Marxism and Religion Today
2004 SAMLA Meeting
Roanoke, Virginia
12-14 November


Abstracts of Papers

A special session sponsored by the SCE

Chair: Thomas F. Haddox, U of Tennessee-Knoxville
Secretary: Honor McKitrick Wallace, U of Tennessee-Knoxville

Amy J. Elias
University of Tennessee

  "The Brotherhoods: Liberation Theology

and Marxist Theory"

At one point in Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man , the protagonist goes to New York and meets a Marxist organizer, Brother Jack. Brother Jack, impressed with how Invisible Man has spoken ex tempore at a neighborhood eviction demonstration, tries to recruit him by distinguishing him from the old black couple whom he has just helped. "They don't count," says Brother Jack.

  "Men grow old and types of men grow old.   And these are very old.   All they have left is their religion.   That's all they can think about. So they'll be cast aside. They're dead, you see, because they're incapable of rising to the necessity of the historical situation."

"But I like them," I said. ". . . they're folks just like me, except that I've been to school a few years."

He wagged his round red head.   "Oh, no, brother; you're mistaken and you're sentimental. You're not like them. . . . History has been born in your brain." (291)            

Invisible Man's intuitive reaction to the old couple is empathy leading to social action: working with the poor on the ground, seeing the pathos and injustice of their situation, connecting with them through both their general humanity and their specific race and class position, he stirs up a localized protest about real economic injustice.   However, though the old people being evicted from their homes by slumlords are members of a (raced) proletariat and in effect embody the "historical situation," they are in Brother Jack's theoretical universe also hopelessly complicit with the oppressive   false consciousness of religious belief. They are lost.

In the Brotherhood, Ellison satirizes an antagonism between Marxism and Christianity that is well defined today only in the most fundamentalist sects of each philosophy. The vulgar Marxism of Ellison's Brother Jack has been replaced by a post-Soviet marxism, informed by poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory, that seemingly welcomes Christianity into the historical fold.   These marxist theories generally claim a theoretical novelty to this perspective, failing to notice that theology has been examining the intersections of Marxism and Christianity at least since the 1930s; moreover, in these analyses the diversity of Christian beliefs tend to be reduced to a monolithic "Christianity" in a surprisingly ahistorical manner, as if all Christian sects were the same and offered the same historical and philosophical relation to Marxism.   Nonetheless, there is a new willingness to see some kind of value in the Christian tradition so defined, and this is a radical departure for Marxism, with its bloody historical record of religious persecution.1

This interpellative move is most apparent in the recent writing of Slavoj _ i _ ek, where Christianity is called forth (and defined as a new subject) as a allegory for the psychic compensations offered by capitalism and as a sinthome begging marxist dialectical analysis.   ( _ i _ ek defines sinthome as a universalized symptom in The Fragile Absolute , 117). The idea that Christianity offers a scapegoat logic of psychic reimbursement is an old argument going back at least to the early work of René Girard; more interesting is _ i _ ek's statement in his earlier book, The Fragile Absolute, that "Christian 'unplugging' [from the Oneness of being of pagan religions and the unity of self and Other] is not an inner contemplative stance, but the active work of love which necessarily leads to the creation of an alternative community" (129-30).   This is the Christianity _ i _ ek finds important to contemporary Marxism, but it is also a Christianity from which he quickly diverts his attention.

What results is an elision-ironically, an historical elision-in his and other current Marxist theories, an erasure of the history of social critique and liberation theology in Christian thought.   No contemporary Marxist theorist has to my knowledge recognized or analyzed the precepts of liberation theology. Yet liberation theology is precisely the Christian theology that is Marxist in orientation and would offer the most potent ally (or threat) to secular marxism.   Moreover, liberation theologists strongly articulated the philosophical links between Marxism and Christianity; almost 15 years before Specters of Marx , in which Jacques Derrida "revealed" a messianic promise and an eschatology at the core of Marxism (90, 91), the liberation theorist Geevarghese Mar Osthathios wrote, "A perfect classless society is only an eschatological possibility" (343).

What does it mean that contemporary marxisms recuperate Christianity as a useful ally yet ignore its actual history of revolutionary struggle?   Is this a commentary on the nature of contemporary marxist thought, now so far removed from its own origins that it has become Platonized in its own right?   Is it a repression signalling marxism's own fear of a symbolic father?   Or is the new marxist call for Christianity to drop its institutional belief the call of Western modernity, which subjugates and destroys the thing it appropriates in order to revitalize its own dead realities?  

*     *     *

Dating to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the Second Latin American Bishops Conference (1968), the liberation theology movement brought poor people together in comunidades de base, or Christian-based communities, to study the Bible and to fight for social justice (   According to Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff, liberation theology started when Catholic theologians (Gustavo Gutiérrez, Segundo Galilea, Juan Luis Segundo, Lucio Gera, and others) and Protestants Emilio Castro, Julio de Santa Ana, Rubem Alves, José Míguez Bonino met to reflect on the relationship between faith and poverty, the gospel and social justice.   Meetings of these theologians began in the early 1960s in the climate of worldwide political action.   Central to the development of liberation theology was a March, 1964 statement by Gustavo Gutiérrez at a meeting of Latin American theologians held in Petrópolis (Rio de Janeiro), which described theology as critical reflection on praxis. This line of thought was further developed at meetings in Havana, Bogotá, and Cuernavaca, Montreal, and Chimbote in Peru. The outlines for a theology of liberation were first put forward at the theological congress at Cartigny, Switzerland, in 1969 titled "Toward a Theology of Liberation." The second general conference of the episcopate of Latin America, held at Medellín, Colombia in 1968, spoke of the church "listening to the cry of the poor and becoming the interpreter of their anguish."   This was the first flowering of the theme of liberation, which began to be worked out systematically only after this Second Latin American Bishops Conference. The first Catholic congresses devoted to liberation theology were held in Bogota in March 1970 and July 1971, and the third general conference, held at Puebla, Mexico, in 1979, shows the theme of liberation running right through its final document (see Boff and Boff).

In December 1971, Gustavo Gutiérrez published his seminal work, Teología de la liberación . Gutiérrez had studied medicine and literature in Peru, psychology and philosophy at Louvain, and eventually took a doctorate at the Institut Catholique in Lyons; he is now the John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Translated into English as Theology of Liberation , Gutiérrez's work calls for a theology of praxis to intervene in Latin America, is now the classic statement of liberation   theology.

Gutiérrez starts from the assumption that there is a split within Christian theology from the 12 th century on between theology as "wisdom" (theology as philosophy based in Platonic and neoplatonc categories and divorced from material life) and scholastic theology as "rational knowledge." For Gutiérrez, both functions have become deformed ("wisdom" theology becomes increasingly esoteric, and after the Council of Trent 1545-63, scholastic theology is increasingly reduced to the function of defining doctrine). He argues that theology needs to return to a Pauline, and Augustinian, theology of praxis clearly associated with Marx's theory of social praxis.   He calls for an "orthopraxis" that works in tandem with "orthodoxy": theology "would be a critical theory, worked out in the light of the Word accepted in faith and inspired by a practical purpose-and therefore indissolubly linked to historical praxis. ... Theology does not produce pastoral activity; rather it reflects upon it" ( TL , 11).   Christian life as a creative commitment to the service of others is based in Gospel truth as well as doctrinal traditions, and a specifically Christian praxis is both an impetus to social action and the check-and-balance of alienated scholasticism.

In this context of faith, the theologian emerges as a new kind of Gramscian organic intellectual ( TL 13), "someone personally and vitally engaged in historical realities . . . where nations, social classes, people struggle to free themselves from domination and oppression by other nations, classes, and people" ( TL 13).   Like his fellow theologian Jürgen Moltmann, Gutierrez advocates a theology of hope that grows out of Christian commitment in history.  

To reflect on the historical praxis of liberation . . . does not mean doing this from an armchair; rather it means sinking roots where the pulse of history is beating at this moment and illuminating history with the Word of the Lord of history, who irreversibly commited himself to the present moment of mankind to carry it to its fulfillment . . . It is a theology which is open-in the protest against trampled human dignity, in the struggle against the plunder of the vast majority of people, in liberating love, and in the building of a new, just, and fraternal society-to the gift of the Kingdom of God.    ( TL 15)

Gutierrez's liberation theology defines social development as "a total social process" including but not limited to economic growth, and he expressly correlates this idea to Karl Marx's discourse on "the whole man" in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 .  

More importantly, he references approvingly the Medellín Documents, a written response in 1968 to papal encyclicals and to the Second Vatican Council by Consejo Episcopal Latinamericano (CELAM) in Medellín, Columbia.   Gutiérrez   opposes secular First World "development"on grounds that would be compatible with the tenets of today's post-colonial theory. Liberation "has to be undertaken by the oppressed people themselves and so must stem from the values proper to these people.   Only in this context can a true cultural revolution come about" (TL 91).   This leads Gutiérrez to claim that while an organization such as the Workers' Catholic action is fine for stable societies free from public repression, its purely theoretical dialogue with Marxism holds little interest for Latin America, under different political pressures ( TL 104).

