The Analysis of Hartdale

I have moved my Blog “Walking Truth” to the Website forgingploughshares.org.  Since I have this space on Word Press I have decided to make public a manuscript which I have hesitated to publish.  I assume that in this format, and on this forgotten page, it will go largely unnoticed and yet can be utilized as a public record of the impact of incidences of violence on the corporate psyche of a community.

AN ANALYSIS OF HARTDALE

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Texas Governor Ann Richardson and her office for providing funding for this project and for my supervisor, Bernard Gerald, at the University of Texas for suggesting an application of my Doctoral research.  Dr. Gerald brought my doctoral research on violence and identity as a corporate and learned process, to the attention of Samuel Souder, head of the Texas Department of Health.  Mr. Souder provided funding, through the Governor’s Office, for my two year project and access to the peculiar town of Hartdale Texas.[1]  I would also like to thank the residents of the town of Hartdale, the Head to Tail News and its manager Joel Hogue and especially City Manager Bob Orr for allowing me full access to the public records and citizens of Hartdale.

The location of Hartdale as a key station on the Rock Island and Pacific Railway and its establishment as a key city in the Texas Panhandle cattle industry may help explain its peculiar incorporation of a death dealing identity but it does not identify or explain the function of that construct.  In my doctoral research, I make the claim that there is an anatomy of identity of place (families, corporations, towns, cities) traceable to exposure to experiences of oppression and/or violence which means there are markers – psychological and experiential – which can both predict future occurrences of personal and social disorder and which can be traced to certain corporate psychological formations and events.  My hometown of Hartdale, due to its small size and high incidence of destructiveness, presented the opportunity to test this hypothesis and to test certain possible modes of intervention.  The analysis makes the cumulative case for the evolution of a particular presentation of masochistic identity that has its generative root in a shared society.  The social group, in other words, tends to determine the range of responses and provides the means and limitations of apprehending human experience.  The formation of this shared society entails taking most all the variables, economic, religious, geographical/climatic etc. into account.  Obviously, a process of selectivity is involved in determining the relevance of certain variables but this selection is the end result of casting a very wide net.

In Culture and Depression Arthur Kleinman and Byron Good call for a renewed emphasis upon clinical descriptive research on the phenomenology of depressive disorders by focusing upon the broadest issues of the individual in the life-world analogous to Hallowell’s notion of the self in the “culturally constituted behavioral environment.” They maintain that a phenomenology of depression must proceed from a reconstruction of the individual in the lifeworld—” the culturally organized patterns of perceiving time, space, body, and person, the symbolic organization of experience, the nature of ‘realities’ in the social and psychological life, and the forms of discourse and social interaction through which such realities are constructed.”[2]

METHODOLOGY

In addition to surveying the general sociological conditions (economic, agronomic, etc.) the data below has been collected by means of extended interview and research and, through coordination with the offices of the State Board of Health, I established a counselling center which obtained clients on both a walk-in basis and through the mandate of Child Welfare Services and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  The Loraine County Coroner provided essential medical data and the Loraine County Sheriff’s Department and St. Mary’s Hospital allowed me access to their archives.

HARTDALE – GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

The Panhandle of Texas consists of high plains, ranging from 4700 – 2000 feet above sea level, theoretically allowing for several different forms of farming and ranching.  Hartdale which sits at 3000 feet above sea level serves as the supply headquarters and shipping center for ranching in the northwest Texas Panhandle and is the main supply center for a multitude of agricultural endeavors with the Hartdale Grange Office representing local agricultural interests.  The town has modern schools (k-12), churches (Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Catholic, Assembly of God, two Methodist churches but with no Lutheran presence) and several industries (e.g., a cheese factory, a mobile home manufacturing plant, a fertilizer plant and an irrigation pipe plant), a feedlot and two grain elevators.

