Journal Article

Empire's Allure: Babylon and the Exception to Law in Two Conservative Discourses

Erin Runions

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 77, issue 3, pages 680-711
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Empire's Allure: Babylon and the Exception to Law in Two Conservative Discourses

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Reference to Babylon and Babel in theonomist and neoconserative discourse is instructive in thinking about how the Bible and processes of biblical interpretation might condition U.S. citizens to accept the inconsistencies of empire and its recourse to the state of exception, in which leaders suspend the law in order to save democracy. Despite significant philosophical and religious differences, these conservative discourses are strikingly similar in allegorizing the Babel story to motivate resistance to a universalizing secular humanism and its laws (which are called Babylonian). Though suspicious of political unities like empires, and in favor of decentralization and individualism that can go beyond the law, these discourses insist that resistance is in the name of a unified truth, often presented in strongly imperialist terms. Slippages between unity and multiplicity in these allusions to Babylon—partially produced by a mélange of pre- and post-Enlightenment values—are found to be homologous with the structure of the exception and with a common canonical mode of biblical interpretation. When these dynamics are read alongside Carl Schmitt's genealogy of the exception in Political Theology, a clear picture emerges of the scripturalized structure of exception to law in U.S. liberal democracy.

Journal Article.  11942 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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