For the socialist Gutiérrez, "developmentalism" and the liberal state, predicated on individual freedom rather than communal cooperation, are the two enemies of Christian fraternity and justice for the poor.   "But only a class analysis," writes Gutiérrez, "will enable us to see what is really involved in the opposition between oppressed countries and dominant peoples. . . . there can be authentic development for Latin American only if there is liberation from the domination exercised by the great capitalist countries, and especially by the most powerful, the United States of America" ( TL 87).   Like other liberationist theologians of the time who argued the possible compatibility of Christianity and violent revolutionary action--such as Juan Luis Segundo ["Christianity and Violence in Latin America," Christianity and Crisis   4 (1968): 32-5] and José Porfirio Miranda [ Marx and the Bible , trans. John Eagleson (Wipf & Stock, 2004, orig. 1971)-but unlike the contemporary U.S. American pacifist Christian socialist Stanley Hauerwas, the Latin American Christian socialist Gutiérrez makes a place for violence in this struggle for justice in the world.   The Latin American political situation forces social justice groups to be clandestine, and, "as awareness of existing legalized violence grows, the problem of counterviolence is no longer an abstract ethical concern.   It now becomes very important on the level of political efficacy" ( TL 103).   

Thus the radical liberation theology of Gutiérrez, Secundo, and others directly advocates socialism or communism as its goal, in the interest of promoting justice for the poor and thus a Christian praxis on earth.   He and others are careful, however, to distinguish Marxist praxis from Marxist states, communism as a social theory from state Communism. As late as 1982, for example, José Miranda makes a distinction between Marxism (as a state) and communism (as a philosophy of life), claiming that the latter cannot be ignored by Christianity and in fact may have been started by it.   Citing Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35, he states that "the Bible teaches communism, ...[and] Jesus himself was a communist. . . .Marx did not invent the classless society. Except for the formulation, the idea is unequivocally in the most authentic and least disputed logia (Mary 10:21, 25) of Jesus Christ" (164, 165, 174).

John Pottenger notes that the Cuban Revolution of 1959 had a distinct influence on the Medellín proceedings and later liberation theologies, but that by the 1970s, when the failure of many Marxist revolutionary projects was apparent, there was also a move to include reformist as well as revolutionary calls to action.   Socialist liberation theologies came under attack from at least two fronts.   The first was the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, who criticized liberation theology and its advocates for wrongly supporting violent revolution and Marxist class struggle. The Vatican's major objection to liberation theology was its tacit acceptance of violence inherent in revolutionary struggle, but the Pope and others also criticized liberation theologies for assuming that they could implement Marxist social analysis without accepting the rest of the "philosophical-ideological structure" of Marxism (Pottenger 74).   There was a deep suspicion that revolutionary politics were gaining more influence within the movement than were Christian faith and Church principles. On the other hand, more conservative or revisionist theologians argued the unsound Biblical foundation of liberation theology's claims. Writes Brown, for example, "[The Apostle] Paul stressed the revolutionary act of God; to change the emphasis to the revolutionary activities of men is to falsify the original message" (9).   Brown claims that liberation theology "combines a mistake of classical heresies with one of classical liberalism" in absolutizing the feelings and experience of oppressed peoples as the source of divine revelation (11).

Though liberation theology lost influence under the scrutiny of theologians and after the Vatican withdrew its approbation for the movement, there are today arenas in which it is making a resurgence.   Contemporary Christianity of many denominations is reexamining the need for social justice action and grassroots activism in the service of the poor, but liberation theology is also gaining popularity with minorities interested in social justice issues.   Nancy Bedford writes, "Some of the insights provided by the first phase of liberation theology seem too important to let slip between the cracks--for instance, the centrality of the category 'the poor' for biblical interpretation; the awareness of structural, not just individual, evil; the use of the social sciences as dialogue partner for theological discourse; and the need to apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to theology itself."   Black theologians such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and, later, James Cone have reinvigorated liberation theology in an American context.   In a recent dialogue with Cornel West, bell hooks observed of Sojourner Truth that "her emancipatory politics emerged from her religious faith. ... her sense that, by choosing God, she was choosing to serve in the emancipation struggle for Black people.... I didn't go to thinkers like Gutierrez to learn about liberation theology because back in Sunday school, I had internalized the chapter in Matthew which said, "Unless you give to the least of these, you haven't given to me" ( Breaking Bread ).

There are different kinds of liberation theology, and not all are anti-capitalist, but they do align "liberation" with socialist communitarian politics and grass-roots action campaigns geared to wresting Third World economies from overt or covert First World control.   The central tenets of all liberation theologies are that God is the God of the oppressed, and that Christianity is a praxis in the true sense of the word.   Min identifies six assumptions of Marxism that liberation theology adopts: the concept of society as a totality; the economic interpretation of history; an understanding of human history as sociological; the foundational nature of class struggle and the character of life of the proletariat; the unity of praxis and theory; and historical dialectic (23).

*    *     *

Given that this Marxist branch of Christianity has been theorized and debated for almost half a century now, why is it ignored by contemporary marxist academics such as Eagleton and   _ i _ ek who are questioning the relationship between Christianity and marxist critique?

Perhaps the answer lies in the manner in which Marxism has become increasingly Platonized--in Gutiérrez's terms, a secular form of scholasticism in the latter half of the century.   Even in 1968, Alasdair MacIntyre was writing that Marxism had become "a set of 'views' which stand in no kind of organic relationship to an individual's social role or identity, let alone his real position in the class structure.   And in becoming like this, Marxism has been 'practiced' in precisely the same way . . . in which religious beliefs have been practiced in modern secularized societies. . . . The triviality of Marxism held only as a set of private moral opinions is in part the outcome of the status accorded to all private moral opinions in a liberal society" (123, 124).   From this view, Marxism may interested in Christianity because it now shares the latter's liberal and scholastic character.   More dramatically, this revisiting may be a return to origins.   MacIntyre and others have argued that liberation theology got the order of influence wrong: Christianity does not need to turn to Marxism, but to its own tradition of liberatory faith, for Hegel, Feuerbach, and Marx "humanized certain central Christian beliefs in such a way as to present a secularized version of the Christian judgment upon, rather than the Christian adaptation to, the secular present" (MacIntyre 143).   Derrida's recognition of the eschatological, messianic core of Marxism may be the reversed image of this claim.

An even less generous a reading might posit that the new marxist call for Christianity to drop its institutional belief is a call signaling Western secular modernity's-or, specifically, Marxism's--perception of its own moral and political bankruptcy. Analysts of Cubism, for example, have revealed to us how the West is adept at appropriating the cultural productions of others in the name of the revolutionary and the new.   It is a lesson that _ i _ ek himself teaches in The Puppet and the Dwarf , and at the end of that book he gives readers a object lesson in how this process works: through mirroring and reversal.   But one could apply the lesson to the reading of Christ and Christianity that _ i _ ek himself offers.   He gives us a "falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for our sake" who is the ultimate Lacanian lack-He: Christ's declaration "I don't want anything from you" is the call for total surrender based in a logic of reversal that is foundational to desire, and it keys us in to the psychic economy of desire undergirding capitalism itself.   But any good reader of the synoptic Gospels knows that in fact Christ never says "I don't want anything from you," but rather "I want all that you are."   If the process of psychic reversal is true, then Christ is really saying he wants nothing from us.

Or it may be that _ i _ ek isn't revealing the Christian repression here; he is revealing his own.   Substituting only a few words in _ i _ ek's own Hegelian analysis of Derrida reveals his own gaze is the ideological gaze that mirrors and appropriates: "when a disenchanted Western subject perceives Christianity as a solution to his crisis, Christianity loses its immediate self-identity, and turns into a sign of itself, its own 'oppositional determination.'   Here, in the case of [the atheist] Christianity-worshipper, the utter rejection of Christianity, the betrayal of Christianity, is accomplished in the guise of its opposite, of admiration for Christianity" (see Puppet 142).   From this perspective, the call for Christianity to drop its dogma and recognize the absence at its core is made from an empty imperialist center through the gesture of the annihilating, admiring gaze.   If this is the case, there are no favors being done to Marxism or to "Christianity" here.   Or, perhaps, the impulse is more admiring: it is _ i _ ek, after all, who notes that "We should not oppose something just because it was appropriated by the wrong guys; rather, we should think about how to reappropriate it" (Rasmussen).   Nonetheless, it is troubling that the claim is made by a historical materialist who doesn't know that liberation Christianity sacrificed its orthodoxy to maintain its essence a long time ago.


1. For current information, see and

Works Cited

Bedford, Nancy E.   "Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology?"   Christian Century , Oct. 20, l999.

Boff, Leonardo, and Clodovis Boff.   Introducing Liberation Theology.   Trans. Paul Burns.   Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1987.

Brown, Harold O.J.   "What is Liberation Theology?" Liberation Theology .   Ed. Ronald Nash.   Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984: 5-15.

Derrida, Jacques.   Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International .             New York and London: Routledge, 1994.               

Ellison, Ralph.   Invisible Man .   New York: Vintage, 1952.

Ferm, Deane William, ed.   Third World Liberation Theologies: A Reader.   Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986.

Gutiérrez, Gustavo.   A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation .   Trans. and ed. Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson.   Mayknoll, NY: Orbis, 1973.