The celebration called “Days of the Cinco Peso” commemorates the fact (without actually naming any individual) that Bucky Roberts of Terry’s Texas Rangers fame set up the headquarters of the Texas Rangers at this location as it afforded easy access to Bonham Springs in the Rita Blanca Canyon and served as the staging ground for the final roundup of the Comanche and Apache.  Set within the larger events of Reconstruction and election of the first democratic governor after the Civil War, Texas faced a financial crisis and its primary resource was its vast lands to the West and North.  Under the direction of Governor Oran M. Roberts, William S. Mabry was appointed surveyor of the Oldham Land District and he established a land office to survey the lands of public domain under the Checkerboard System (an attempt to break the Panhandle into small ranch and farm size acreages).  The failure of the Checkerboard system was also insured by Governor Robert’s quick willingness to negotiate with a group of Chicago investors for 3,000, 000 acres in exchange for 3,000, 000 dollars’ investment in the rebuilding of the Capitol building in Austin.

THE FOUNDER OF HARTDALE  (Next)

 

 

 

 

[1] Names have been changed to protect the identity of those herein described.

[2] Julius Rubin, Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America, 1994, 9

 

Being Peaceable in the Shoot-Me State

Though Missouri has been declared “The Shoot-Me” State by the New York Times a group of us have agreed together to follow Jesus mandate for the Peaceable Kingdom.

ForgingPloughsharesH (2)The Forging Ploughshares Website is now live.  Learn about this new ministry and the determination to try to enact the ethics of Jesus

https://forgingploughshares.org

Forging Ploughshares, working with Outreach International, is transforming lives and minds for the Peaceable Kingdom through our Bible Institute, community outreach, media productions, and international outreach. We are teaching and training college students, local church members, those in hardship or oppressed settings, and Christians in cross-cultural ministry.

 

THE NEW BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE:   A PROPOSAL FOR AN ALTERNATIVE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

ForgingPloughsharesH (2)Years ago Harold Lindsell, in his famous treatise The Battle for the Bible, traced the tendency of Christian institutions to drift from their founding principles.  Whether or not one agrees with Lindsell’s notion of the key marker of the drift – biblical inerrancy – the point is well taken that Christian academies seem to inevitably drift from the intentions of the churches which founded them. James DeForest Murch, painting with a broader brush, pointed to “efficiency” or “feeble rivalry” with state institutions (rather than liberalism per se), as the more insidious problem.[1]  This seems to more accurately encompass the present tendency of schools associated with Christian Churches to re-brand themselves as universities, start a football team, and to declare a business major. Even the small institution I was recently associated with (call it Christian College or CC), fired its Registrar, Director of Christian Education, and Director of the Honors Program, as it hired a full time Athletic Director, and Women’s Basketball Coach/Weight Trainer. The school gutted its academic program as it installed a new basketball court and new weight training equipment for a diminishing student body increasingly interested in sports and business.

The financial need of Bible Colleges and seminaries often results in drastic attempts to gain students by shaping the education to their perceived needs and desires.  It is not so much overt liberalism but a subversive pragmatism that is overtaking both the Church and Christian education. The resulting battle, as described by Mark Galli in Christianity Today, is not about the authority of the Bible but its use.  The battle for the Bible is now, more than ever, a cultural battle in which the culture of the Church, and in Karl Barth’s description “the strange new world of the Bible,” are coopted and reduced to the culture and world of secular culture.  Galli maintains that “even when we have the highest view of Scripture” the tendency is “to read it in sub-biblical ways” as a “self-help manual” or “justifying our latest mission venture.”[2]  It is no longer “the strange new world of the Bible” as the Bible is reduced to justifying utilitarian culture.

