Tuesday, November 14, 2006


There's a good review on In These Times of maverick philosopher Slavoj Zizek's latest offering, The Parallax View (Short Circuits). It's by Adam Kotsko of the University of Chicago, whose weblog is always worth a visit. Last Christmas, my friend Kevin Scully, rector of St Matthew's in Bethnal Green, gave me Zizek's The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Cambridge / MIT, 2003). "This is the kind of weird stuff Simon likes", he thought. Dead right. It's great stuff, leaving aside Zizek's odd determination to hang on to what is actually a rather outmoded philosophical materialism and give it a new kind of (much more interesting) dialectical twist. But, as with many atheist thinkers who don't just spit when it comes to anything to do with the bete noire of 'religion', Zizek has much more interesting and useful things to say about Christianity than most pedestrian theologians or apologists. He recognises that the Jesus-movement is about turning the world and its ruling assumptions upside-down, not instituting a different kind of command economy. When it's any good, anyway.

For Zizek, part of Christianity’s “subversive core” is the idea of Christian love: “the excessive care for the beloved, a ‘biased’ commitment which disturbs the balance” of normal reality. The space for this love is opened up by the believer’s act of “unplugging” from all social ties in order to be completely faithful to Christ. For Zizek, St Paul’s relativization of all social roles, indicating that the believer does not “belong” to the present order, is a subversive action of refusal. It explains Zizek’s interest in Christianity in the first place: This refusal to identify with the present order is a vital precursor to any attempt at revolutionary change.

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