Herzog, Frederick.   "Birth Pangs: Liberation Theology in North America."   Christian Century, December 15, 1976, pp. 1120-1125.

hooks, bell, and Cornel West.   Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life.   South End Press, 1991. Excerpted by The Other Side ,

MacIntyre , Alasdair.   Marxism and Christianity .   New York: Schocken Books, 1968.

Min, Anselm Kyongsuk.   Dialectic of Salvation: Issues in Theology of Liberation.   New York: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Miranda, José.   "Christianity is Communism."   From Communism in the Bible .   Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1982.   Rpt. in Third World Liberation Theologies: A Reader. Ed. Deane William Ferm.    Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986.

Moltmann, Jürgen.   Theology of Hope . San Francisco: Harper, 1991. (Orig. published in1964 as Theologie der Hoffnung .)

Osthathios,   Geevarghese Mar.   "The Reality of Sin and Class War." From Theology of a Classless Society.   Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1980.   Rpt. in Third World Liberation Theologies: A Reader. Ed. Deane William Ferm.    Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986: 341-7.

Pottenger, John.   The Political Theory of Liberation Theology: Toward a Reconvergence of Social Values and Social Science.   Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.   Available through

Rasmussen, Eric Dean. "Liberation Hurts: An Interview with Slavoj Zizek. "   EBR: Electronic Book Review .   Posted 7-1-04.

?i?ek, Slavoj.   The Fragile Absolute-or, why is the christian legacy worth fighting for?   London and New York: Verso, 2000.

--.   The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2003.

Mitchel M. Harris

Is Anyone Ready for ?i?ek?:   Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ Responds

The theoretical work of Slavoj ?i?ek has been, and continues to be, harshly criticized for its two nominal presuppositions--its odd mixture of Lacanianism and Leninist Marxism.   Who can forget the chilling merger of these two after the collapse of the Twin Towers, when ?i?ek came to announce that on September 11 th : "In a way, America got what it fantasised about"? or in a monograph like The Puppet and the Dwarf , where he theorizes that Western intellectuals "catastrophize" their current surroundings in order to justify their comfortable positions as academics? "[W]hat if," he asks, "what these unfortunate intellectuals cannot bear is the fact that they lead a life which is basically happy, safe, and comfortable, so that, in order to justify their higher calling, they have to construct a scenario of radical catastrophe?" (153-54). Statements like these often are discomforting, something one of his recent critics, Mark Bearn, tellingly reveals. Take, for example, his review of ?i?ek's latest book (one of three in the last year alone), Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle . Reminding his readers of the infamous quote above (what I might venture to claim the current synecdoche of ?i?ek's entire corpus), the "In a way, America got what it fantasised about," Bearn snarls back, "That 'in a way' is pure ?i?ek: moral relativism masked by rhetorical evasion" (GBP 16). I am apt to wonder, however, whether or not reducing ?i?ek's politically-charged theoreticizations of our time to this simple formula is all that useful for his readers. How might one counter Bearn's reading of ?i?ek's theoretical matrix, and make sense of the otherwise horrifying propositions? Tony Myers, one of two scholars to have published a monograph on ?i?ek's work last year, points out to his readers that the discomforting, indeed shocking, statements of ?i?ek are always predicated by "fetishistic disavowals," a rhetorical device not unlike apophasis --mentioning a subject by announcing that you will not mention it. Myers comes to conclude that, by employing these disavowals, he "shudders for us, in our stead, thereby allowing us to wallow in the enjoyment of his politically incorrect observations, free from the guilt they normally induce" (3). In this spectrum, the "in a way" acts not as Bearn's "moral relativism masked by rhetorical evasion," but as something far more stable and ontologically-grounded than the current ethics of Otherness (Levinas, Spivak, Derrida, etc.).

            Myers' lucid reading of ?i?ek's chief modus operandi requires us to understand both the fetish and its function. For a concise example (and there are many), I turn to his piercing critique of Western Buddhism in his short treatise, On Belief . "One is almost tempted," he begins (and let us note that this "One is almost tempted" is a fetishist disavowal), "to resuscitate here the old infamous Marxist cliché of religion as the 'opium of the people,' as the imaginary supplement of the terrestrial misery: the 'Western Buddhist' meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way, for us, to fully participate in the capitalist dynamic while retaining the appearance of mental sanity" (13). This non-politically correct reading of Western Buddhism appears counter-intuitive to Westerners who have come to believe Buddhism (and let us not forget its more metabolized form, Yoga, and its now hip Jewish counterpart, Kabbalism, with much thanks to Madonna and Britney Spears) a means of sanctuary from Western, Eurocentrist, colonialist ideology. ?i?ek maintains though that such sanctuary is only a fantasy-construct--unauthentic, a mere semblance. Therefore, "Western Buddhism" fits the fetishist mode of ideology, where the fetish "is effectively a kind of inverse of the symptom. That is to say, the symptom is the exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed Other Scene erupts, while fetish is the embodiment of the Lie which enables us to sustain the unbearable truth" (13). In this spectrum, the only way to read Western Buddhism is as the embodiment of the Lie which allows one to "fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game while sustaining the perception that [one] is really not in it" (15). Said crudely, ?i?ek is a totalitarian oppositionist in his philosophical relation to the fetish: he is committed to disavowing himself of the Lie/fetish, even if it risks appearing or sounding unethical, sexist, racist, bigoted, or even violent. It should come as no surprise, then, that his theoretical matrix is determined by one's ability to find and announce, in the symptomal mode, the "exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed Other Scene erupts."

            Once here, one can only move forward (can only come to understand ?i?ek's theoretical spectrum) on the premise that he is not maneuvering with, as Bearn suggests, "moral relativism"; rather, ?i?ek knows full well what he is doing, and that it will shock, disturb, and offend. He does this, because he believes the members of particular, microscopic political interest groups (identity politics and all) who recoil at his statements to be the puppets that bow to and sustain the drive of the proverbial puppet-master, Ideology. This puppet-master is, of course, late-capitalism--the true target of his Leninist criticism. So how can he get us to realize the same? How does he enable us puppets to see the strings that bind us? Foremost, he carves out the idea of a non-ideological space from which one can criticize the concept of ideology itself. For ?i?ek, this entails going beyond the spectrum of the Althusserians, who, in his eyes, failed to recognize the gap between ideological interpellation and Ideological State apparatuses. ?i?ek was doing this from the very beginning of his entrance into Anglo-American scholarship with the publication of The Sublime Object of Ideology ; however, and I think this fair to claim, he never hit his stride until he became aware of Alain Badiou's work, something he demonstrates to us in his essay "Psychoanalysis in Post-Marxism: The Case of Alain Badiou." This essay would later become, in my view, the pivotal chapter of The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology , and the theories posited there have served him ever since. As ?i?ek suggests in this essay, the moment, or process, of subjectivization fundamentally escapes the Althusserians' theoretical scope, and Lacanian psychoanalysis remains the only thing capable of understanding, or at least describing, this empty space/gap.

            How so? In the ?i?ekian sphere, psychoanalysis is the gesture that allows one to traverse the fantasy--i.e., glimpse behind the Wizard of Oz's curtain, so to speak. Through this movement, one comes to realize that the zero point of subjectivity revolves around an emptiness/nothingness/Void (there is no wizard in Oz). The name for this Void in ?i?ek's lexicon is the Real, and the only way to it is through the Symbolic Order. Paradoxically, however, he insists that one can never truly enter into the Real/Void, but, nonetheless, the knowledge of its locus as "beyond" provides an imaginative space from which one can come to critique ideology, and such criticisms are most compelling when they recognize the rude intrusions of the Real into the Symbolic.   These intrusions, or antagonisms , explain why ?i?ek seems unflinchingly determined to irritate readers like Bearn. The antagonisms always reveal the "truth" of the "situation," and by noting and playing with them, we can better address the current political, economic, and cultural plight of the global economy. It is in this vein that I seek to address this past year's greatest pop-culture locus of antagonism, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ . By looking at its traumatic intrusion into the late-capitalist space, one can "write-with" ?i?ek--enact a certain praxis of his strange Marxist and psychoanalytic theories. I do this, because I believe that the ?i?ekian psycho-Marxist mode of criticism has much to offer Christianity, and, likewise, from my orthodox Christian perspective (a perspective that often conflicts with ?i?ek), I believe Christianity has much to offer in return (as it already has).

            Let us first recall that long before its entrance into movie theaters, The Passion of the Christ received an unprecedented buzz thanks largely in part to an ad hoc committee of well-intentioned, ethical, Western, liberal academics. From their reading of a working-draft of the screenplay, these scholars determined that much, if not all, of the film's content would border on, if not venture into, the anti-Semitic, and that, if Gibson were to be a good, conscientious filmmaker, he should take the necessary measures to empty the film of its erroneous and harmful content. Gibson, it was seemingly apparent, should be less fundamental and more nuanced in his appropriation of the Passion. Here are some bits of advice the ad hoc group offered in a telling section of their report, "General Recommendations": "1. The Roman nature of Jesus' execution must be stressed"; "2. Pontius Pilate must be presented as the superior of Caiaphas"; "4. It must be indicated that everything was done in haste"; and "5. The Jewish 'crowd' must be small, perhaps two dozen people" (7; italics are mine). Let me assess, in ?i?ekian terms, what this rapid succession of "musts" amounts to: what essentially perturbs the academic group is an Act that resolutely escapes the ethical sphere of their own hegemonic thinking. There is, so to speak, a gap between the ad hoc scholars and Gibson. In Badiouian terms, Gibson, the ill-educated fundamentalist, is not concerned with a truth-content in the film; he is not concerned in participating in the accordingly ethical Jesus Seminar--seeking for the historically contingent Jesus, the Jewish carpenter who leads a group of Jewish radicals but, in turn, eludes his messianic function. Rather, Gibson is more concerned with what ?i?ek might term the Evental Jesus--the figure who erupts at an epochal turn in the grand history of the world, who somehow captures the imagination of a people who elevate him not to the level of the Thing ( das Ding ), but reduce the Otherness of the Thing to a sameness (cf. ?i?ek, Puppet 138ff).

