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National College of Art and Design Department of Sculpture Faculty of Fine Art

Religion and Politics in Recent Theory

Iain Griffin

Submitted to the Faculty of Visual Culture in Candidacy for the Degree of Bachelor of Fine Art, 2011


I declare that this thesis is all my own work and that all sources have been fully acknowledged.

Signed: Dated:


Thanks to my thesis Tutor Paul OBrian for his interest in this field and wealth of reading suggestions. Thanks Kieron Lynch and Peter Gardner for their editing assistance. Thanks to Ian Clotworthy and Ed Gillum for agreeing to be interviewed.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Introduction Definition of Terms Chapter 1: Religion vis--vis Historical Materialism The Opponent Interpassive Religions Revolutions Religion Zizek: Architect of God Chapter 2: Christianity: Collaborator or Dissident? Collaborator with the world: Nationalised Religion The Weberian Theory: Christianity and Economy The Subversive Kernel of Christianity Subversive Christ: Terry Eagleton Subversive Christianitys Alternative Economics Chapter 3: Do not Conform to the Patterns of this World Political Implications Neo-monasticism: The Rebel Child of Neo-Colonialism A critical study of the Quaker Garden Cities Project The Village Reformation versus revolution Conclusion Interviews Bibliography 1 4 7 8 12 13 16 20 22 23 25 29 31 33 36 37 39 44 49

List of Illustrations

Fig 1, p2: Curry, Adrian; Zeitgeist Films, Slajov Elvis Zizek Fig 2, p5: Klee, Paul; Angelus Novus (1920) Paint on Canvas Fig 3, p11: Billboard Advertisement, Belfast, N. Ireland (2010) Fig 4, p33: Greek Protestors Face Riot Police, 04.05.2010 URL: Fig 5, p34: Howard, Ebenezer; Garden City plans (2010) Garden Cities of Tomorrow Fig 6, p37: M. Shyamalan (2004) The Village, Movie Still Fig 7, p42: Afreddo Jarr; The Marx Lounge (2010) Mixed Media Installation, Liverpool Biennale Fig 8, p42: Alfreddo Jarr; We Wish to Inform You We Didnt Know (2010) Video Installation, Liverpool Biennale

Christian theory by Historical Materialist philosophers has been on rise since 1997. Consider Alain Badious publication of Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, 1 after which Slavoj Zizek wrote The Fragile Absolute: Or Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting for. 2 Giorgio Agamben has also participated via his Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. 3 During this period Marxist writer Terry Eagleton returned to his Roman Catholic roots, beginning with his criticism of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, followed by his publication of Reason, Faith and Revolution. 4 This theistatheist narrative has also been demonstrated by the reemergence of Ernst Blochs publication Atheism in Christianity. 5 The popularity of the Materialist-theology dialogue has led Zizek, John Milbank and Creston Davis to entitle their recent thesis Pauls New Moment. 6 Is this Christianitys new moment? The philosophers on whom my methodology is based are central figures in the cultural studies field. Terry Eagleton, is known as Britains most influential academic rebel and literary critic and it is claimed that his works have had a global impact on the teaching of cultural studies (Wroe, 2002; Ellam, 2008). Alain Badiou is considered the most influential philosopher working in Europe today (Norris, 2009). Last but not least, Slajov Zizek is nicknamed the Elvis of Contemporary Theory (Goodman, 2010). This
1 2

Badiou, Alain. (2003) Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. California: Stanford Press. Zizek, Slavoj. (2008) The Fragile Absolute or Why the Christian Legacy is worth Fighting for? USA: Verso. 3 Agamben, Giorgio. (2005) The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. California: Stanford University Press. 4 Eagleton, Terry. (2009) Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. USA: Yale. 5 Bloch, Ernst. (2009) Atheism in Christianity. New York: Verso. 6 Millbank, John, Zizek, Slavoj; Davis Creston. (2010) Pauls New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology. USA: Brazos Press.

precedent makes recent the religio-political texts by these philosophers a key area of cultural studies.