As theological education is increasingly shaped by a culture of pragmatism the Church is increasingly deemed irrelevant in providing answers or alternatives to the young.  A 2011 Barna Survey entitled, “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church,” finds that the number one reason for the mass departure is that the young have “unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews.” Rather than engage these issues, the Church is perceived to be controlled by stifling, fear-based and risk-averse” teaching. The number two reason the young are leaving is that their “experience of Christianity is shallow,” “boring,” and faith is not considered “relevant.”  Some 20% say God is missing from their experience of Church.[3]  It is not surprising there is a mass exodus from Church as Christian leadership is given an increasingly shallow training in a shallow comprehension of Christianity.   The old priest’s recommendation to his young charges entering puberty, “Play lots of basketball,” has been extended to Christian college education.  The education is more of a distraction from the prevailing realities than a real engagement with the deep grammar of a Christian apprehension of reality.

Not only the discipleship model of Christ and the Apostles, but the earliest Christian seminary, present a different picture.  Gregory (later known as “Thaumaturgus” meaning “wonder worker”) describes his reception by Origen, his teacher, as a life changing experience even from its inception.  Gregory does not focus on Origen’s great scholarship or erudition.  As James McClendon tells the story, “Instead, he tells how Origen in accepting Gregory and his brother as students first made friends with these young men – and did it as if it were a valuable achievement on Origen’s side to have such friends.  Gregory felt himself a Jonathan embraced by this academic David (I Sam. 18:1; Panegyric vi).”[4]  The basic person-hood of the students was acknowledged in Christian love, and this love relationship became the basis for an embodied, holistic training in Christianity.

The pragmatic drift, as it overtakes the ethos of an institution, does not and, perhaps, cannot occur without displacing even a semblance of Origen’s model for training Christian leaders. An ethical vacuum results with the relinquishing of Christian ethics combined with the presumed Christian exemption from standard business professionalism.  Peter Enns’ description of the atmosphere this creates seems to describe a universal pattern in which the Christian institution, exempt from the “impractical rigors” of Christian ethics and freed from many legal constraints due to its status as a church institution, becomes toxic.  As CC drifted from its founding purpose older faculty were systematically terminated, so that during 7 years a dozen individuals over 50 years of age were terminated with presumed impunity.  Administrators able to systematically destroy careers and lives in this manner pay the price with a degrading of their own humanity and it infects the ethos of the entire institution with a disregard for basic decency and value.  I realized all ethical pretense had been dropped when I heard an administrator’s answer to a husband who, fearing for his wife’s safety due to years of verbal abuse, asked him not to be alone with her.  His answer encapsulates the problem: “My interactions with an employee are a private matter between the employee and myself.”  No ethic, Christian or secular, constrains his or the institution’s private abuse of power.  There is little danger of Christian virtue being modeled by such a person in such an atmosphere.  In the end, it seems doubtful that morally suspect leadership can produce effective Christian leadership as a kind of business.

In sharp contrast is Gregory’s description of his teacher, Origen, as one who had attained Christian virtue and who through his life-example was providing training in virtue.  Origen seemed to follow the Pauline model in his call to his pupils to follow him as he followed Christ.  Every encounter was aimed at precipitating a change so that the students would take on the image of the master. He “stimulated us by the deeds he did more than by the doctrines he taught” (Pan. ix).[5]  The Christian ethic he wanted to impart was one that he lived and this served as the foundation for training in Christianity and entry into the realms of philosophy and theology. The training that resulted involved continual dialogue as Origen probed into his student’s psyche: “penetrating into us more deeply, and probing what is most inward in us, he put us to the question, and made propositions to us in our replies” (Pan. vi).[6]  Gregory and his brother came to Origen as nominal Christians but the education transformed every aspect of their lives.

Would it be possible, once again, to provide in-depth transformative biblical and theological education and discipleship by returning to a biblical model of discipleship?  Origen’s tutorial method and his one to one student relationship would seem to be a live possibility – partially made possible through technology.  A group of us, who have concluded Christian Education has been demoralized, are forging an alternative paradigm for training in Christianity.  It is an attempt to restore the essential role of discipleship, dialogue, the individual tutorial, and the grounding in humanity and love.  Rooted in the community experience (life together) we are extending this web of relations as the center of Christian training and discipleship. Induction into an alternative world, the strange new world of the Bible, seems to be a possibility only where that world is already in place in the practice of Christian community.  Should we not have the expectation, as with Origen and Christ before him, that the student will be converted, through training in Christianity, to a new way of life in an alternative world – that constituted by Christ?

