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Photo: “Saint Peter’s Square from the dome” by velyag, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Schmiedel, Ulrich, and Joshua Ralston. The Spirit of Populism: Political Theologies in Polarized Times. Brill, 2021.


Populism is a buzzword. This compilation explores the significance of religion for the controversies stirred up by populist politics in European and American contexts in order to understand what lies behind the buzz. Engaging Jewish, Christian, and Islamic political thought and theology, contributions by more than twenty established and emerging scholars explore right-wing and left-wing protests, offering critical interpretations and creative interventions for a polarized public square. Both methodologically and thematically, the compilation moves beyond essentialist definitions of religion, encouraging a comparative approach to political theology today.

Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction: Political Theology in the Spirit of Populism, Methods and Metaphors – Ulrich Schmiedel
  • Part 1: Resources – Ulrich Schmiedel and Joshua Ralston
  • Chapter 2: Anger: A Secularized Theological Concept – Vincent Lloyd
  • Chapter 3: “Just because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not after You”: Populism, Political Theology, and the Culturally Repugnant Other – Thomas Lynch
  • Chapter 4: The Politics of Belonging in the Nation State: Reclaiming Christianity from Populism – Mariëtta D. C. van der Tol
  • Chapter 5: America Transcendent – Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
  • Part 2: Readings – Ulrich Schmiedel and Joshua Ralston
  • Chapter 6: Sacred Scripts of Populism: Scripture-Practices in the European Far Right – Hannah M. Strømmen
  • Chapter 7: Hermeneutics, Politics, and Liberalism in Islamic Modernity: Beyond Populism – Fatima Tofighi
  • Chapter 8: “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem”: Zionism and the Politics of Collective Memory – Brian Klug
  • Chapter 9: Populism, Christianity, and the Role of the Theologian – Mattias Martinson
  • Part 3: Reflections – Ulrich Schmiedel and Joshua Ralston
  • Chapter 10: From Incarnation to Identity: The Theological Background of National-Populist Politics in the Western Balkans – Zoran Grozdanov
  • Chapter 11: Querying Populism by Queering Chantal Mouffe: Understanding Hetero-Patriarchal Populism – Ludger Viefhues-Bailey
  • Chapter 12: The Persistence of White Christian Patriarchy in a Time of Right-Wing Populism – Esther McIntosh
  • Chapter 13: The God of the Brexiteers – Lukas David Meyer
  • Chapter 14: Discipling Populism: A Theopolitical Alternative to Denial or Demonizing – Doug Gay
  • Part 4 Responses – Ulrich Schmiedel and Joshua Ralston
  • Chapter 15: A Political Theology of ‘The People’: Enlisting Classical Concepts for Contemporary Critique – Jonathan Chaplin
  • Chapter 16: Can Jewish Ethics Speak to Sovereignty? – Julie E. Cooper
  • Chapter 17: Confessing Christ in ‘Christian Europe’: The Death of the Church as a Theological Response to Populism – Joseph Sverker
  • Chapter 18: The Other in the Ecclesial Self: The Church and the Populist Challenge – Sturla J. Stålsett
  • Chapter 19: The Orthodox ‘Unorthodox’: From Populism to Pluralism -Ryszard Bobrowicz and Johanna Gustafsson Lundberg
  • Chapter 20: Conclusion: An Invitation to Comparative Political Theology – Joshua Ralston

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.