Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy
Luke Bretherton, Ph.D., professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, has written a guide to the historical and contemporary relationship between Christianity and politics, while making a compelling case for why Christians should be committed to democracy.
The book, Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy, has been published this month by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
In the book, Bretherton considers a range of Christian approaches to political engagement across the Americas, Africa, and Europe. In dialogue with Scripture, along with numerous theologians, ethicists, and political thinkers, Bretherton examines the dynamic relationship between who we are in relation to God and who we are as moral and political animals. He addresses fundamental political questions about poverty and injustice, forming a common life with strangers, and handling power constructively.
Through Bretherton’s analysis of debates concerning race, class, economics, the environment, interfaith relations, and other topics, he develops an innovative political theology of democracy as a way through which Christians can speak and act faithfully within the contemporary context, and at the same time pursue a just and compassionate common life with others who don’t share their beliefs and practices.
Christ and the Common Life guides readers through the political landscape and identifies the primary vocabulary, ideas, and schools of thought that shape Christian reflection on politics. Ideal for use in the classroom, the book equips students to understand politics and its positive and negative role in fostering neighbor love.
The book begins with a discussion of political theology before examining how five different “schools”—humanitarianism, Black Power, Pentecostalism, Catholic social teaching, and Anglicanism—have approached political engagement. Bretherton then examines challenges to coexistence and some central commitments, such as tolerance, that make the cultivation of a democratic common life possible. In the final section, each chapter explores key concepts that are the building blocks of democracy. These serve as the foundation for outlining the theological basis of the relationship between Christianity and democracy. This is especially urgent at present when many around the world are renouncing democracy or questioning its relevance as a way of addressing shared problems.
A book launch for Christ and the Common Life will be held June 17 in London, United Kingdom, followed by a symposium on the book at Lambeth Palace. In addition, a book launch will be sponsored by Duke Divinity School on Nov. 1 at Duke University with Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale University and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, giving the keynote lecture in response to the book.
Bretherton is also the author of Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press.
See a video of Dr. Luke Bretherton discussing his new book.