Beginning in the second week of September go to forgingplougshares.org to learn of this alternative Christian training ground.

[1] See my previous blog “Escaping an Evil Christianity: Must Theological Education Go Underground?”

[2] Mark Galli, “A New Bible Battle: It’s not about doctrine but our use of Scripture,” Christianity Today (10/7/2011).

[3] I am following Peter Enns description of this on his website.

[4] James McClendon, Ethics (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 43.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Escaping an Evil Christianity: Must Theological Education Go Underground?

 

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One of the unnamed capacities of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was to recognize evil and to call it out at a time when others preferred not to confront it and attempted to explain it away.  As a young pastor he was one of the few who took an early public stance against Hitler and a Nazified Christianity.  Hitler was able to manipulate Christian rhetoric and combine it with a threat which caused German Christians to mostly embrace the evil of National Socialism. Even Martin Niemöller, the head of the Confessing Church, was at first pro-Hitler and, like the majority of his countrymen, anti-Semitic. Niemöller later recognized his own moral failure and described it poetically:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. 

The difference between a Bonhoeffer and a Niemöller, as captured in the poem, is found in the capacity or lack thereof to identify with the oppressed – and to not be blinded by ideology.  The capacity to name and recognize evil is enabled when self-justifying ideology is set aside and we can say though I am not a Socialist, Trade Unionist, mentally handicapped, Jewish, Hispanic – or simply though this is some Other that is being oppressed – this is evil.  The willingness to turn a blind eye or to embrace evil for the “greater good” describes Niemöller’s moral failure, the moral failure of most German Christians and the moral failure of a Christianity given over to ideology.

James Strauss referred to the slow infiltration of the “principalities and powers” into the Church as the frog in the kettle syndrome. The frog is happy to sit in the warm water and misses the fact that he is adjusting gradually to being boiled to death.  There are many indicators that the boiling point of the cultural waters of North America is killing off effective Christian witness.  David Kinnaman[1] has described the statistical fact that Christians are perceived by the younger generation as un-Christian (in every way that counts) as an “image problem.”  Perhaps it is more of a “boiling frog” problem.  The oxymoronic (and yet statistically proven) perception of a “violent Christianity,” an “exclusive Christianity,” or a “hateful Christianity,” indicates the adjectival heat of the ideological powers are boiling away the vital signs of the subject.  “American Christianity” is as oxymoronic as “Nazi Christianity,” “Imperial Japanese Christianity,” or “Constantinian Christianity,” with the sole difference that the former is the extant mantra of a church being stewed in ideology.

The example of Bonhoeffer indicates that moral insight arises with intellectual depth.  On the other hand, moral inanity was clearly connected to an intellectual banality (exemplified in Eichmann and characterized by Hannah Arendt as the “banality of evil”).  The majority of Bonhoeffer’s Christian contemporaries, steeped as they were in German nationalism, were unable to recognize the Devil that was about to consume them.  They succumbed to the boiling stew of anti-Semitism, Aryanism, and fear, that resulted in Hitler gaining power, first in the church, and two months later with the Nazi takeover. Bonhoeffer’s theological sophistication (an ecclesiology and hermeneutic that resulted in both his resistance and death) stood in sharp contrast to the “realism” and “pragmatism” to which even the leaders of the Confessing Church succumbed.  Niemöller thought, until it was too late, that Hitler was a man that could be reasoned with if he could only secure a private meeting.  The pragmatists bent to the “realities” orchestrated by Hitler until, as Niemöller describes, they literally came to arrest him.

