William Cavanaugh

William T. Cavanaugh talks about religion, the state and violence. This clip is from a lecture give an Boston College entitled, “Does Religion Cause Violence?” (It is not longer online.)

William T. Cavanaugh teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota. Much of his work focuses on how worship is a political act. His book, Torture and Eucharist, written out of his experiences living in Chile, examines how the state and the church came into conflict under Pinochet’s long reign of terror. The state’s method of torture is a type of liturgical action, built around myths of state power and meant to create a docile and individualized society. He argues that the Eucharist is the church’s response to such state power. Jesus was tortured and the church sprang out of God’s refusal to allow the state to have the final word. The myth that religion causes violence, not the state, is another target of Cavanaugh’s research.

Cavanaugh has written extensively about how church worship practices have meaningful alternatives to globalization and consumerism. His latest book, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, lucidly examines the pathologies of free -market capitalism, arguing that the Eucharist should shape Christians into the type of people who know how to consume rightly. His other book, is Theopolitical Imagination.

On this page you will find samples of Cavanaugh’s writings that would typically only be available to those with access to a research library. In addition we have provided links to several audio lectures available on the internet.

Articles by William Cavanaugh available for reading:

“Messianic Nation: A Christian Theological Critique of American Exceptionalism.” University of St. Thomas Law Journal 3:2 (Fall 2005): 261–80.

“The Liturgies of Church and State.” Liturgy 20:1 (2005): 25–30.

“Killing for the Telephone Company: Why the Nation-State is Not the Keeper of the Common Good.” Modern Theology 20:2 (April, 2004): 243–74.

“Sins of Omission: What ‘Religion and Violence’ Arguments Ignore.” The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture 6:1 (Spring 2004): 34–50.

“Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Social Imagination in Early Modern Europe.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31:3 (Fall 2001): 585–605.

“The Unfreedom of the Free Market” in Wealth, Poverty, and Human Destiny, ed. Doug Bandow and David L. Schindler (Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2003), 103-28.

“Dying for the Eucharist or Being Killed by It?: Romero’s Challenge to First-World Christians.” Theology Today 58:2 (July 2001): 177–89.

“The World in a Wafer: A Geography of the Eucharist as Resistance to Globalization.” Modern Theology 15:2 (April 1999): 181–96.

“‘A Fire Strong Enough to Consume the House:’ The Wars of Religion and the Rise of the State.” Modern Theology 11:4 (Oct. 1995): 397420.

“The Ecclesiologies of Medellín and the Lessons of the Base Communities.” Cross Currents 44:1 (Spring 1994): 67-84.

(for further reading see the unofficial archive set up at Catholic Anarchy as well as Cavanaugh’s homepage)


Grounded: Creation and Economic Crisis (at Ekklesia Project gathering, Chicago, 2009)

Sermon on the Mount

Empire of the Empty Shrine