            Badiou first formulated the notion of the Event in L'être et l'événement (1988), and expanded upon it in Saint Paul: La foundation de l'universalisme (1997), translated as Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism in 2003. ?i?ek's interest in Badiou's concept of the Truth-Event becomes apparent through his Marxist determinations. As he explains throughout The Puppet and the Dwarf , Marxists, in the post-Marxist climate, should not be concerned necessarily with the complementary notions of a radically changing world and its historic particulars, but instead become concerned with the notion of how things find the means to remain the same--the truly mystifying proposition for post-modern and post-structuralist thinkers. It is not of prime concern how capitalism came into being, but how it posited itself as an entity that remains in power. If one could determine this, then perhaps one could find a positive space in which to set up a new model of the political spectrum. For ?i?ek, Badiou, in his concern for St. Paul's functional status as vocalizer of the Truth-Event within the Christian tradition, provides the analogical means to understand how things come to remain the same--how one can replace the ideological paradigm ("make things new") and develop a universal Event available to all. Let me stress, these two thinkers are not orthodox Christians--both vehemently deny a physical resurrection and Christ's redemptive function (they are strict materialists). The two are simply interested in Christianity, because Jesus is the central figure (the epochal figure) through which one can modulate the material form of a Truth-Event. Furthermore, both concede that Truth-Events are historically contingent, localized, and bound to the Truth of a specific situation. Once articulated by a subject of the Event, however, there can be only one Truth to the situation, not an endless multiplicity of truths that radically destabilizes the status of the Event.

            If this theory is applied to The Passion of the Christ , then one might be able to suggest that the notion of the Truth-Event succinctly qualifies the case of Gibson and the ad hoc scholars. Gibson adheres to the Truth of the situation, while the ad hoc scholars seek to repress his voice to the Event (of the situation). What happens is not a clash between ethical and unethical, but a clash between two competing ethical spheres (hence the traumatic cut, the emergence of an antagonism at the point of contact). The scholars, as is fashionable amongst us, adhere to the historicist ethic. They continually point to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and the climate of the Jewish state under the brutal control of the Roman empire, reducing the film to another narrativization of the Passion (and a poor one at that) in a long line of narrativizations. (Gibson "must" express the Roman nature of Jesus' execution; he "must" represent Pontius Pilate as the superior of Caiaphas; etc.) On the other hand, Gibson breaks with the historicist ethic, and performs what one might call the "mad gesture"--rendering the title "Mad Mel" more suitable than presently perceived. He performs what Kierkegaard termed the "teleological suspension of the ethical"--the Act in which the individual finds him or herself at the traumatic breaking-point, the point where the most tempting sin of all is the ethical itself . In the case of Abraham and Isaac, Kierkegaard proposes that "Abraham cannot speak [to his wife], because he cannot say that which would explain everything (that is, so it is understandable): that it is an ordeal such that, please note, the ethical is the temptation" (115).

The same suspension is evident in the lives of Jesus and St. Paul. Both men are given ample opportunity to invoke the ethical and go about their merry ways. Gibson, in fact, portrays one such scene from the Gospel of John. Pontius Pilate, in a seemingly sympathetic gesture, reminds Jesus that he has the political power to stay his execution: "Speak to me. I have the power to crucify you, or else to set you free." While Jesus possesses the ethical right to accept Pilate's intervention, "please note," he never invokes it. Instead, he articulates what would come to be one of the more obscure passages of the gospels: "You have no power over me, except what is given you from above. Therefore, it is he who delivered me to you who has the greater sin" (cf. John19.10-11). Christopher Hitchens, the outspoken columnist from Vanity Fair , is right to note that "Unscrupulously employed, this highly ambiguous verse--ambiguous because it's by no means plain who has done the 'delivering'--has caused the most appalling harm [to Jews]" (200). In the film, however, Gibson is careful to deliver this passage in full Kierkegaardian fashion--void of its potential fetish (anti-Semitism)--by keeping the camera fixed on Jesus' face and the backside of Pilate's blank, bald head. Here Gibson neither allows us to entertain the anti-Semitic reading by panning to the Jews, nor does he allow us the anti-Roman/anti-pagan view. Instead, the words begin and end with Jesus, exposing that all notions of political power are structured around a Void. Through the character of Jesus we witness "a commitment, an engaged position of struggle, an uncanny 'interpellation' beyond ideological interpellation, an interpellation which suspends the performative force of the 'normal' ideological interpellation that compels us to accept our determinate place within the sociosymbolic edifice" (?i?ek, Puppet 112). "Who delivered Him to Pilate?" we might ask, but there is no determinate answer to this question. Perhaps this explains why, when the camera reverses its field of vision as Jesus unleashes his scathing indictment of political power to Pilate, Pilate's face appears befuddled and impotent, and in this bewildering moment, the confused bald figure grows to look more and more like his bewildered bald Other in the film, Satan.

As an Early Modernist, I am tempted to make a Miltonic reading of the film at this point. Earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Gibson seems to borrow freely from Milton's Paradise Regain'd , where Satan, if we remember, believes the title "Son of God" to bear no single, intelligible meaning:

The Son of God I also am, or was,

And if I was, I am; relation stands;

All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought

In some respect far higher so declar'd. (4.517-521)

Likewise, Gibson's Satan cannot understand the relationship of the Son with the Father ("Who is your father? . . . Who are you?"), perhaps explaining why during the infamous scourging scene, he mockingly carries a demon-baby behind the Roman soldiers. To put this indecipherable nature of the Father-Son relationship into Lacanian terms, the Miltonic connection renders Jesus as L'extimité (external intimacy)--the figure both inside and outside the ideological apparatus, the figure unable to be understood. In Freudian terms, Jesus is at the level of das Ding , yet ?i?ek repeatedly iterates that Christianity's chief accomplishment rests not in its ability to sublime its heroic figure (elevate it to the level of das Ding ), but rather in its ability to reduce the Otherness of its hero to a sameness (deliver the Thing itself ). Why is this so important for ?i?ek?

According to him, if Christianity were to give rise to the Truth-Event, it would need to offer the Act in universalist terms. In Kierkegaardian terms, the Absolute would need to come back to the Universal; in Badiouian terms, the Act would need to be available for all. The question to ask, then, is: what space is there in Gibson's film for the Absolute to arise (for the Thing itself to come forth)? Let us remember ?i?ek's statement that directly confronts the many critics who see Gibson's film as being sado-masochistic. Toward the end of The Fragile Absolute , ?i?ek claims that Christ's willingness to be beaten and crucified is "not stupid masochism, humble acceptance of one's humiliation, but simply [there] to interrupt the circular logic of re-establishing balance " (125). The "willingness" is none other than a rupture of "uncoupling"--the rendering of all ethnic substance powerless: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" ( NIV , Galatians 3.28). Such willingness, such love, is not passive, but active: "As every true Christian knows, love is the work of love--the hard and arduous work of repeated 'uncoupling' in which, again and again, we have to disengage ourselves from the inertia that constrains us to identify with the particular order we were born into" ( Fragile 128-29). When we arrive at this understanding of how Jesus comes to reduce his divine Otherness to a sameness ( ecce homo! ), we can see why the Passion is so traumatic: it is the radical betrayal of one's ethnic substance. It is the prime exemplar of the suspension of the ethical--the Act that begins with and ends with Jesus, the Act neither Jew nor pagan nor human fully understands.