Pragmatism always describes the willingness to bend to the perceived necessity and reality of the time.  By this measure biblical Christianity will always be perceived as unworkable and impractical.  Practical Theology, the buzzword of the day, names the tendency to accommodate the revolutionary notions of Scripture to a “workable reality.”  Much like Nazi theology (or that theology set forth by the German Christian (Deutsche Christens) supporters of Hitler), which elected to remove the Old Testament from the Bible, a theology made “practical” begins by separating the New Testament from the Old and thus spiritualizes the political and social revolution Christ inaugurated.  By getting rid of the Old Testament the Jews were expunged from the German church and by the same token a disembodied/depoliticized Christianity is fused with American nationalism.  The stew of pragmatism boiling the North American Church (the remnants of Niebuhr’s Christian realism, nationalism, capitalist greed, the philosophy of church growth, etc.) are accommodated by a morally and intellectually disengaged gnostic-like theology.  Dispensationalism, Christian realism (a violent “Christianity), fundamentalism/liberalism, supersessionism, give rise to a thorough dualism or split between body and soul, heaven and earth, interior and exterior.  The result, in N. T. Wright’s summary, comes to be “God so hated the world that he killed his only Son,” and Christians act accordingly.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from Bonhoeffer’s mode of resistance it will take account of his theological development and his focus on theological education in a Church being decimated by bad theology.  His Cost of Discipleship arises from teaching on the Sermon on the Mount during a period in which Finkenwalde seminary is closed, his students are being arrested, and he is declared to be “a pacifist and enemy of the state.”

His theological insight is one that overcomes the separation of the teaching of Jesus and the theology of Paul brought about in a Constantinian Christianity and sealed by Luther’s notion of justification by faith.  Bonhoeffer envisions a Church that is able to resist Lutheran/Constantinian/Nazi notions of a necessary violence in which God’s will is worked out through heads of state and state purposes.  He recognized that justification is not merely a private affair of going to heaven when you die, but is centered on social concerns (life together as the Church) which call for a radical and costly discipleship.  In John Howard Yoder’s explanation (which seems to extend Bonhoeffers understanding of Paul), Paul builds upon Jesus notion of love of enemies and nonviolent revolution through a revolutionary subordination.  Mutual subordination of husbands and wives, masters and slaves, parents and children, was meant to revolutionize the institutions of marriage, social relations, and family structure, through the culture of the Church.  Likewise, subordination to the state, the same Roman state that crucified Jesus and which would behead Paul, was to recognize God’s purpose would be realized through the Church and that the idolatry of the state was to be resisted.  The Church is made up of those conformed to God’s character (Ro. 12:1-2) and not “content to go on allowing themselves to be continually stamped afresh with the stamp of this age which is passing away.”

Thus, Bonhoeffer goes underground and continues to teach when and where he can meet with his students.  His final moves as a pastor at large were to foster a theology, through ministerial training, that would endure the times.  The Pastors of the German Church had caved in to Nazism, with only some 20% abandoning the corrupted or “destroyed church” for the Confessing Church.  Perhaps it is too heavy handed to draw parallels between “Nazi Christianity” and “American Christianity,” but the same danger prevails; that of conforming to the spirit of the age rather than to the character of God.  To ward off that danger will call for an alternative theological understanding which can be freely set forth in an educational environment that is not subject to pragmatism.

Among the Christian Churches, James DeForest Murch warned that ministerial training was consistently undermined by notions of “efficiency” (read pragmatism) and “feeble rivalry” with State institutions.  R. C. Foster notes that apostasy sets in at the fifty-year mark: “Fifty years is a good round number, but we should remember that man’s apostasy began in the Garden of Eden.” Nonetheless, 50 years “is a fairly accurate estimate of the critical period of apostasy in our colleges.” As the Bible College movement among Christian Churches reaches this fifty-year mark, Foster’s prediction rings true. As Cincinnati Christian University, the school Foster helped found, has drifted from its moorings toward the brink of failure, the Bible college movement itself, among Christian Churches/Churches of Christ seems to be in crisis, as the majority of the regional Bible colleges have either closed their doors or have been absorbed by larger schools with a broader agenda.

