to readers. It’s coming out under our Cascade Books imprint and should be available before the end of the year.

Naturally, I’m thinking about Ellul’s words in light of the recent reelection of Barack Obama. Ellul makes a point that, while perhaps challenging to some, is hard to tangle with theologically—baptismal unity is prior to and deeper than secular political unity. To be baptized into the body of Christ is to be sacramentally engrafted into a “catholic” family, a global family, in which it makes sense to think of (and treat!) citizens even of other nations, let along different domestic political parties, as brothers and sisters rather than as enemies or foreigners.

But Ellul suggests something more radical in this same passage. Presuming this deeper baptismal unity, Ellul does not see contemporary political divisions as a threat but rather as an opportunity for the service of deeper Christian unity. Christians should exist in all different parties, Ellul seems to say, because by being present across the spectrum, Christians can enact a meaningful service by preventing partisan energies from becoming fundamentally divisive and destructive. What would it mean in our American context for Christians to be Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Independents, Libertarians and so forth in such a way that the “significance” of our partisanship was manifested in how we ceaselessly remembered our deeper baptismal unity?


  1. Wouldn’t the nature of baptismal unity but limits on such a practice? For example to belong to a party which contradicts the “there is no difference..” from Paul? I’m thinking, for an example, of Apartheid South Africa…

    The borders of baptism so to speak.

  2. Any talk of ecclesiastical or “baptismal” unity is completely absurd because there are now 35,000 different and differing Christian denominations, sects and sub-sects all competing for market share in the whats-in-it-for-me marketplace of consumerist religion.

    And as if sprinkling water on a babies head and simultaneously mumbling a few inane words is anything more than a superficial ritual completely lacking in any kind of consciously understood and Realized depth dimension.

    Lewis Mumford also wrote on the relation between technology, culture and religion. He was of course far more critical and realistic as to the in your face reality of the applied politics of the institutional church and its integral role/function in the Western imperialist/colonial misadventure.
    This one stark image which is featured in his book The Pentagon of Power sums up the situation perfectly.
    As does the contents of this reference and website

    So after 1700 years of inevitable never-ending slaughters Christians are now supposed to be a source of peace and tolerance in the world?

    Meanwhile of course following on from both Mumford and Ellul every aspect of USA “culture” is now permeated with the death-saturated world-view and “values” of the military-industrial-“entertainment” complex brought to one and all (and the entire planet too) by the Pentagon death-machine, and the NRA too.

    Furthermore all of the “great” world dominant religions are armed to the teeth and always have been.

    Then of course there is the applied brutalistic politics of right-wing USA Christians described in the review of the unspeakably vile sado-masochistic snuff/splatter film reviewed at this reference.

  3. I love these areitlcs. How many words can a wordsmith smith?

  4. It’s time for you now! I quite understand the hesitancy though… I feel exactly the same way about my photography. I would hate to lose my money independance, even for a few months!I know you’ll make it though… you’re so very determined .-= Jeanette´s last blog .. =-.

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