By George Elerick
I think now, more than ever, Christianity does not have the luxury to stand on its own.
For far too long it has interpreted its place in history as an independent body separate
from the obscenity of the world. And in doing so has become the obscene object par
excellence. Take for example that it has itself been a developer of late capitalism evangelizing the message of Christ as one for individuals by individuals. Is this not where we erred in our very own history?
We fled the spectre of religious tyranny under the guise of freedom and yet are one of the largest countries with the largest debt? It is because we have stood on our own two feet that we are where we are now?
Would it not have been more revolutionary for the proletariat (i.e., now known as Americans) to stay and fight for their freedom from the oppression of King George [and by implication the shadow of the monarchy] and create democracy out of the absolution of monolithic power? The main issue being here, of course, the illusion of individuality that America has immersed itself in, otherwise known as the ‘American Nightmare’ [Dream?].
It has come to believe it has two legs with which to prop up its own fantasies and yet the fantasy is that it has two legs at all. Via the prosthesis of history [for Christianity, the ‘prosthetic’ refers to the Church Fathers and yes, by implication the Early Church itself]; America has ‘stood on its own too feet’ thereby negating any need for the ‘other’ [the other here refers to other zeitgeists’ (i.e., postmodernism, politics, ecology, economics and so on)] – but the same has occurred in the opposite sense where politics, ecology and etc. have come to believe that they too are standing on their own too feet while inherently systems can only remain independent through the dependence upon an other.
They only way Christianity can have two feet is to rely on another system [say for example: politics]. Why do all systems inherently come with the one appendage and not two? My claim arises out of Jacques Lacan’s theory of development entitled the ‘Mirror Stage’. The main pivot point in this claim is that when a child recognizes itself in the mirror [from age 6-months to a year-and-a-half] there is a split in their subjectivity [i.e., how they interpret themselves as an individual]. The mirror image is ultimately the ‘whole’ self, and it is just that, an image.
A form of self-idolatry.
From this point forward the child desires to consume the ‘other’ [in this case, the other is the whole image of self – and by implication: idealism]. The image here is evil. Idealism is evil. The whole-self is the promise of something not present within, thereby why my claim is that systems themselves [if they also go through the ‘mirror stage’] are only ‘one-legged’ which refers to their pre-imaged selves, the whole image would claim they have two legs.
In this case, Christianity has come to believe its false-image. It has participated in the most grotesque act of idolatry – the idolatry of the ‘other’ [the image of itself looking back]. In a very simple sense, is not the image also God? If God is the other [i.e., Jesus claims: if you have cared for the least of these (which can also refer to the other – that which is distinct from us) then you have cared for me]. God is the other.
Which in the most perverse sense, when we believe the lie, when we attempt to become the whole self are we not committing the most heinous act of divine idolatry by attempting to consume the ‘other’? Is this not also what actress Marilyn Monroe claimed she struggled with, with believing in the socialized self to the point that she consumed it in reality? That she believed in the ideal-ego too much to the point that she knew no other person other than the idolatrous self. This is the true sadness, to believe to the point that no other possibility can emerge.
The cross is the almighty dollar
In the purest Marxian sense, is not the cross the use-value object par excellence? Marx defined currency as an object by which people translate their relationships through. It was an object that by itself had no-value, but it was given value through
socialized agreement. It was the fetishization of the object, in simple terms, the deification of an object to the point of it being a Big Other [remember, the Big Other is something transcendent that ultimately forms our interpretations of reality, language, relationships, ethics and etc.].
Money is a Big Other in today’s society.
It quite literally translates for us how and what our relationships should be. For example, most don’t go to the store to have a drink and chat with the cashier about
their week – there is a specific purpose in going – to purchase objects for both use
and enjoyment [sometimes one-in-the-same]. Even the setup of the marketplace is that there is some sort of barrier between you and the cashier [even if it is just the cash register]. This ‘barrier’ defines your relationship long before you ever leave your couch to get into the car and drive down to the store to begin your purchasing frenzy!