The institution from which I was recently terminated (as the last Ph.D. on the faculty) celebrated its first fifty years as it has gone into, what would appear to be, its final years.  As with Cincinnati Christian University, the termination of employees marks the drift of the school.  The termination of full-time faculty teaching Bible and theology is simultaneous with the rise of a “variety” of degree offerings and activities.  The intellectual and theological failure is marked by the same moral failure described by Peter Enns: “Under the high-lofted banner of ‘defending the gospel,’ backroom politicking, gossip, maligning the character of their enemies, lying, vengeance, and even destroying people’s livelihoods are excused as regrettable yet necessary tactics.” One of the saddest occasions I witnessed is when the founding faculty were simultaneously honored with the status of emeritus and terminated as full-time faculty.  The pride in being “practical” and anti-theological leaves in its wake a near complete ignorance of the provenance of the Constantinian “evangelical doctrine” and philosophy of “church growth” that is promoted.  Theological education has not yet been driven underground but the education that survives seems to be stamped with the spirit of the age.

The experience of American army chaplain, Henry Gerecke, who ministered to the Nuremberg war criminals epitomizes the problem.  Several of his congregation, made up of the German high command responsible for the worst crimes in human history, lived and died as faithful Lutherans. Where practical concerns rule, “Nazi Christians,” “American Christians,” or, most oxymoronic but to the point, “evil Christians” will be the result.  A theology centered on Christ aimed at a real-world departure from the pragmatics of a Constantinian/American/Nazi “Christianity” will, likely, require a new paradigm of theological education which is not dependent on the spirit/ideology of the age.

 

[1]Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters

 

 

 

LIVING WITH TWO BODIES: THE ROOT OF EVIL OR EXPLAINING THE POPULARITY OF DONALD TRUMP AMONG EVANGELICALS

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Sigmund Freud converges with the Apostle Paul in tracing the diagnosis of the human disease to a masochism that would annihilate the self and bring down the world in an attempt at self-salvation.  Freud had first assumed that sadism was the primal cause of the human ailment, but his work with hysterics and neurotics led him to conclude that sadism was simply masochism turned outward.  The ego/superego split brings about a self-antagonism (death drive) that creates a sacrificial relation within the self – or a self-punishing relationship that would destroy the self to save the self. As explained below, Žižek’s concept of the death drive, arising through the real of the body, and Paul’s concept of ‘body of death’ or ‘body of sin’ both describe a Subject engaged in a struggle for life which kills.  In this system, in Paul’s phrase, evil or sin is the means to cause grace to abound (to which he responds, ‘God Forbid’).  

As Žižek points out, the symbolic or the soul ‘has to be paid for by the death, murder even, of its empirical bearer’, the body (The Žižek Reader, vii).  In this antagonistic self-relationship turned outward one needs the ‘Other’, the foreigner, alien, or stranger, as the body to be sacrificed, so as to establish the self (the soul or symbolic).  Building walls to keep the Other out, or carpet bombing the foreigners, describes the split within the self and the need to annihilate the Other – (literally) to establish one’s immortal soul.  Just as shedding the body, in a perverse Christianity, is the means to the salvation of the soul, so here, the foreigner becomes the empirical marker of the body to be separated out and destroyed.

Paul, in the phrase ‘body of sin’ or ‘body of death’, seems to not be referring to only the physical body but to the Subject, with sin and death describing the orientation or existential reality of the Subject – (though the Subject is split in Paul’s description).  Body (sῶma) for Paul, in James Dunn’s description, denotes not only the physical body but the full reality which comes with it: ‘It is man embodied in a particular environment, the body being that which constitutes him a social being, a being who relates to and communicates with his environment. It is as an embodied entity that he can act upon and be acted upon by his environment.’[1] What needs to be added to Dunn’s description is that this capacity involves the ability to disrupt itself so that it is not just a permeable exchange with the environment.

Bultmann emphasizes that what is included in the term sῶma, in addition to the body, is a capacity to objectify or split the self (to reflect on the self), witnessed most often (particularly in its negative or fallen state) in the capacity for self-estrangement or self-alienation.[2]  He describes the resulting self relation as an experience between the ‘I’ and the ‘not-I’ and this dynamic of alienation constitutes the sῶma. As Paul states it, ‘It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me’ (Rom. 7.20). This ‘body of sin’ or ‘body of death’ (Rom. 7.24) may be perceived or experienced as the physical body getting ‘out of hand’ or out of control, but Bultmann’s point is that it is the self in its experience of the self that is out of control.  The notion that one has a sῶma rather than that one is a sῶma is itself an occurrence within the parameters of self-reflective identity provided for in Paul’s use of the term.

Žižek describes the process as giving rise to two bodies. That body which one might think can be reduced to the biological dimension is refused: the ‘subject turns away from her biological body in disgust, unable to accept that she “is” her body’ (Organs without Bodies, 93). As Žižek describes it, the original sacrificial relation is established within the Subject (with passage through the mirror stage in which the child identifies with its reflection in the mirror) between the imaginary (the ego or ‘I’) and the symbolic (the superego) which establishes the alienated distance from the real of the body. The passage is from being a body to establishing a symbolic distance from the body (and having a body): ‘The body exists in the order of having – I am not my body, I have it’ (Organs without Bodies, 121).

Žižek’s and Lacan’s focus is on the turn of communicative capacity against the self in an antagonistic self-relation. The failure of the Subject in its self-antagonism and dis-community is at the same time a corporeal failure. In the Lacanian formula ‘there is no sexual relationship’ (Seminar 20, 17), as the register of the symbolic (language) cannot be coordinated with the reality of the body.  This serves to explain Paul’s ‘body of death’, which is also a failure of communication (communion) and a failure to achieve corporate or corporeal identity (resurrection life).

The qualifiers added to body, such as sin (σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας) or death (σώματος τοῦ θανάτου), identify the psychoanalytic understanding as it overlaps with Paul’s. Rather than being in relationship with God, the Subject in these modes has a primary relationship to sin and death (or to law, which is in the end definitive of the Žižekian Subject and of Paul’s fallen Subject). From within the economy of the law (the law of sin and death), the excessive superego injunctions (giving rise to perverse questions such as, ‘Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound’ (Rom. 6.1)) ‘no longer imposes specific, determinate, prohibitions and/or injunctions. . .but just reverberates as an empty tautological Prohibition: don’t’ (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 104). This absolute law requires infinite payment and even this infinite payment does not satisfy the continual pressure of the law’s demands. ‘Christ’s death cannot but appear as the ultimate assertion of the Law, as the elevation of the Law into an unconditional superego agency which burdens us, its subjects, and with a debt we will never be able to repay’ (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 103).

The God of penal substitution or in need of infinite propitiation is split against himself in the manner of the Pauline/Žižekian Subject.  Christ is the empirical bearer of the body given over to an infinite death to which the Father subjects Him out of the demand of the Law.  The very means which God employed to defeat evil, in this understanding, becomes the foundation of a religiously prescribed evil.

‘Penal substitution’, then, describes the establishment of the law of sacrifice as a form of subjectivity within God.  A Christianity given over to the demands of this law will enthrone violence, as God – the model – demands infinite payment for his own satisfaction and this is the order of all self-satisfaction.  In this form of Christianity, the Donald Trump/Ted Cruz form of diplomacy (divide and destroy) is an extension of satisfying the demands of God.  From an orthodox Christian perspective, it is the enthronement of evil under the guise of the necessity of the law of sin and death.

[1] James Dunn, Romans, 320.

[2] It is also from this apparent duality that the ‘naïve’ or Gnostic understanding can be accounted for, as the physical body is assigned the role of ‘not-I’ (Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament: Volume I,199).

 

BELIEVING IN LIGHT OF THE RESURRECTION

 

Hildegard_von_Bingen_Liber_Divinorum_OperumIn each of the scenes of resurrection notice the role of belief and sight in the realization of resurrection.  As they believe they see what is in front of them. For Thomas, Mary, and John, in John 20, belief dawns gradually as they acquire the eyes of faith.  So too with the two on the road to Emmaus: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:26-27). The story ends in a Eucharistic like revealing of Christ as they recognize the suffering, resurrected Christ in the breaking of bread. The eyes of faith have enabled them to see what is in front of them.

Gotthold Lessing, one of the fathers of modernity, asked why he should be asked to believe something which he has not seen.  What we see from the resurrection accounts is that seeing is itself subject to belief. Seeing alone is not believing but the resurrection requires the eyes of faith.

As is obvious in the case of David Friedrich Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann their belief in autonomous human reason, a closed Universe, did not allow for belief in the resurrection.  If the universe is a closed continuum of events in which everything is explained by cause and effect – this rules out resurrection and miracle while it establishes autonomous human reason.  Belief in the resurrection will turn this sort of world upside down.

But this is not simply true of modernity – it is true of every worldview – the resurrected Jesus changes up everything.  Even in the lives of the Apostles belief in the resurrection changes everything and they do not get to this belief on the basis of their former understanding. James thought Jesus was insane, Paul persecuted Christians, Peter denied Jesus.  Each was changed by his belief in the resurrection.

The claim to behold Jesus’ “glory” (1:14) in the events of Jesus historical ministry is theological as it already entails the vision of belief. John refers not to a single, visible transfiguration such as appears in the Synoptics, but overall to Jesus’ ministry. The same event (miracle or sign) falls either on blind eyes or on those eyes that can see the glory of God. And so it is in the resurrection appearances, belief brings about recognition of Jesus, and not the other way round.

While experience (firsthand vision) speaks of knowing, belief is the only means of appropriating the Word of God even when the living word stands before you. A common characteristic of the proto-Gnostic groups John is writing to combat was the teaching that the realization of gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world. Knowing is the means to escape death and the material world. The proto-Gnostics would know, while Jesus in John counters this knowing with belief and through belief an alternative knowing arises. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn 5:24).

There is an incapacity to hear where there is an insistence on sight (the auditory is displaced by the visual in priority as in Gen. 3) while the capacity to see Jesus in his resurrection glory is enabled not directly by sight but by hearing and belief. (Mary does not recognize Jesus until she hears him speak her name. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (Jn 20:16).) John’s vision is a reversal of pagan vision in that the locus of this vision is on one in this world seen rightly, while pagan vision entails seeing beyond this world – a certain blindness to this world.

John is distinctive not for advocating knowing or seeing God but rather for claiming that the locus of revelation is in Jesus. The theme of seeing the divine was pervasive in Greek and Hellenistic Jewish spirituality. For example, Middle Platonists such as Philo of Alexandria and later Maximus of Tyre emphasized the soul’s vision of the divine, an experience of the divine that increasingly divinized the soul. In contrast, the eyes of the disciples have been prepared by the incarnation to see the resurrected Jesus. The beatific vision of God was one that some ancient thinkers associated with the time of death or the end of time. The defining point for John is in fact when they see God in Jesus who had come in the flesh (1 John 4:2).

Conclusion:

Depicted in John is the ongoing battle between knowing, seeing, believing and the darkness and the light.  The darkness constitutes the cosmos of man without God and the light of Christ is penetrating this darkness and yet the darkness has not “comprehended” or overtaken it.  By the end of the Gospel the light is firmly established. In I John 2:8 he proclaims that “the darkness is passing by and the true light is already shining.”