From totalitarianism to the “good Empire”: a few notes on our Friday workshop

Our workshop on Christianity, politics, and secular religions last Friday was absolutely outstanding. It was a special honor to have William Cavanaugh (author of The Myth of Religious Violence and Field Hospital), Patrick Deneen (the author of Democratic Faith), Phillip Blond (director of the ResPublica think-tank), Hans Otto Seitschek (a contributor to Hans Maier’s famous Totalitarianism and Political Religions), and Michal Gierycz (whose European Debate on the Human Being is forthcoming by Springer) among our presenters.

As the above list already suggests, we also had some real debates. Bill and Patrick will never completely agree on what a Christian contribution to politics means; nationalism as a “spendid idolatry” remains disputed by anyone who thinks of it as part of the Christian heritage. Phillip’s idea of “good” and “bad” empires also remains controversial, of course, even if Christianity is supposed to be “universal in the sense that it promotes all particularities that represent the universal.” Not to mention the anthropological disputes within the EU and the Christian Democratic parties’ role in such disputes (the topic of Michal), of which Phillip simply remarked that Christian Democracy is dead. Totalitarianism (by Hans Otto) was perhaps the only topic on which there was a consensus, but even in this case, the “religious” nature of totalitarianism seems somewhat problematic. To me, it looks more like a political appropriation of Christianity, and not of religion in general.

But I may return to some of these topics later on. For the time being it suffices to say that “secular” or “political” religions, despite all their terminological problems, still seem to be inspiring, and not only for me.