But even more so, the money itself acts as an arbiter of linguistic play, meaning that in some sense money is a language that speaks on our behalf. It gives us a reason to interact with the other and also a reason for the cashier to interact with us [i.e., not only are they taking our money in transaction, but they are also receiving money via their employer]. Money, in a biological sense, is the ‘blood’ that sustains the illusion of society actually working.
Is this also not the illusion of the Cross?
Does it not also give us the illusion of the Church actually working as a whole, and yet out of all of the things Christ could have prayed for right before his annihilation, he prays for: unity. But maybe unity is all about not giving into the illusion of unity? For most, the Cross and crucifixion in the Christian narrative is central not only to the narrative itself but also their own personal identity and development as one who is part of a wider community. It is the use-value object [par excellence!] that Marx refers to and in a very perverse sense still maintains the residual presence of a form of currency.
Without the Cross some would absolve themselves of the Christian experience because they have come to believe this act to be both revolutionary and weak; revolutionary in the sense of overcoming death, and weak in the sense of the most sovereign divine being becoming nothing. But is this not a form of disregardable violence and utmost disrespect toward the Cross as some sacred object by which one defines oneself? For after the Cross is the revolutionary eruption of life overcoming death.
To sustain one’s own identity as something less than life [i.e., through the cross], is this not pessimism in the most extreme? One of the palpable elements materializing out of Christian discourse today is that the crucifixion itself is not some special event, but rather the singularity of the Christian story is none other than discovered in the resurrection [although, historically, this is not true, maybe we should disregard this for the sake of this article?! – i.e., see Dionysius/Mithras].
If we follow this article backwards a bit, and we re-enter the claim that the Cross is a form of relational currency embedded with a socialized use-value, then is not the resurrection the event that eradicates this need for the cross to mean something – and [yes, by implication this does present money as something we need not rely on], and the more we sustain it the more we call for revolution – the more we charge the proletariat with the role as the revolutionary. But even in this sense, do not those whom some Christians desire to convert take the place of the proletariat? [and we the middle/upper-class bourgeois?] The more we adhere to the Christian story as something inhabited by conversion [and translate evangelism as conversion] aren’t we asking for the proletariat [in this case, the ‘other’, the non-believer] to revolt against us? Are we not in a horticultural sense, tilling the soil for this dynamic to appear?
The disappearance of God and his doppelganger Satan
What if the radicality of the Christian story is that we don’t need God or Satan to do the work for us? [Hear me out, I am not saying we don’t need God/Satan at all! It is that we are working as immediate equals]. As one who does film theory, one tool that is employed is Marxist Film Theory. One nuance of this particular film analysis is the responsibility of the film critic to watch a movie and remove both the protagonist and the antagonist and focus on the communal elements of the movie [for in socialism/communism, revolution is only found in the osmosis of commune-ality].
If we are to be true revolutionaries, maybe we are then to remove our dependence upon God [is this not the deification of God; is not God already deified? and so, to deify God, to fetishize our allegiance to a divine being, is this not to imply that God is not divine without us? – which is also something to be discussed, this implication does not have to be evil!].
If we take Marxist Film Theory and apply it to the Torah/Old Testament – then what we are met with is a people group – Israel [can we also use the word ‘humanity’?] and their divine responsibility to discover life, death, pain, love, loss, anger, hatred, war, beauty and everything in between? Is not the divine act to live life without God as the use-value object by which we translate each other through? Is not the incarnation about a God who gives up his transcendence and embraces the material self [i.e., God as the human-self; God in the flesh] in the promise of becoming a better material self [i.e., a better human; God resurrects not in divine form, but in human form]. Jesus says this about himself [which I take to also be true of all humans]: I and the Father are one. Maybe the revolutionary act is that we come to absolve ourselves of the need for systems [is this not the mirror image of wholeness staring back at us], but rather that what we seek is inside of us, does Jesus not also state near the beginning of his ministry: ‘The kingdom of God is within’. The revolutionary act for a Christian is not to become more divine, but more human.