The task of responding to Enlightenment and Postmodern understandings of socio-economic reality has become increasingly urgent in a world where Christian communities feel themselves drowned and eroded by global consumerism. Radical Orthodoxy and its related movements and groups of thinkers have confronted today's secular triumphalists with the evidence that its own political theories are deeply, if unconsciously, theological. There is no escape from theology, which alone cuts deeply enough to expose the violence at the root of modern secular society and the deceptive promise of salvation through the State. Catherine Pickstock has drawn attention to the importance of the liturgy at the heart of Western civilization. Now William T. Cavanaugh develops the theme of liturgy as a political act, and the Eucharist as the basis for Christian resistance to 'structures of sin'.
In terms reminiscent of Rowan Williams and Michel de Certeau, Dr. Cavanaugh explores the way we imagine ourselves into space and time. The false catholicity of globalization calls for an answer from within the Christian communion itself. In the nation state, and in the so-called 'international community,' the universal dominates the particular. In the eucharistic community, which is both universal and local, we see the birth of 'free alternative spaces, cities of God in time'. The Eucharist offers an alternative model of humanity, uniting people as fellow-citizens not only in heaven but on earth. It offers a new space and a new time beyond the public square. With Cavanaugh's radical critique, Catholic social teaching reaches the cutting edge of contemporary thought.
William Cavanaugh has already established himself as a brilliant commentator on the theological faultlines lying beneath the surface of modern political disease. This searching essay puts just the questions that need urgent hearing in the contemporary political world. If we can't take for granted that we know what political legitimacy is any longer, in a world where sovereignty of the nation-state is a precarious fiction, we should be driven to theology for some fundamental resources. Cavanaugh provides, briefly but powerfully, a clear guide to these resources.
—Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
This is not another one of those books that merely sprinkles some sacramental salt on the political pretzel. When Cavanaugh takes recourse to the Christian sacramental life, it is for the purpose of untwisting the knots in the body politic. His clarity of expression and accomplished grasp of material will enable both theologians who do not know much politics and politicians who do not know much theology to follow along as he takes an x-ray of the current situation and asks why we think the way we do.
—David W. Fagerberg, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame
I found the book very engaging, historically deep, theologically astute, and a much needed tool for reading the 'signs of the times.' It’s especially helping in our current political atmosphere.
—C. Wess Daniels, Gathering in Light
William T. Cavanaugh teaches at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota.