Christainity, Philosophy, Politics

the messiah came; we were just too busy looking at our cell phones

Jesus’ second coming filled my thoughts as a young child. In my apocalyptic vision, Jesus descended from heaven, trumpets sounded, and saved persons were raptured into heaven. On Earth there would be years of torment for those who weren’t Christians, and after seven years, Jesus would come back again (third coming?) to see if anyone would believe in him now. God would then separate and send those destined for heaven or hell. Eternity began then. My eschatological version represented a dispensationalism worldview. I held onto this view for too long.

As a youngster, some mornings I would wake up, open my eyes, stay in bed and think that the rapture had taken my family, leaving me to fend for myself. Moreover, I believed that Jesus was going to come back when everyone least expected it. So I would constantly think about the Second Coming in hopes that Jesus wouldn’t have the chance to come back. This paradox comforted me.

second coming

Nowadays, I rarely think about the second coming or any kind of end of the world type scenario. Franz Kafka, in Paradoxes and Parables, defines my current paradox quite well: The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last day.

Jacques Derrida focused some of his later writings to the idea of the messianic. Derrida speaking, in the beginning of the documentary Derridasays

“In general, I try to distinguish between what one calls the future and the “l’avenir”. The future is that which –tomorrow, later, next century — will be. There’s a future which is predictable, programmed, scheduled, foreseeable. But there is a future, l’avenir (to come) which refers to someone who comes, whose arrival is totally unexpected. For me, that is the real future. That which is totally unpredictable. The Other who comes without my being able to anticipate their arrival. So if there is a real future beyond this other known future, it’s l’avenir in that it’s the coming of the Other when I am completely unable to foresee their arrival.

The unpredictable future, that which changes and transforms everything, begins with coming of the Other. Governments, afraid of the Other, want to domesticate the Other making our future predictable. Hence, we have created a society of little children who don’t grow up. We don’t have to cook, our music comes in an instant, we can work at home, and we can order anything and receive it the next day. No sense of struggle or appreciation is necessary.

Struggle gives life meaning; consuming demeans and desensitizes us from existence. On this point of struggle, Hegel thought that it was important that nations go to war. He wrote, “War is not to be regarded as an absolute evil…by its agency as I have remarked elsewhere the ethical health of the peoples is preserved in their indifference to the stabilization of finite institutions; just as the blowing of the winds preserves the sea from the foulness which would be the result of a long calm, so also corruption in nations would be the result of prolonged, let alone ‘perpetual’ peace.”  The perpetual peace is a reference to a pamphlet Kant wrote, saying that peace is the highest political good. At this point, I agree with Hegel, not that war is necessary, but that some rumblings need to happen in a nation.

Our contemporary wars are not the same as Hegel would have understood it. Our weapons have advanced so they no longer need someone to operate them. If war in the past confronted the Real in humanity, then today war has dehumanized us to the point of extinction. Our checks and balances in the US have not been effective in years. The NSA, JSOC, or the military or prison-industrial complex won’t allow the Other to exist. Watch Dirty Wars to find out more disturbing information.

If Jesus were to come from the heavens, the US government would know about it a week in advance and murder him midair.

We must otherize the Other to open us up to new possibilities. It’s a call to vulnerability, not stupidity; struggling for a meaningful existence rather than idly letting life pass by, etc.

The Derridian prayer seems most appropriate here: Come, Oh Divine Other, come.

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Anarchism, Anti-Capitalism, Patriachy, Spiritual

the revolutionary act of ash wednesday and lent

I have been reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the past week now. It was not intended to be my Lenten book, but it has become such. The first few chapters relate to this Christian season in several ways. I would call it a Liberation Theology text for the non-theological, since it speaks in non-bibical langauge in the same ways that the South American liberation theologians were using the Exodus story and the narrative of Jesus.

The first chapter speaks of a revolution, where the oppressed and the oppressors both are liberated. Paulo Freire writes “As oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized” (42). Freire sets out to have both oppressed and oppressor humanized. This means that a revolution must have the oppressed not be over the oppressors, but everyone come out as equals. Slavoj Zizek has spoken some on Haiti, using a post-colonial context, writing, “it was perhaps even more of an event than the French Revolution itself. It was the first time that an enslaved population rebelled not as a way of returning to their pre-colonial “roots”, but on behalf of universal principles of freedom and equality.” While the French revolution promoted equality for all people who were not slaves, it was the Haitian Revolution who made both slaves and free all under the banner of equality and freedom. It’s as if they took the words of Freire to heart 170 years earlier.

This brings me to a theo-political understanding of the imparting of ashes. 40 days before Easter Sunday, catholic Christians attend a service in which to re-member, both in embodying the church, but also a time for self-reflection, remembering our short comings. As an Episcopalian, we like to kneel for Eucharist and for ashes, and this time I knelt recognizing my faults, but also kneeling in solitary with the rest of the persons in church. We were at that moment all on an equal plain. We are all part of familia dei, Family of God. In other words, the politics of Ash Wednesday show us that if any political system should be prescribed that it should be one of anarchism. That we need no human leaders since we are all on this equal plain. Yet, the problem is that as U.S. citizens we live in a psycho-spiritual context where to feel secure that we must have an authority figure, e.g. President, patriarch, etc. in our lives to give us structure. In Zizekian/Lacian lingo, we are searching for the “subject-suppose-to-know.” We are looking for the one who knows all the answers so that we can elect them to office or believe that they know best and follow whatever they may say. Speaking of the 2008 financial crisis, Jacques Lacan’s son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller says in an interview

“The financial universe is an architecture made of fictions and its keystone is what Lacan called a “subject supposed to know”, to know why and how. Who plays this part? The concert of authorities, from where sometimes a voice is detached, Alan Greenspan, for example, in his time. The financial players base their behavior on this. The fictional and hyper-reflexive unit holds by the “belief” in the authorities, i.e. through the transference to the subject supposed to know. If this subject falters, there is a crisis, a falling apart of the foundations, which of course involves effects of panic. “

The presidential candidates want to be this kind of subject, knowing what is best for the financial and political realm. Yet if we are Christians who wear our “faith on our foreheads” recognizing our failings, how can we not help to see that there is no one who is “suppose to know” that it takes us a community of self-reflecting people who now more than ever need the dialectic and each other to create a more just world.

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