Nonviolent Politics and the Resurrection of the Dead
- ISBN: 9781626167261
- Published By: Georgetown University Press
- Published: February 2020
In ¡Presente! Nonviolent Politics and the Resurrection of the Dead, Kyle B. T. Lambelet develops a messianic political theology of nonviolence that refutes both the collapse of messianism into violence or escapism and the essentialization of practical reason as either pure effectiveness or faithfulness. Through an extended case study of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch’s ¡presente! litany, Lambelet demonstrates how the liturgical affirmation of the presence of the dead, rather than inhibiting practical reason and collapsing messianism into polarizing extremes, instead evokes a collective constructive exercise in practical reason. As he writes: “Although movements such as the SOA Watch will rise and fall, the presence of the dead will continue to challenge those who remember to persist in lament and resurrection hope. . . . Such hopes require a willingness to discern constantly the call of faithfully effective political action in this historical moment” (182).
The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 lays out the problems of messianic political theologies and their so-thought-of dichotomizing impact on practical reason, both from a theoretical and empirical perspective. Part 2 explores three areas of tension within the SOA Watch’s ¡presente! litany and their relevance for the theology of nonviolence Lambelet develops. These tensions focus on questions of (1) pluralism, (2) the law, and (3) leadership.
In part 1, Lambelet first approaches the perceived problems of messianic political theologies from a general viewpoint (see chapter 1) before narrowing his scope to a detailed history, theology, and politics of the SOA Watch and its ¡presente! litany (see chapter 2). Among other things, Lambelet astutely observes that the movement between liturgy and politics is not unidirectional (e.g., liturgy to politics, as scholars such as William T. Cavanaugh might suggest), but rather bilateral, what he calls a mezcla of movement between the political and religious. Insofar as the ¡presente! litany is liturgical protest and is understood as employing “ritual systems to carry out simultaneously political and theological work,” Lambelet argues, “each term in the descriptor conditions the other” (34). The theo-politics of the ¡presente! litany, therefore, conditions not only the movement’s theology but also the litany’s politics, both of which operate in dynamic tension.
In chapter 6, Lambelet frames the decision to move the ¡presente! litany from Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, to the U.S./Mexico border in Ambos Nogales as an example of this reciprocal nature between liturgy and politics. Here, Lambelet argues that the anamnestic element of the ¡presente! litany is responsive to the historical and political developments occurring at the US/Mexico border (i.e., the ¡presente! litany is responding to the question of practical reason as effectiveness), while the politics of the SOA Watch is concurrently repositioned by the anamnestic element of the ¡presente! litany (i.e., the SOA Watch is responding to the question of practical reason as faithfulness).
Regarding the tension of pluralism, the law, and leadership in part 2 (see chapters 3-5), Lambelet’s arguments are structured similarly. For example, Lambelet suggests that the pluralistic development of the SOA Watch and its ¡presente! litany over time allowed faithfulness and effectiveness to flourish dynamically, rather than sacrificing the former to the latter. He writes: “Pluralism . . . is a critical asset to the development of a broad-based movement for social and political change” (i.e., a movement’s effectiveness; 88) and functions as “a way to round out the epistemological blinds spots” that singular confessional identities have the potential to overlook (i.e., a movement’s faithfulness; 89).
By arguing that the dialectic of faithfulness and effectiveness do not merely collapse into each other as traditional understandings of practical reason in messianic political theologies posit, Lambelet illustrates how the two can—and must—be held in dynamic tension. The political, moral, and theological significance of the ¡presente! litany’s messianic claim for nonviolent movements, he suggests, is found precisely in this notion. For the Christian, this mezcla is a recognition of what it means to be in the presence of crucified people (those whom the ¡presente! litany remembers) and to be a crucified people (those who attend the ¡presente! litany and continue to grapple with and engage in practical reason afterward). For Lambelet, this dynamism is best seen in Jon Sobrino’s analysis of the soteriology of Ignacio Ellacuriá’s messianic political theology. Sobrino states: “Understanding today that Jesus has been raised by God entails the hope that we can be raised, but it follows from what has been said that we also have to be, in some way, raisers”: a crucified people threatened with the resurrection of the dead who faithfully respond to God’s call to creatively participate in the effective process of salvation (Jon Sobrino, Christ the Liberator: A View from the Victims, Orbis Books, 2011; quoted on p. 178).
Lambelet’s analysis of the SOA Watch and the ¡presente! litany thus masterfully holds the effective and faithful elements of practical reason in dynamic tension and underscores the necessity of their interrelationality for messianic political theologies. That said, readers coming from a US Latinx background might ask: Where is the analysis of the aesthetic element(s) of the SOA Watch and the ¡presente! litany in Lambelet’s work? How might the inclusion of this element enhance Lambelet’s reading of the ¡presente! litany? And how could this understanding illuminate or shed new light on the practical reasoning Lambelet suggests is taking place by those involved with the SOA Watch?
Despite this omission, the development of the lived theology of nonviolence Lambelet presents offers a constructive window for scholars and practitioners in the fields of political theology and strategic nonviolence. Those who read ¡Presente! are sure to rethink the relationship between effectiveness and faithfulness in messianic political theologies in new and profound ways.
Marcus Timothy Haworth is a graduate student in theology at the University of Notre Dame.Marcus T. HaworthDate Of Review:January 27, 2022