Here, then, is where I am willing to risk the most for Gibson's film. Before the release of the film, it was well-documented that when Gibson shot the scene of Jesus' crucifixion, he decided to film his own hands doing the dirty work of nailing Jesus' hand to the Cross. Why? Gibson's repeated claim was that he, as a sinner, was personally responsible for Christ's death. In a sense, he felt that he had colluded with the depicted Roman soldiers and Jewish Sadducees, as well as all of humankind, in this crucifixion. In ?i?ekian ethics, when the critics of this film decide to shrug off Gibson's gesture as being merely another empty gesture--"Oh, he's just saying that to get the critics off his back"--they, perhaps, fall victim to the most enticing ideological monster of all, cynicism. Cynicism itself can act as a fetish, blinding us to the hidden potential of every antagonism. We must, then, find another way to read Gibson's actions. Let us return, once again, to The Fragile Absolute :

The person who mistrusts his others is, paradoxically, in his very cynical disbelief, the victim of the most radical self-deception: as Lacan would have put it, les non-dupes errant --the cynic misses the efficiency/actuality of the appearance itself, however fleeting, fragile and elusive it is; while the true believer believes in appearances, in the magic dimension that "shines through" an appearance--he sees Goodness in the other where the other himself is not aware of it. Here appearance and reality are no longer opposed: precisely in trusting appearances, a loving person sees the other the way she/he effectively is, and loves her for her very foibles, not despite them. (127-28)

To state the matter crudely, I believe the fleeting moment of the crucifixion scene to be the moment worth fighting for. Perhaps, however fragile and elusive, Gibson truly believes the crucifixion not to be an ethnic act, but a human act, and should we not trust this, believe in this, fight for this? As an instructor in the deep south, I have witnessed the cynical reading of fundamentalist Christianity all too often. What if, when we fear the encounter with the "fundamentalist" in our classrooms, we are enabling the perverse creation of a new fetish--simply displacing our anti-Semitism onto a new class of Other? For some reason, with regard to fundamentalist Christians it has become almost acceptable for otherwise culturally-sensitive individuals to ask the paranoid question of the ethnic fantasy, Che vuoi? , (what do you want from me?). What if the answer is something as monstrously benign as: "Nothing, except to learn a few things in your class"? Are we willing to receive that answer, love the fundamentalist for his/her very foibles, and disavow ourselves of our own fetishes? A more pressing question may be: Are we ready to apply ?i?ekian psycho-Marxism to the way we read the world? Are we ready for the radical shift? Yet every time I begin to ask myself this question, another seems to pop up, something like a perverse excess that comes close to providing an answer: Is anyone ready to search for the fragile absolute in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ ? The lesson of ?i?ekian criticism is that, yes or no, we should be willing to risk an answer before the fleeting moment passes us by.





Works Cited

Bearn, Mark. "On the Rampage" New Statesman 2 Aug. 2004: GBP 16.             < >

Boys, Mary C., SNJM, et al. "Report of the Ad Hoc Scholars Group Reviewing the Script of The Passion ." May 2003. <>

Hitchens, Christopher. "The Gospel According to Mel." Vanity Fair Mar. 2004: 200. <>

Kierkegaard, Søren. Fear and Trembling . Trans. and eds. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Milton, John. Complete Poems and Major Prose . Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1957.

Myers, Tony. Slavoj ?i?ek . London: Routledge, 2003.

The NIV Study Bible . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.

The Passion of the Christ . Dir. Mel Gibson. Perf. Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern, and Sergio Rubini. Newmarket Films, 2004.

?i?ek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? London: Verso, 2000.

__________. On Belief. London: Routledge, 2001.

__________. "Psychoanalysis and Post-Marxism: The Case of Alain Badiou." The South Atlantic Quarterly 97 (1998): 235-261.

__________.   The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.

__________. The Sublime Object of Ideology . London: Verso, 1989.

__________. The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology . London: Verso, 1999.


Thomas F. Haddox and Honor McKitrick Wallace
University of Tennessee


"See, I Make All Things New":

  Marxism, History, and Messianic Time in Slavoj ?i?ek's Recent Work


            Marxism has always been vulnerable to the charge that it is an eschatology masquerading as a science.   Certainly many Marxists have viewed revolution and the demise of capitalism not merely as desirable goals, toward which all committed to the cause must strive, but as inevitable events mandated by the logic of capitalism's historical development.   According to this familiar story, capitalism produces increasingly intractable contradictions wherever it holds sway, eventually making its own continued expansion so problematic that it collapses under its own weight.   The successful Marxist revolution therefore occurs only when the time is right, and there is a fundamental tension between the free, collective agency of revolutionaries and the sense that their actions have been historically determined--a tension analogous to the long-standing division within Christianity between salvation as freely chosen (a position shared by Catholicism and Lutheranism) and salvation as predestined (the Calvinist position).   From Karl Popper's The Poverty of Historicism, which castigates both Marxist and Hegelian versions of the dialectic for their superstitious belief that the future can be predicted, to more modest accounts such as Raymond Aron's The Opium of the Intellectuals, critiques of Marxism have seized upon this eschatological strain in Marxist thought, even at times going so far as to suggest that Marxism itself is a kind of Christian heresy, and that its claims to scientific status are lies.

            Perhaps it should not surprise us, given the spectacular failures of avowedly Marxist regimes during the twentieth century, that the most influential currents of Marxism at the present moment ignore (or even, in some cases, reject) the claim that history can be predicted in this way.   Starting with Walter Benjamin, and moving through Theodor Adorno to such current thinkers as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, the sexiest Marxists on the scene have focused on yearning, not methodical analysis.    Against the backdrop of an intolerable world--in which, to use Benjamin's famous phrase, "there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism" ("Theses" 256)--these thinkers long for a total social transformation that seems less and less likely to happen, as capitalism continues to tighten its screws, to extend its dominion into hitherto relatively uncolonized regions of lived experience.    In each of these thinkers, the possibility of failure looms--to quote Benjamin again, " even the dead will not be safe" if the triumph of capitalism becomes too total ("Theses" 255).   Indeed, in the work of Adorno, failure takes on a kind of masochistic sublimity:   the excruciating pain of the present allows us to postulate the joys of a transformed world, joys that we can imagine only through their palpable absence.  

            What is surprising, though, is that though these Marxists turn away from historical prediction as such, they retain an eschatological--even explicitly messianic--conception of political change that often draws heavily on the Judeo-Christian tradition.   For them, the revolutionary Event is not the predestined working out of a historical process, but the irruption of the undetermined into history.   Just as, for Christians, the coming, death, and resurrection of Christ constitute an utterly gratuitous gift from God that defies rational analysis--this strain of Marxism emphasizes the contingent nature of revolution, the sense that while ardently desired, it conforms to no principle of necessity.   In its versions that draw primarily on Judaism, the Messiah is awaited, but, as Maimonides says, he may tarry, and we should be open--as in Benjamin--to the unpredictable moments through which he might enter ("Theses" 264-65).   In its more Christian versions, the proposition is more radical still: the Messiah has already come, the kingdom of God is at hand, and we need only unplug ourselves from the repressive social order and join the messianic collectivity to actualize this redemption.

The most prominent Marxist thinker to make use of these notions today is Slavoj ?i?ek.   His recent trilogy on the Judeo-Christian legacy-- The Fragile Absolute , On Belief , and The Puppet and the Dwarf --argues (with increasing cogency in each subsequent book) that historical materialists should reject Marx's characterization of religion as "the opium of the people."   In the first of these books, ?i?ek argues that "Christianity and Marxism should fight on the same side of the barricade against the onslaught of new spiritualisms" because "the authentic Christian legacy is much too precious to be left to the fundamentalist freaks" ( Fragile 2).   By the end of The Puppet and the Dwarf, ?i?ek's position has become more explicit: "My claim here is not merely that I am a materialist through and through, and that the subversive kernel of Christianity is accessible also to a materialist approach; my thesis is much stronger: this kernel is accessible only to a materialist approach--and vice versa: to become a true dialectical materialist one should go through the Christian experience" (6).

According to ?i?ek, today's global capitalism thrives in part by facilitating the growth of a whole cluster of vaguely "spiritual" beliefs and practices that cultivate infinite tolerance toward the world's religious traditions, the cultivation of inner peace through an ironic detachment from the world's frenetic changes, and the wearing of one's own beliefs lightly. ?i?ek calls this cluster "Western Buddhism," because its reliance on New Age spirituality is most evident, but takes a variety of forms and is implicated in a variety of religious and philosophical movements today, from the radical pragmatism of Richard Rorty to the deconstructionist "openness toward the Other" of Levinas and Derrida to the resurgence of interest in Gnosticism (associated with, for instance, Elaine Pagels and Harold Bloom) to the fantasies of bodilinessness that some partisans of virtual reality and cyberspace have invoked.   What unites all of these disparate movements is the rejection of any understanding of the world grounded in material reality.   For this reason, ?i?ek writes, even though "Western Buddhism presents itself as the remedy against the stressful tension of the capitalist dynamics, allowing us to uncouple and retain inner peace and Gelassenheit , it actually functions as its perfect ideological supplement" ( On Belief 12). The superstructure of capitalism has always functioned through a process of idealization, obscuring the realities of material oppression.   Against the proliferation of such rampant idealism today, Marxism and Christianity, with their uncompromising attention to materiality, must fight.

Of course, such a thesis involves a fairly unconventional understanding of what Christianity entails.   ?i?ek argues that attempts to track down the "original" Jesus--and to valorize his message in contradistinction to the "distortions" produced first by Paul and later by the whole institutional Church--are fundamentally flawed when not pernicious, as are attempts to hold to the "original" Marx, bypassing the more violent legacy of Lenin ( Fragile 1-2).   As ?i?ek points out, Paul shows little interest in the "historical" Jesus presented by the Gospels, focusing instead only on the single salient point that Jesus died and rose from the dead, thereby ushering in salvation for those who believe in him ( Puppet 9-10).   The emphasis is instead on the creation of the Christian community, which constitutes itself in a violent act of separation from the world as a whole and announces that in it, existence itself has been transfigured.   Indeed, ?i?ek's most theologically dubious point is that the new Christian community renders any need for an afterlife superfluous: the Holy Spirit, which he takes to be synonymous with the community of believers (and therefore the embodiment of the divine in human beings), is all that we need ( Fragile 160, On Belief 90-91). Likewise, Lenin's violent establishment of a Soviet state, a rupture that could not have been predicted, becomes the foundation of a new community.