Fig 1: Slavoj Elvis Zizek

In this thesis I will explore the theological theories of Historical materialists Badiou and Zizek and respond with theology from Christian neo-monasticism. The first chapter will provide a categorisation of Zizeks political motives for the creation of Materialist Theology. This will be intersected with the two political sides of Christianity: passive and active, the latter of which will be informed by Leo Tolstoy and Zizek. This dichotomy study will be continued in the second chapter. The purpose of this section of the thesis is similar to that recently published by Milbank, Zizek and Davis

In short, and siding with Paul, we propose that Christian theology contains within it an irreducible revolutionary possibility that ruptures with the predetermined coordinates of the world and offers an entirely new kind of political subject altogether. In this way, too, the positive side of this thesis is that theology provides a critical stance against the basic assumptions and ruling ideologies of this world. (Davis, 2010, p2) Where is the basis for revolutionary possibility found within Christianity (Davis, 2010, p2)? The answer will firstly require an assessment of nationalised religion and then of the Protestantisms encouragement of Capitalism as presented by Max Weber, both of which contrast to the socio-economics of alternative Christianity that Zizek affiliates himself with. An examination of Zizeks Trinitarianism and Eagletons Christology will follow. I will conclude this portion with a study of left-wing socio-economics of Christianity, informed by Shane Claiborne. In the third chapter I will meet the monastic theories of Badiou and Zizek with Jonathan Wilsons theory of neo-monasticism. In order to assess monasticism better I will close with a critical case study of the Quaker Garden City projects and how their example speaks caution to the Church today. Integral to this study is the differentiation of the terms reformation and revolution. Throughout, I will address the consistent interplay between Christianity and Capitalism, and their collaboration will be persistently under question. Davis has a similar imperative, that is to challenge the American bourgeois interpretation of Christian faith that simply hands over the world to the corporation without a fight (Davis, 2010, p4). My imperative, however, is perhaps a step prior to Davis, in that I hope to challenge a Christian faith that simply hands over itself to the corporation willingly.

This imperative arises from a personal observation of the disparity between the radicalism of the characters in the New Testament and my experience of the apathy of those in contemporary churches. How is it that those who are a new creation in Christ, can act so similarly to their Pagan peers (2Cor 5:17)? Davis suggests that twentiethcentury theology has hidden theologys radical stance from itself and has committed something tantamount to cosmic false consciousness (Davis, 2010, p8). Though atheists like Zizek are theologically flawed they have a better grasp of the theologys radicalism than many theologians. Using the theories of Historical Materialists I will hold a mirror to the face of theology to expose its forgotten radical stance. The purpose will be to better assess Christianitys interaction in contemporary society, reflecting the Johanine challenge for the Christian to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18).

Definition of Terms

The term Historical materialist is used to describe key authors such as Zizek, Badiou and Agamben. Historical materialism describes a wide range of philosophies. In the context of this thesis the term should be understood as: the philosophy that societal evolution is interpreted and primarily engaged with by its economics. Though Frederick Engels was the founder of the Materialist Conception of History, Walter Benjamin elaborates upon it with his metaphor of an angel (Engels, 2008, p54). Benjamin compares Historical materialism to the Angelus Novus: a painting by Paul Klee (1999, p249). The angel has its face toward the wreckage; which is the

past. Against the angels will it is propelled backwards by the storm of progress into the future.

Fig 2: Klee, Paul; Angelus Novus (1920) Paint on Canvas

Consequentially, the angel is disabled from awaken[ing] the dead, and [making] whole what has been smashed (Benjamin, 1999, p249). This metaphor describes how civilisation has evolved through a number of modes of production, such as Feudalism, Early Capitalism and Late Capitalism (Marx, 1999, p37; Grundrisse, 1885). Historical materialism is the belief that history is the unintentional movement of civilisation through these economic systems. In order to describe specifically the Historical materialist authors who have interacted with Christianity as a collective I propose a group title: the Christian


experience materialists (CEMs) This name is derived from Zizeks introductory chapter of the Puppet and the Dwarf 7 in which he writes To become a true dialectical materialist, one should go through the Christian experience (2003, p6). It is further based on Zizeks own term Christian Materialism (Davis, 2010, p194). CEM dictates that Christianity alone is the religion that can found a true materialist struggle (Davis, 2010, p10). This groups founding members are of Slajov Zizek, Alain Badiou and Giorgio Agamben. This is not an exclusive list however as others such as Creston Davis and Walter Benjamin can be associated with CEM. An important consideration is that the aforementioned philosophers are Atheists (Davis, 2010, p15; Badiou, 2003, p1). 8 CEM emerges in sharp contrast to what Zizek refers to as Violent Materialism of which Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have been leading figures (Zizek, 2007). I will follow in the same fashion as Eagleton when I refer to the leadership of this aggressive materialism as Ditchkins (2010, p2).

Zizek, Slavoj. (2003) The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. 8 For more see Millbank, John, Zizek, Slavoj; Davis Creston. (2010) Pauls New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology. USA: Brazos Press. For although Davis bluntly clarifies Zizek is a total Atheist (Davis, 2010, p15), he also points out that Zizek considers his brand of athiesm to make him more Christian than Milbank (Davis, 2010, p14). Moreover, he describes himself as a Christian (Zizek, 2008, p131).


