Demonization has increasingly become central to the global religious and political landscape. Passing Orders interrogates this centrality through an analysis of evangelical “spiritual warfare” demonologies in contemporary America, which imagine the world as built on a clash between spiritual forces—good and evil, light and darkness, God and Devil—that humans are ensnared in and compelled by. Situating spiritual warfare as part of broader frameworks of American exceptionalism, ethnonationalism, and empire management, author S. Jonathon O’Donnell exposes the theological foundations of the systems of queer- and transphobia, anti-blackness, Islamophobia, and settler colonialism that justify the dehumanizing practices of the current U.S. political order.
Drawing political theology into dialogue with queer, critical race, and decolonial theory, O’Donnell argues that demonologies are not only tools of dehumanization but also ontological and biopolitical systems that create and maintain structures of sovereign power, or orthotaxies—models of the “right ordering” of space, time, and bodies that stratify humanity into hierarchies of being and nonbeing. Alternative orders are demonized as passing, framed as counterfeit, transgressive, and transient. Yet these orders refuse to simply pass on, instead giving strength to deviant desires that challenge the legitimacy of sovereign violence. Critically examining this challenge in the demonologies of three figures—Jezebel, the Islamic Antichrist, and Leviathan—Passing Orders explores how demons exceed their designated function as self-consolidating others, unsettling sovereignty’s claims over reality to envision new futures that might yet be forged. As such, this groundbreaking work re-imagines demons as a surprising source of political and social resistance, reflecting fragile and fractious communities bound by mutual passing and precarity into strategic coalitions of solidarity, subversion, and survival.