A radical, subjunctive, political theology of resistance: On religion and community

Jordan E Miller, Salve Regina University


This dissertation argues for the possibility of theology of the political. It understands the distinctions between religion and politics to be porous. They are both exercises in the re-creation of the world. In the end, the dissertation reads radical theology alongside contemporary examples of political upheaval in a performance of a theology of resistance. ^ The dissertation is a work of political theology, drawing on political philosophy, philosophy of religion, radical theology, and anthropology of religion. It argues that a better foundation for political theology than Carl Schmitt's notion of sovereignty is the anthropologist, Roy A. Rappaport's understanding of the ritual construction of society because the ritual act toward authority is more fundamental than the sovereign act of decision. Specifically, the dissertation argues that subjunctivity—living in and creating the world as it might be rather than as it is—provides a more fertile and open foundation for the political. Subjunctivity short circuits sovereignty, producing a reorientation of political theology. In elucidating the concept of subjunctivity, this dissertation performs it as well. As such, the dissertation is both a political project and a theological one. ^ This dissertation is a deliberate and interdisciplinary investigation into, on the one hand, the common subjunctive foundation of both the political and the religious as well as, on the other, a construction of a theology of resistance. The bulk of the dissertation is an exercise in demarcating its conceptual terrain. The first two chapters establish subjunctivity as an alternative foundational concept for political theology. The third chapter argues for an understanding of religion without God—both in terms of personal practice and in the construction of religious community. The central argument here arises from creative readings of Martin Buber, René Girard, Paul Tillich, Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton: that religious community operates best without God. The fourth chapter performs creative readings of Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the story of the French village Le Chambon Sur Lignon's resistance to the Nazis. It concludes that radical theology—a name for thinking theologically in the absence of God—contains within it a latent political imperative. Radical theology is already political theology. ^ At that point, the dissertation undertakes a theology of contemporary political resistance, specifically in the case of Occupy Wall Street. The chapter begins by examining the concept of the city as it relates to both the political and the theological. Through critical readings of Michel de Certeau and Thomas Merton's work on how people perform acts of resistance in cities, the first part of this chapter argues that the city is both a theological object and produces political resistance. The second half of the chapter performs a radical, subjunctive, political theology of Occupy Wall Street. ^ This dissertation's focus is twofold: to justify the methodological legitimacy of thinking theologically about resistance, and to experimentally perform that theology of resistance. In the end, this dissertation hopes to both prove and demonstrate that resistance is theological activity.^

Subject Area

Religion, General|Religion, Philosophy of|Anthropology, Cultural

Recommended Citation

Miller, Jordan E, "A radical, subjunctive, political theology of resistance: On religion and community" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3639681.