Chapter One

Religion vis--vis Historical Materialism

The Opponent Slavoj Zizek bases the title of his 2003 release on the image of The Puppet and the Dwarf. 9 Walter Benjamin created the original image when he wrote:

The story is told of an automaton constructed in such a way that it could play winning game of chess, answering each move of the opponent with a countermove. A puppetsat before a chessboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guided the puppets hand by means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical counterpart to this device. The puppet called historical materialism is to win all the time. It can easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the services of theology, which todayis wizened and has to keep out of sight. (Benjamin, 1999, p245) In Zizeks adaptation the opponent is no longer the Fascism that Benjamins Materialism battled against. Historical materialisms contemporary opponent is Global Capitalism, which Milbank suggests is the new centurys greatest ethical challenge (Carlson, 2009). In light of this new opponent, Milbank believes we are experiencing a return to the dwarf (Milbank, 2010 p 7-8). For what purpose are these figures of Historical materialism choosing to interact with theology? Some readers may suggest that the CEMs have similar intentions to that of Ditchkins: the disposal of religion. The difference is, they may suggest, that Zizek is

Zizek, Slavoj. (2003) The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.


smart enough to commit mutiny from inside the enemy camp. We shall not entertain those thoughts. The CEMs have higher aspirations than that. Zizeks purpose is to defeat his opponent: Global Capitalism. His intentions, are consistent with philosophical schools of the Roman Empire of which Dio Cassius documents philosophys purpose as to insult those in power, to stir up the multitudes, to overthrow the established order of things (Hellerman, 2002, p15). CEM has three key tactics in this fight: to resist relativist mysticism, to defend Christianity from political passivity and crucially to assist left-wing revolution.

Interpassive Religions Zizek resists the rise of relativist religions in the West because of their passive pampering of capitalism. He claims that Eastern mysticism, such as Buddhism, replaces politicoeconomic action with assertions of inner peace. Resultantly, they promote a climate of non-action (Keshena, 2010). Zizeks attacks are similar to Adam Curtis lament of the politically active student-Lefts evolution into the politically inactive Hippie movement in the United States. 10 Civil Rights marchers chanted There is a Policeman inside all our heads: He must be destroyed. The Policeman is to be understood as the rising influence of corporations, particularly those assisting the government in the Vietnam War (Curtis, 2009). A vision had been sought to destroy the creators and sustainers of the Policeman. However, a new tactic evolved in 1970 consequential of State resistance such as the Kent State shootings. In which the Ohio National Guard killed 4 students during an anti-war

Curtis, Adam; (2002) The Century of the Self, Episode 3, BBC.


protest. This tactic prescribed that rather than being politically engaged in the removal of the Policeman one should be concerned with ones own head. Although this tactic seemingly suppressed the influence of the Policeman, the creators of the entire Police force continued to grow in power. It is this same tactic within mysticism: the search for personal inner peace, at the expense of outer political action that causes Zizek to brand them ideological handmaidens to global capitalism (Rasmussen, 2005). CEMs second intention is to save Christianity from particular mutations of itself. Zizek initiates this rescue mission when he states: The authentic Christian legacy is much too precious to be left to the fundamentalist freaks (Zizek, 2008, xx). Zizek later states however that fundamentalism is fostered by an age in which people do not take ideological propositions seriously, which he brands as interpassivity (Zizek, 1994, p33; Ratcliffe, 2008). Therefore, religious interpassivity is religious belief without political participation or expense. A concept which he personifies as a female Catholic praying to the Virgin Mary O thou who conceived without having sinned, let me sin without having to conceive (Zizek, 2003, p49). To better understand religious interpassivity I reference Mark Fishers description of anti-capitalist interpassivity: the belief that capitalism is wrong, without consequential action, which occurs whilst watching some films. Take for example Disneys Pocahontas, in which the Native-American Pocahontas battles against the Capitalism of the European colonists. The audiences rejection of Capitalism therefore is performed for them virtually via Pocahontas, thus eliminating actual political action (Fisher, 2009, p12). It is this form of Christianity that leads Zizek to ask his readers [do] you want to enjoy the pagan dream of pleasure without paying the price of


the melancholic sadness for it, in expectation that the audience respond yes, he suggests they Choose [interpassive] Christianity! (Zizek, 2003, p48) Zizek secondly seeks to save Christianity from mutating into a Positive religion (2003, p4). Positive religion functions in the same way as a newspaper: people select a newspaper that reaffirms their lifestyle and ensures their comfort within that lifestyle. Of the possible roles of religion within contemporary society Zizek writes