Unlike many of his earlier books, this trilogy is unabashedly militant, and one might be tempted to read it as a response to such critics as Teresa Ebert, who have seen ?i?ek's work as ludic self-indulgence ( Ludic Feminism 57-64) and have repeatedly castigated him for a lack of interest in the political.   And indeed, ?i?ek approvingly quotes from poetic incitements to violence by Bertolt Brecht (as well as Southern Baptist preachers who claim that "plenty of good people will burn in hell" [ On Belief 150-51, 1]) and repeatedly praises Kierkegaard for understanding that the "religious" must ultimately involve the suspension of the ethical.   Such militancy, one infers, is necessary more than ever because post-Cold War history and poststructuralism alike have taught us to accept a restricted horizon of political possibility that is, in the long run, a recipe for despair.   Yet it would be misleading to suggest that the books are free of familiar ?i?ekian tics: the endless riffing on high and pop culture to provide examples for his thesis, the delight in pointing out that the "correct" position is nearly always the opposite of conventional academic wisdom, the adulation for Lacan that, in its desire to track Lacan's manipulation of his followers, resembles Jane Gallop's own quasi-masochistic quest in The Daughters' Seduction. .

How, then, is one to evaluate this body of work?   ?i?ek's distress that the "historical materialist" analysis has receded and requires the help of theology (as the title of his third book, with its reversal of the famous anecdote from Benjamin's "Theses On the Philosophy of History," makes explicit) is genuine, and his diagnosis of the attitudes that he clusters under "Western Buddhism" is difficult, for anyone repulsed by the triumph of therapeutic consumerism in the West today, to dispute. The obvious rejoinder, however, is that ?i?ek's use of Christianity in this way is opportunistic--and perhaps a testament to the weakness of contemporary Marxism.   Aside from the distortions of Christian theology, there is the fact that ?i?ek's argument proceeds almost entirely from homology: one term in historical materialism corresponds to another term in Christianity, which corresponds to another term in psychoanalysis.   To the extent that we see all three as roughly equivalent, the argument holds together, but to see them in this way often means answering ?i?ek's frequent rhetorical questions in just the way he intends.   There is, in other words, a circular quality to the argument.   Alexandre Kojève's claim that all true knowledge is circular (94-99), which ?i?ek does not cite but which is implicit in much of his thinking, might constitute a defense, but a defense unlikely to convince anyone.

A less fundamental but ultimately perhaps more vexing objection has to do with the redefinition of materialist analysis that ?i?ek's project entails.   How does one maintain a materialism that is more prophecy than science, which invokes the language of Revelation--"See, I make all things new"--but does so precisely by rejecting the elements of prediction and planning that science sets in place? Or, to give this question more concrete application: what does a Marxist do in the face of the apparent failure of apparent revolutions, short of disavowing Marx altogether? Do we look to the Marx who does seem to have supported a gradualist approach, for instance the Marx who supported the United States against Mexico in the Mexican War because it was further along historically--closer to the revolution, in other words? Or do we invest in a still more radical notion of the revolution, one that comes, not dialectically out of capitalism, but as a rupture within it, as a break so profound as to be indescribable in its particulars?

?i?ek takes the latter approach; he has a fantasy of liberating the revolution from the banality of History. His emphasis, unsurprisingly, is on the radical: the radical cores of both Christianity and Marxism, the radical break between the Jewish and the Christian traditions, the radical break that the revolution itself will constitute. There's good reason for his wishing to make all things new, and for his insistence on preserving Walter Benjamin's distinction between an "evolutionist" notion of history "which is inherently teleological, since it conceives of the higher stages as a result of the deployment of the inner potential of the lower stages" and what ?i?ek identifies as a "properly historical perspective" in which "the New emerges in order to resolve an unbearable tension in the Old, and was as such already 'present' in the Old in a negative mode, in the guise of an infinite sadness and longing" and   "the past is not simply past, but bears within it is proper utopian promise of a future Redemption. . . " ( Fragile Absolute 89). When we ask Marxism to live up to its own scientific and materialist claims, that need not mean that we accept the most rudimentary and mechanistic view of History--we are permitted, surely, to theorize. But ?i?ek's prophetic mode runs into problems, not because it is insufficiently materialist, but because it does not do what it says it does; it does not hold up its own claims to the radical, and in its inability to do so, reveals an emptiness, rather than a plenitude, of belief.

?i?ek seems to believe that, by using Christianity as a model, the historical subject, the would-be historical agent, can rediscover his or her relation to the Marxist vision. But is a radical break that is patterned after another radical break really so radical? There is a point at which ?i?ek seems to slip from homology to prophecy; the notion that we must come to Marx through Lenin in the same way that Christians must come to Christ through Paul slides, at a certain point, into the suggestion that Christianity pre-figures Marxism, that Christ heralded Paul who heralded Marx who heralded Lenin--recall the aforementioned claim that "to become a true dialectical materialist one should go through the Christian experience." Whether ?i?ek means this literally or not is, in the final analysis, irrelevant; if Marxism's transformative power can only be appreciated (perhaps even realized) through the lens of Christianity, we have to ask just how radically transformative it can really be said to be.

Marx himself realized the danger of this modeling; in The Eighteenth Brumaire , he calls for a wholly new revolution: "The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content" (18). Note that it is the adoption of the poetry of the past that Marx critiques, not the dialectical connections among the past, present and future. But even as he calls for a rejection of the past as history, ?i?ek enshrines the Christian past as poetry, weakening the force of anything Marxism might "make new."   Significantly, however, ?i?ek's insistence on radical break also falls into another pattern Marx critiques in the 1869 preface to The Eighteenth Brumaire. Here, Marx distinguishes his approach to the coup d'état from earlier ones by arguing that   "Victor Hugo confines himself to bitter and witty invective against the responsible producer of the coup d'état . The event itself appears in his work like a bolt from the blue. He sees in it only the violent act of a single individual. He does not notice that he makes this individual great instead of little by ascribing to him a personal power of initiative unparalleled in world history" (8). Certainly, ?i?ek is not repeating Hugo's exact mistake; despite what might be seen as a canonization of Lenin, ?i?ek is making no claims for Lenin as a Great Man. But it is precisely the insistence on constructing the event as a "bolt from the blue" (a phrase that Marx and Engels use repeatedly in their prefaces to this work) that isolates "initiative," cuts it out from history, and distorts the truth of the event.

If, however, Marx is critical of the portrayal of an event as a radical break, he also argues that "Proudhon, for his part, seeks to represent the coup d'état as the result of an antecedent historical development. Inadvertently, however, his historical construction of the coup d'état becomes a historical apologia for its hero" (8). In contrast, Marx claims, his account demonstrates "how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part" (8). Both the treatment of the event as radical and the determinist approach to it omit for Marx the crucial factor that makes History: the class struggle. In other words, instead of seeing the event as wholly new or as wholly determined in a precisely linear fashion, Marx insists on seeing it as the product of the dialectical movement of the classes.

The requirement that the revolution be configured as radical appears, in ?i?ek as well as many other Marxist thinkers, as an effort to render it sublime, as something that so completely transcends the current moment that attempts to trace its beginning would be futile. The revolution gains power from its very unthinkability. But in the emptying out of content that such unthinkability demands, we see the fundamental problem with this notion of the radical. What is literally unthinkable, what cannot be cognitively represented, is the idea that the revolution would in fact come as a bolt from the blue, out of nothing. The wish to present it as such is a desperate effort to escape History--not just the overly simplistic teleological model of the "evolutionist" notion of history, but even and perhaps especially the "properly historical" notion ?i?ek supports. Put another way, can we really avoid any and all "emplotment" of History--and if so, would we want to? Do we need all things to be new? Because when Marx speaks of a new revolution in The Eighteenth Brumaire , he is not talking about an event that comes from nothing, but rather an event that refuses to act as if it is reenacting an earlier revolution. The "new" revolution is a product of the dialectic and as such can never be truly severed from the past.

The radical break ?i?ek seeks is a fantasy and a dangerous one at that. In suggesting that there is no cause in the current system from which the revolution might spring, it neutralizes the dialectic, refusing to acknowledge the "thesis" in "anti-thesis." There is a desperation in this act that, contrary to ?i?ek's claims, cannot be assuaged by Christianity, because the Christian parallel proves less analogous than ?i?ek wishes. ?i?ek has lost faith in History and in the dialectic, and in his vision, if the revolution comes, it must come despite History rather than because of it. Just as Hugo's presentation of the event as a "bolt out of the blue" places too much agency and power in the hands of one individual, ?i?ek's approach implies a capitalism that is so totalizing that it cannot produce or undergo the dialectic. To maintain the Christian parallel, it is as if one could only believe in God because the presence of Evil in the world was so monolithic and unmitigated that one had to establish the fantasy of an opposite. In surrendering the dialectic, ?i?ek surrenders the possibility that capitalism contains within it the possibility for change. Thus, in the conclusion of The Puppet and the Dwarf, he explains that "[t]he point of this book is that [. . . . ] [w]hen Christ dies, what dies with him is the secret hope discernible in "Father, why hast though forsaken me?": the hope that there is a father who has abandoned me. [. . . . ] The point of Christianity as the religion of atheism [. . . ] attacks the religious hard core that survives even in humanism, even up to Stalinism, with its belief in History as the 'big Other' that decides on the 'objective meaning' of our deeds" (171).   Having spent three books valorizing the Christian legacy, ?i?ek ends by asserting the necessity of atheism: "That is the ultimate heroic gesture: in order to save its treasure, [Christianity] has to sacrifice itself--like Christ, who had to die so that Christianity could emerge" (171).   The implication, of course, is that to save its treasure, Marxism too must sacrifice itself--its belief in historical necessity, its hope that the historical process mandates, despite all the damage piled up along the way, a better world to come.

