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    detail of a photograph of a statue of Constantine the emperor

    Covering the Cover: Faith & Politics

    Rosalind Stevenson

    March 16, 2020
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    A lot of ideas came to mind as we began designing the cover for the Spring 2020 issue of Plough Quarterly, and we veered from realistic to abstract representation and back again. Faith and politics occasionally do work together, but at root they are in conflict, and to portray this ambiguity took some head-scratching. (A close runner-up for the cover art was a striking image of oil and water.) Many examples came to mind of people in history who caused waves by bringing faith into politics, from biblical characters such as John the Baptist and Jesus himself to St. George (of dragon fame) and Emperor Constantine….

    In the end we did settle on this image of the emperor Constantine the Great – or to be exact, of his statue outside the York Minster, designed by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 1998 on the site of Constantine’s accession to the throne in AD 306. Constantine was the one who made the momentous move, seven years later, to make Christianity legal, giving official privileges to the church (he himself was baptized in his last hours). While it was actually his successors who made Christianity the official religion of the empire, he remains a symbol of the fusing – or the clashing – of the realm of the state and the realm of the church. For this, he’s both celebrated (Orthodox Christians venerate him as the “equal to the apostles”) and criticized as the figure responsible for mixing Christianity with state power.

    Even for those who won’t recognize his identity, the image of a man contemplating the sword hilt in his hand remains suggestive – as a symbol of the state’s might which, ironically, also takes the shape of the cross.

    front cover of Plough Quarterly No. 24: Faith and Politics

     

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