The social order in which religion is no longer fully integrated and identified with a particular cultural life-form, but acquires autonomyon the other hand, the price to be paid is that religion is reduced to secondary epiphenomenon with regard to the secular functioning of social totality. In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals function better in the existing order, or it tries to assert itself as a critical agency. (Zizek, 2003, p3) Zizek rejects the Capitalist existing order and therefore rejects a form of religion that assists individuals in continue in that order. Within Positive Religion the Sabbath services have been reduced to something of a therapy session, as Stanley Rowlands suggests in his article, Suburbia Buys Religion. 11 Rowland describes the growing trend of Drive-in churches which, following the trend of drive-in cinemas, are composed of a congregation that remain within their car for the length of the staged sermon. Such a culture, however, is not limited to the confines of American Suburbs. In September 2010, the Belfast Metropolitan Tabernacle Church executed a billboard campaign across Northern Ireland of the sermon Gods answer to our problems. Surely this also


Rowland Jr, Stanley; (1956) Suburbia buys Religion, The Nation, July 28, USA.


relegates Christianity to the role of therapeutic. Certainly Rowland would suggest that it product of religion that has been reduced to a comfort station.

Fig 3: Billboard advertisement, Belfast, N. Ireland (2010) The third form of itself that Zizek hopes to defend Christianity from is legalism. Zizek believes that subversive Christianity formulates political activity because of its Post-messianic belief that Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has fulfilled the Law, 12 (2008, xx). This contrasts the political passivity integral to the Judaic obedience of the Decalogue and continual Messianic expectation (Zizek, 2008, p131, p138). He points out the tension between the Decalogue and the injunction to love thy neighbour This


Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).


injunction prohibits nothing; rather, it calls for an activity beyond the confines of the Law (2008, p111) Legalism is when Christians revert back to observance of the law of Judaism, which Zizek suggests by implication, is an action that makes churches politically inactive. When first century fundamentalists, known as the Judaisers, demanded members of the Galatian Church be circumcised Badious militant character Saint Paul vehemently responds I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves (Galatians 5:12, NIV, p826). These three forms of Christianity: interpassive, positive and legalistic all unwittingly support the existing order: Capitalism. For this reason Zizek agrees with Apostle Paul.

Revolutions Religion

On the other hand though Zizek believes that his version of Christianity (at the hands of Historical Materialism) is a Proto-revolutionary community (Rasmussen, 2005). Zizeks subversive Christianity is presented as an apt player (or played) in the Lefts fight against Global capitalism (Zizek, 2008, xxviii). It is important to recognise that Zizeks audience is the failing contemporary Left, which he intends to recover from its selfsatisfaction. His tactic in this recovery is the sub-contraction of Christianity.

Radical changes in the social order are needed, and a crucial starting point is to denaturalize the existing capitalist order, to make people aware that market forces are not omnipotent. But consciousness raising alone will not suffice. What's needed is a willingness to introduce a "radical imbalance into the social edifice". Zizek's wager is that "Christian love" - defined as "a violent passion to introduce a Difference, a gap in the order of being, to privilege and elevate some


object in the order of being, to privilege and elevate some object at the expense of others" - can be a catalyst that will provoke the Left to resume collectively its emancipatory struggle. (Rasmussen, 2005) Similarly, Leo Tolstoy believes that his brand of Christianity will have similar effects to those sought by Zizek. In response to his interpretation of the gospels Tolstoy expects Christian citisens to dissent, via a rejection of the payment of taxes, mandatory possession of passports, both police and military service, participation in courts of law (as jury and prosecutor) and oaths of allegiance.13 The proposal, furthermore, is that these actions shall be a catalyst against the current social order (Tolstoy, 1984, p84). This is demonstrated in a metaphor of a swarm of bees.