As we stated above, ?i?ek's emphasis on yearning over analysis, his impatience with specifying either the content of the post-revolutionary future or the process through which it gets underway, is shared by other Marxists today.   (Terry Eagleton, for instance, maintains, "Just as the pious Jews . . . were forbidden on pain of idolatry to fashion graven images of the God of the future, so political radicals are prohibited under pain of fetishism from blueprinting their ultimate desire" [216]).   For a Marxist committed to such a notion of revolution, the Russian Revolution (and hence the emphasis on Lenin in Zizek's work) must indeed appear exemplary.   After all, czarist Russia in 1917 was economically backward and still largely "feudal" in its political structures, and Marx would have been surprised to learn that the first successful Marxist revolution occurred there, rather than in Germany or even the United States.   In Boris Pasternak's 1959 novel Doctor Zhivago , the title character reflects, in a conversation with his father-in-law, on the significance of the Russian Revolution in terms that do look forward to ?i?ek's analysis:

            "And the real stroke of genius is this.   If you charged someone with the

task of creating a new world, of starting a new era, he would ask you first to clear

the ground.   He would wait for the old centuries to finish before undertaking to

build the new ones, he'd want to begin a new paragraph, a new page.

            "But here, they don't bother with anything like that. This new thing, this

marvel of history, this revelation, is exploded right into the very thick of daily

life without the slightest consideration for its course. It doesn't start at the

beginning, it starts in the middle, without any schedule, on the first weekday that

comes along, while the traffic in the street is at its height. That's real genius. Only

real greatness can be so unconcerned with timing and opportunity" (195).

And yet, the ultimate failure of this Revolution, its palpable failure to bring about a classless society, may in fact spring from the fact that Russia was not yet prepared to undergo such a transformation. It is ironic to consider the move from Zhivago's exuberance before the Revolution's "unconcern with timing and opportunity" to what Heinrich Müller in 1992 called "the waiting-room mentality" of Communist Eastern Europe:                       

There would be an announcement: The train will arrive at 18.15 and depart at 18. 20--and it never did arrive at 18.15. Then came the next announcement. The train will arrive at 20.10. And so on. You went on sitting there in the waiting room, thinking, It's bound to come at 20.15. That was the situation. Basically, as a state of Messianic anticipation. There are constant announcements of the Messiah's impending arrival, and you know perfectly well that he won't be coming. And yet somehow, it's good to hear him announced all over again. (qtd. in Fragile 41)

Commenting upon this passage, ?i?ek remarks:

The point of this Messianic attitude, however, was not that hope was maintained, but that since the Messiah did not arrive, people started to look around and take note of the inert materiality of their surroundings, in contrast to the West, where people, engaged in permanent frantic activity, do not even properly notice what is going on around them. ( Fragile 42)

In this remarkable passage, however, ?i?ek reveals how much the notion of a radical, revolutionary break depends upon such a notion of Messianic waiting.   What does such a break produce, if not another period of waiting, another yearning for a Messiah who may come, but whose promise sustains our existence in the present, makes the "inert materiality" of our world meaningful?   In other words, does not ?i?ek concede here the possibility that even the radical break may simply be absorbed into a cyclical (not a dialectical) structure?

For both Christianity and the brand of Marxism to which ?i?ek subscribes, time must logically have a stop.   This is quite proper to theology, which takes the eternal as one of its chief objects of study.   But while materialism itself may be, as ?i?ek suggests, just as much a faith as Christianity, it must, if it is to be comprehensible and efficacious, believe that the world--and our existence in it--be made explicable.   ?i?ek's account is neither good Christianity nor good Marxism, but it may well be an apt product of the dialectic that most marks our current moment, in which for many the tension between desire and History grows unbearable.

Works Cited


Aron, Raymond.   The Opium of the Intellectuals.   Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001.

Benjamin, Walter.   "Theses on the Philosophy of History."   Illuminations: Essays and Reflections.   Trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt.   New York: Schocken, 1969.   253-64.

Eagleton, Terry.   The Ideology of the Aesthetic.   Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.

Ebert, Teresa.   Ludic Feminism and After: Postmodernism, Desire, and Labor in Late Capitalism.   Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.

Gallop, Jane.   The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis.   Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982.

Kojève, Alexandre.   Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit.   Trans. Raymond Queneau.   Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980.

Marx, Karl.   The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.   New York: International, 1963.

Pasternak, Boris.   Doctor Zhivago.   Trans. Max Hayward and Manya Harari.   New York: International Collectors Library, 1958.

Popper, Karl.   The Poverty of Historicism.   London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

?i?ek, Slavoj.   The Fragile Absolute, or, why is the christian legacy worth fighting for?   London: Verso, 2000.

---.        On Belief.   London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

---.        The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity.   Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 2003.

Karyn Z. Sproles

James Madison University


Radical Orthodoxy, Environment Activism, and Religious Praxis--or Why I Have a Crush on the Archbishop of Canterbury

Influenced in its formation by Marxism and post-structuralism, the Radical Orthodoxy movement holds out enormous potential for merging theory and practice. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a leading figure in the movement, is a longtime political activist. As Williams demonstrates, Radical Orthodoxy has the potential to influence how we live (not just how we read sometimes). Similarly, in the United States, political practice harnessed to religious structures has proven effective in making use of current pressures from the right in order to promote a progressive agenda. Even when poised to do so, proponents of Radical Orthodoxy have not always been able to turn theory into practice, but by revealing the parallels between the theoretical framework of Radical Orthodoxy and environmental activist Lynn Cameron's work through the Presbyterian church to restrict emissions from coal-fired power plants, I want to suggest the efficacy of tying religion to progressive politics and post-structuralist theory in order to craft a post-Marxist praxis.

Originating at Cambridge in the 1990s, Radical Orthodoxy is a theological movement in which deconstruction is saturated with belief. The philosophical Jesse Tree of Radical Orthodoxy has its roots in Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas, and its twentieth century branches in the work of Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Ur Von Balthazar (1905-1988), Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Rowan Williams, translated and taught Balthazar at Cambridge in the 1980s, influencing his students, among them John Milbank, whose Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (1993), is considered one of   the founding works of Radical Orthodoxy. Along with theologians such as Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward,   Milbank draws a parallel between deconstruction's analysis of the binary oppositions inherent in language and the central doctrines of the Christian church, which insist on the reconciliation of conflicts inherent in notions like the Trinity and Holy Communion. The Trinity depends on the acceptance of God as three in one, in transubstantiation communion bread becomes the body of Christ literally as well as figuratively, and when receiving Holy Communion the participant retains his or her individual identity while at the same time becoming incorporated. Spiritual Mysteries, then, pass through deconstruction as part of their constitution in so far as they are consciously understood to be both in opposition and inseparable. As R. R. Reno explains: "Radical Orthodoxy hopes to recover Neoplatonic metaphysics as an explanation for the glue that holds the world together...Identity is neither a wound in the flux of difference nor a vulnerable citadel to be defended. Dynamism and difference--'I am coming from and going forward [note that the same verb is used for both concepts in Ancient Greek]--constitute identity. The glue is sticky, but it never dries" (39). According to Reno, Radical Orthodoxy "counters the Nietzschean nihilism of foundational advancing a participatory framework, an analogical poetics, a semiosis of peace, a metanarrative that does not require the postulate of original violence" but instead "offers a theory of identity and meaning based on unity and peace" (39). In Radical Orthodoxy, peace is not just an abstract concept that passeth all understanding but also contextualized and political. Catherine Pickstock, for example, proposes taking Holy Communion as a model for a participatory community ( After Writing ), thus urging a reciprocal relationship between politics and religion.

