So, on my Xanga I advertised Cavanaugh's book Torture and Eucharist, which I just finished, as flat-out UNBELIEVABLE, and on my Facebook as one of the greatest books I ever read. I'm hoping to say a lot more about it here, as I meditate on it and let it all gestate. I'm thinking that, at the moment, I ought to put up some kind of paragraph-long excerpt, but 'tis hard to choose. I would love to post a quote from Chapter 5, which I think is hands-down the greatest chapter in any book I've ever read, but, I probably wouldn't stop until I'd typed up the whole chapter.
So here's a quote from Chapter 1:
"The body of the martyr is thus the battleground for a larger contest of rival imaginations, that of the state and that of the church. A crucial difference in these imaginations is that the imagination of the church is essentially eschatological; the church is not a rival polis but points to an alternative time and space, a mingling of heaven and earth. A strong apocalyptic element is associated with martyrdom from early on in Christian history, at least by the time Acts and Revelation were written. About to be stoned to death, Stephen, the first martyr, raised his eyes and declared 'Look, I see the heavens opened!' This was more than a vision of his final resting place; it was instead the outpouring of heaven upon the earth, a foretste of the final consummation of the Kingdom of God. Martyrdom is a bridge between heaven and earth not becuase the martyr is soon to travel one way to her eternal reward, but because heaven has been brought to earth in the form of one who, in imitating Jesus the Christ, has cheated earthly death of its sting. A martyr is one who lives imaginatively as if death does not exist. The eschatological imagination of martyrdom is not a vertical ascension to another place and time, a distant heaven; the movement instead brings a foretaste of heavenly space-time to earth.
"...The church is thus a vision of things unseen, but the church is never wholly visible, either in the sense of being entirely subjectively holy or being an institutional rival to the state. In its eschatological imagination, the church waits on Christ's second coming, straining forward toward full consummation of the Kingdom. Its task on earth is a hope-filled witness to the opening of heaven, the revelation of things which the earthly eye now sees only dimly."