Redeeming Politics: From Constantine to Cromwell.

Kaufmann, Peter I. Redeeming Politics: From Constantine to Cromwell. Princeton University Press, 1990.

Peter Kaufman provides an analysis of select historical episodes of the interaction between religion – specifically Christian religion, and the state, in relation to the attempts that were made to “redeem” politics in each of these instances. Kaufman begins with Eusebius of Caesarea and ends with Calvin’s Geneva. One of the key concepts underlying Kaufman’s study is that of “sociolatry” by which he means a “type of ideology that associates salvation with political idealizations, symbols, and spells circulated to inspire loyalty, obedience, and service” (p. 5). By implication, salvation depends on some configuration of political power and how the subjects are located in relation to it. Thus sociolatry turns leading political figures or dissidents into “sacred messengers or substitute messiahs.”
Salvation is, in this perspective, corporate and has political as well as otherworldly dimensions. Thus politics becomes a crucial arena in the battle for redemption; redemption involves ordering the society’s political affairs in accordance the purported divine vision.
Eusebius of Caesarea effectively transformed Constantine after his conversion from an emperor into a redeemer, asserts Kaufman; this has continued to be the predominant model of “redeeming politics” in Christian traditions. Although Constantine’s attempts to establish a universal Christian empire came to grief with the sack of Rome in the early fifth century, apologists of sociolatry attempted to revive and redefine the idea of a Christian empire. Kaufman supplies instances of these attempts in the fifth apologists Paulus Orosius and Salvian of Marseilles and continues on to Tudor England, eleven centuries later, which might have been part of the same general trends in sociolatry.
Cromwell’s army, in Kaufman’s view, suggested that not merely emperors or generals but even ordinary soldiers could lay claim to the legacy of Constantine. However, it is not just the state that located salvation in relation to a certain political configuration; churches too were involved, as Kaufman shows in the development of imperial papacy during and shortly after pope Gregory VII. Kaufman’s last historical episode of attempts to “redeem” politics is Calvin’s Geneva where Calvin’s attempt to establish a model polity eventually comes to naught.
Kaufman shows that a clean separation of the arena of politics as this-worldly and the arena of religion as otherworldly is not sustainable; he observes that “boundaries between piety and practical affairs may be drawn, but not defended, without great difficulty” (p. 9).