I want to focus specifically on Rowan Williams, not only because he was Milbank's teacher, but because his position as Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the church of England and the International Anglican Communion with 70 million members (including the Episcopal church in America), gives him potentially enormous influence in current theology and politics. Born in 1950, Williams is Welsh, and speaks fluent Welsh, among other languages. He is married and has 2 children. He was Archbishop of Wales (1999-2001) before being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Tony Blair in 2001. From the start of his career Williams was a powerful force in the Anglican church, but he is an unusual choice for its head in part because of his academic background: he taught in Yorkshire (1975-77), Cambridge (1977-86), and Oxford (1986-92), and has published over a dozen books of theology, commentary, and poetry. But the primary reason he is a surprising appointment is his political activism. While Dean of Clare College Cambridge he was also an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was arrested on Ash Wednesday 1985 "for scaling the perimeter fence of RAF Alconbury" (Shortt 46-47). He is a founding member of the Jubilee Group, a support Network for Anglo-Catholic socialists. He was lecturing on Wall Street, two blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and wrote about his response to the experience in Writing in the Dust (2001). He subsequently denounced the Afghanistan conflict and opposed the war in Iraq. He supports the Liberation Theology Movement in Latin American and insists that theology is inherently political. He campaigned for the ordination of women (allowed in 1992 in England and in 1996 in Wales) and is a vocal supporter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

Williams's ability to influence religious and political debate was tested when the American Episcopal church consecrated Gene Robinson in November 2003 as the church's first openly gay bishop. Although Williams is an activist, his responses to issues within the church are initially theological and closely argued through scriptural analysis. Along with Milbank, Williams holds that "faith is not alien to reason, but its intensification" (Shortt 35). Thus, Williams deconstructs the binary oppositions of a theological argument to uncover the enabling assumptions of each position. On the question of whether or not women should be ordained, for example, Williams's response to the commonly made point that women should not be priests because the Disciples were all men is that the Disciples were also all Jews, but we do not require all priests to be Jewish. Ultimately, Williams concludes that what is essential in the incarnation of Christ is his humanity, not his manhood, and thus there is no obstacle to the ordination of women, and by implication lesbians and gay men.

Williams made a full statement of his support for homosexual priests in "The Body's Grace" (1989) a memorial lecture sponsored by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Williams supported his position with scriptural authority arguing that "the Bible...condemns hetero sexuals who engage in homo sexual acts for gratification" even as it emphasizes physical love as an important part of creating intimate bonds between two adults (Shortt 50). Dismissing the position that homosexuality is perverse because it does not lead to conception, Williams defines perversity as "sexual activity...without the dangerous acknowledgement that my joy depends on someone else's as theirs does on mine" (Shortt 51). Williams insists that, simply from the standpoint of logic, someone who supports the use of birth control cannot oppose faithful gay partnerships. Williams acted on his convictions by knowingly ordaining a gay man living in a committed partnership with another man. However, after his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams wrote to the Anglican bishops that he would "abide by the mind of the church as reflected in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution upholding traditional norms" even though his private view remains that it would be appropriate for the church to adjust its "teaching on sexuality" (August 2002, Short 51).

Williams responded to the uproar caused by the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop in the American Episcopal church, by calling a meeting of Anglican leaders that proposed a Commission to examine the consequences of Robinson's appointment. [The Commission's report is due to be published in October, so I will be able to share their findings and Williams's response at our panel discussion at SAMLA.] In his statement on Robinson's consecration, Williams chose his   words carefully to show that he has been attentive to the responses of the entire Anglican Communion while not overtly denying his own convictions. This care could be seen as diplomatic or as misleading. He is struggling to initiate a civil dialog when he asserts: "It is clear that those who have consecrated Gene Robinson have acted in good faith on their understanding of what the constitution of the American church permits." But it is also clear that his focus is on the disruptive consequences of this act when he continues: "But the effects of this upon the ministry and witness of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans particularly in the non-western world have to be confronted with honesty" ( ). Much as he supports the ordination of gay clergy, it appears that he is more unhappy about the threat this poses to the church when he says "The divisions that are arising are a matter of deep regret; they will be all too visible in the fact that it will not be possible for Gene Robinson's ministry as a bishop to be accepted in every   province in the communion."

While Williams's refusal to use his position in the church to support a cause he had previously championed does not necessarily suggest that Radical Orthodoxy is all talk, it does raise the concern that as much as proponents of Radical Orthodoxy insist on the politics of theology, they will not be able to move from theory to practice. In addition, as a longtime admirer of Williams, I was dismayed by what I believed at the time to be a failure of leadership. I have a more complicated interpretation of Williams's position now, and I will return that in my conclusion. First I want to look at what seems to me to be a more successful use of a religious institution to further political activism in the example of Lynn Cameron's work to restrict coal-fired power plants, which, I think, does indicate a way in which theory can be turned into action.

As an environmental activist, Cameron targeted coal-fired power plants because they are the world's largest unregulated source of mercury and sulfur dioxide and the U.S.'s largest source of carbon dioxide, which is the greatest contributor to global warming. Working with a small group of Presbyterians in the Shenandoah Valley concerned with environmental issues, Cameron built a local coalition in one of the most conservative areas of the South, and ultimately succeeded in persuading the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church USA to pass a resolution calling for regulations on coal-fired power plants (June 2002), which had previously been exempt from restrictions due to a loop hole in the original legislation. Cameron then contacted the over three dozen Presbyterian members of Congress, putting them in an interesting position, since, given the current religious climate, it would be very difficult to openly flout one's church. She is currently working with other environmental activists who want to pass similar resolutions in their churches, including the Episcopal church. Cameron's use of religious conservatism to push members of Congress into supporting environmental goals exemplifies a strategy for making use of the dominant culture for progressive ends.

Cameron is a "strategic environmentalist" (to borrow a phrase from Gayatri Spivak) who does not theorize her methods, but a deconstructive analysis of the role of religion in politics could have resulted in realizations that would have suggested a similar strategy. Cameron's understanding of the forces of self-interest led to her use of religious pressure to influence members of congress. Her work exemplifies the way in which Radical Orthodoxy could work its way off the page and into politics. And, although I did not think so at first, I also think Williams's seeming lack of response to the outrage expressed by some members of the Anglican Communion at the ordination of Gene Robinson is also a radical political gesture.

In "Liberation Theology and the Anglican Tradition" (1983), Williams wrote: "Theological certainly is inseparable from commitment to a particular human project; theological truth is inseparable from the durability of that project. There is no other kind of absoluteness in our history" (13). In this essay, following Juan Luis Segundo, one of the leading figures in the Latin American Liberation Theology movement, Williams argues that, as a community, we should be dedicated to "the consistent living out of a radical, inevitably political, but also reflective, prayful and sacramentally oriented Christian discipleship" (14). As Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams sees his first and most important responsibility as stewardship of the Anglican Community. When Robinson's consecration threatened the community with schism, Williams acted to prevent the church from becoming divided. In this, despite my personal disappointment that he did not use this opportunity to further the position he holds on the matter, I believe he was acting in a manner that has far greater and more lasting ramifications.

In refusing to use his position to further a cause he personally and theological supports, Williams weakened the position of the Archbishop. By sharing power, seeing his role as representational rather than papal, Williams restructures church hierarchy. He retains his individual voice, but he clearly places it as one among many--and a minority voice at that--and overturns the patriarchal structure of the church in a move that is more radical than intervening on any one specific issue alone could ever be. I now see Williams position as, like Cameron's, strategic, since the Anglican Community has a long history of debate compromise and reform, holding the Community together maintains the possibility of transformation, whereas schism would reify the sides into fixed binaries. If he had taken a stronger position, Williams might well have damaged the cause he wishes to support. While it takes enormous strength to appear weak, retaining a strong church also strengthens Williams's political voice outside the church, where he continues to criticize the Blair government, notably for its role in Iraq. By promoting the united instability of the Anglican Communion, Williams thus illustrates Radical Orthodoxy's celebration of inherent conflicts: the function of his office is to nurture and protect and increase the Anglican Communion while the function of his scholarship is to achieve the divine through rational analysis. Williams's deconstructive theology exposes the ideologically maintained false assumptions at the heart of doctrine and social practice while retaining a faithful witness and reverence for scripture, and as Archbishop of Canterbury he quells the discord that erupts as a result of events he urges in his own theological analyses. Taken together, the theoretical model exemplified by Williams and the more immediately practical results achieved by Cameron suggest the potential for Radical Orthodoxy to respond to politically volatile issues at the interface of religion and society. Williams and Cameron both recognize and make use of the dominant culture's deference to religious values to intervene in national politics, taking Liberation Theology's understanding of the ideological nature of belief into a post-Marxist religious praxis that actually exists.

A Radical Orthodoxy Bibliography

Hughes, John and Matthew Bullimore. "What is Radical Orthodoxy?" Telos . Spring 2002. 183-190.

Milbank, John, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward, eds. Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology . New York: Routledge, 1999.

Milbank, John. Theology and Social Thought: Beyond Secular Reason . London: Blackwell, 1993.

---. The Word Made Strange . London: Blackwell, 1997.

Pickstock, Catherine. After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy . London: Blackwell, 1997.

Reno, R. R. "The Radical Orthodoxy Project." First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life . February 2000. 37-44.

Sharlet, Jeff. "Theologian Seek to Reclaim the World with God and Postmodernism: The Subtle Passion of 'Radical Orthodoxy' Emerges as an Intellectual Force." Chronicle of Higher Education . June 23, 2000.

Shortt, Rupert. Rowan Williams: An Introduction . Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 2003.

Ward, Graham. Barth, Derrida, and the Language of Theology . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Williams, Rowan. "The Body's Grace." Lecture sponsored by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. 1989.

---. "Liberation Theology and the Anglican Tradition" in Politics and Theological Identity . The Jubilee Group. 1983.

---. "Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury following the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop-coadjutor of New Hampshire." 3 November 2003. < > 30 September 2004.