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Three Inquiries in Church and State

Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State offers a New World rejoinder to the largely Europe-centered academic discourse on church and state. In contrast to what is often assumed, in the Americas the relationship between church and state has not been one of freedom or separation but one of unstable and adaptable collusion. Ekklesia sees in the settler states of North and South America alternative patterns of conjoined religious and political power, patterns resulting from the undertow of other gods, other peoples, and other claims to sovereignty. These local challenges have led to a continuously contested attempt to realize a church-minded state, a state-minded church, and the systems that develop in their concert. The shifting borders of their separation and the episodic conjoining of church and state took new forms in both theory and practice.
The first of a closely linked trio of essays is by Paul Johnson, and offers a new interpretation of the Brazilian community gathered at Canudos and its massacre in 1896–97, carried out as a joint churchstate mission and spectacle. In the second essay, Pamela Klassen argues that the colonial churchstate relationship of Canada came into being through local and national practices that emerged as Indigenous nations responded to and resisted becoming “possessions” of colonial British America. Finally, Winnifred Sullivan’s essay begins with reflection on the increased effort within the United States to ban Bibles and scriptural references from death penalty courtrooms and jury rooms; she follows with a consideration of the political theological pressure thereby placed on the jury that decides between life and death. Through these three inquiries, Ekklesia takes up the familiar topos of “church and state” in order to render it strange.

224 pages | 9 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018


History: History of Ideas

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Philosophy: Philosophy of Religion

Religion: Religion and Society


“The book is a hugely productive resource, both in terms of the accounts provided and as an invitation for others to consider churchstateness in their own research contexts. . . . Profoundly interdisciplinary. . . . As with any good book, Ekklesia is a disrupter.”

Public Books

Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State brings three accomplished scholars into a trialogue about church and state in the Americas. . . . The cross-pollination of arguments results in a volume awash in original insights into the spiritual/material dimensions of the production of institutional power. . . .  Ekklesia will come to occupy an important place within scholarship on religion in the Americas.”

Reading Religion

Ekklesia breathes welcome new life into arguments about “church and state,” offering fresh coordinates, frontiers, and observations with which to better understand the knotty and often violent hybrids of “churchstate” relations throughout the Americas. Read separately and in comparison, its three provocative narratives and erudite opening chapter offer an important new path for understanding the enduring entanglements of religious matters in the shaping of sovereignty and peoplehood in American state formations.”

Courtney Bender, Columbia University

Ekklesia promises in particular to rattle and refresh classroom and scholarly discussions of American church-stateness, leading them productively beyond the vision of the framers enshrined in the First Amendment. Each of the case studies is cinematically riveting, a selling point for classroom use, and each attends in different ways to the foundational violence of European settlement and of Christian visions of religious authority. Each essay is sound, useful and engagingly written, with rich bibliographies and resources for further thought. Together, however, their effect is stunning and transformative. This is a remarkable book.”

Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University

"In this evocative and beautifully rendered volume, Johnson, Klassen and Sullivan issue a welcome invitation to look afresh at 'church and state' as inescapably potent, contingent, and entangled dimensions of our political and legal communities.  Unsettling tidy and tired stories about the separation of church and state, Ekklesia is a challenging meditation on the messiness, strangeness, and instability of the relations among religion, law, and politics.  In their essays, and against a literature dominated by stories about Europe, the authors challenge us to see what can be seen when we consider church and state from 'close-range' in the Americas, where these relations take place on a terrain of contested sovereignties."

Benjamin Berger, York University

"Ekklesia is a strong addition to an ongoing set of discussions on the efficacy of inherited categorical distinctions. The authors convincingly challenge many of the assumptions entailed in popular church-state arguments and they provide helpful examples and explanations of the multidimensionality and co-constitutive nature of churchstateness."

Nova Religio

"Ekklesia offers concrete examples of what political theologians have been arguing for years, namely, that religion and politics cannot so easily be separated. The strength and bona fide contribution of the book is to buttress this larger theological or philosophical claim with well researched and fascinating historical examples."

Journal of Church and State

"Ekklesia makes two important but largely implicit contributions. It offers three case studies and supporting arguments to underline the inadequacy of conventional theories of secularization involving a clear separation of church and state. Secondly, it gives prominence to the human body in accounts of resistance to structures of power that are experienced as oppressive and unwarranted. . . In other words, these essays bring into account the materiality of authority and resistance."

Sociology of Religion

"...essential reading for graduate students and scholars working in the area."

Nicholas Shrubsole | Journal of Law and Religion

Table of Contents

Paul Christopher Johnson, Pamela E. Klassen, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

The People and the Law of the Hound at Canudos
Paul Christopher Johnson

Spiritual Jurisdictions: Treaty People and the Queen of Canada
Pamela E. Klassen

Banning Bibles; Death-Qualifying a Jury
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan


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