These [Christians] are individual bees, who are beginning to separate from the swarm, and are flying near it, waiting till the whole swarm can no longer be prevented from starting off after them (Tolstoy, 1984, p223)

Zizek: Architect of God

Perhaps to be able to fully understand Zizeks appropriation of Christianity we may observe a comparable situation in Atheist Soviet Russia: the first phase of the God13

Overall, the actions that Tolstoy campaigns for are based on Tolstoys assumption that Christianity requires singular allegiance. This is a theology expounded by Shane Claiborne in Jesus for President who largely bases his theology on that of the Early Church: They were Christians who insisted that they could not bow to Caesar in any form (Claiborne, 2008, p157). Tolstoys Caesar was the Russian government. Claibornes Caesar is the current United States government. The rejection of compulsory military service is based on Tolstoys pacifism, which in turn is based on his interpretation of Jesus words in Matthew 5:3842, specifically: Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well The refusal for the taking of oaths is based on Matthew 5:33 37, specifically, Again, you have heard it said to the people long ago, Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord. But I tell you, do not swear at all


building concept. This policy was presented to Lenin by key Marxists such as Gorky and Lunacharsky in 1917 (Dimitry, 1987, p20, p93). They proposed the creation of a new religion that worshiped the State and Communisms potential. In this religion new public holidays and ceremonies would be designed to replace the Orthodox Christian versions, such as Red Weddings and Passport-receiving ceremonies (Dimitry, 1987, p92, p96). God-building was incepted due to the fear that Man needed religion to act, moreover, the fear that Marxist materialism on its own could not inspire the action needed for revolution (Dimitry, 1987, p93). Though it was strongly rejected, the motivations of the proposals are of relevance (Dimitry, 1987, p20). In The Philosophical Foundations of Soviet Atheism Pospielovsky Dimitry writes

Religion was conceptually wrong and ideologically biased towards the interests of the exploiting classes, it still cultivated in the masses emotion, moral values, desires which the revolutionaries should take over and manipulatesocialism would achieve the greatest possible success (Dimitry, 1987, p20) Additionally, much like Zizek, the whole cult was primarily meant as a means to achieve a collective frenzyfor a common revolutionary action (Dimitry, 1987, p94). If Zizek is Lunarcharsky in this parallel, then Ditchkins is Lenin. Lenin asserted a fervent atheist persecution of religion and saw the Lunarcharskys God-Building theory as a compromise with religion. However, what occurred in Soviet Russia resonates today. Militant and violent materialism

antagonised the believers against the socialist system instead of converting them to atheism. It merely pushed the religious life underground where it is more dangerous than if it is in the open


(Dimitry, 1987, p97) The CEMs have chosen Christianity as their God to build in order to ensure revolution.


Chapter Two

Christianity: Collaborator or Dissident?

Collaborator with the world: Nationalised Religion

Why have the CEMs chosen Christianity in particular? Is Christianity the most appropriate religion for the CEMs to be fostering? Zizek himself asks this question. His concern is Christianitys historical and biblical submission to the State. 14 He writes

Is it not that Christianity nonetheless supports participation in the social game (obey the laws of the country, even if your ultimate fidelity is to God), and thus generates ideal subjects of the existing order? (Zizek, 2008, p120) To what extent are Christians to participate as players of the existing game? I would suggest that the Christian inclusion in the game originated in the collaboration of Christianity and the Roman Empire, resulting in nationalised religion in the 4th Centaury. To describe the origins of nationalised Christianity I will again refer to the story of the Civil Rights movements evolution into the impotent Hippie movement (Curtis, 2009). In our dramatisation the Roman Empire will play the role of the Right wing American Government in 1960 and the student marchers will represent the Early Church. 15 The


Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1). For a fuller discussion of biblical submission in Romans 13:1-7 see Claiborne, Shane., and Haw, Chris. (2008) Jesus for President. USA: Zondervan Press, p339-348, Subordination and Revolution: What about Romans 13? 15 Early church The early church is a title usually in reference to the Christian sect from the death of Christ to 325 AD. After 325 the Roman Emperor Constantine promoted Christianity as the Roman religion.


Student Left wing posed a threat to the United States social order. Similarly, early Christianity threatened the socio-politico-economic order of Roman Imperialism (Russell, 1992). After a scene of persecution by the state, the left wing in both scenarios was disabled and consequentially mutated. However, unlike the student left of 1960, the Early Church was appropriated by Imperial Rome (Claiborne, 2006, p346). Shane Claiborne believes the result to be a paradoxical collaboration. He criticises the paradox in Constantines Rome and the post-modern West. Claiborne writes The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes just dont seem like the best tools with which to lead an empire or superpower 16 (Claiborne, 2006, p248). The trouble, as Terry Eagleton makes clear is attempting to blend the anarchical characteristics of Christianity with Capitalist society, The problem of much modern Christianity has been how to practice this [Jesus] lifestyle with two children, a car and a mortgage (Eagleton, 2007, xxii). Tony Campolo compares the paradoxical collaboration of radical religion and Capitalist politics to mixing Horse manure and ice cream. 17 Only one of those ingredients is gravely affected (Mason, 2005). In contemporary Anglo-American politics there has been a frequent partnership of Christianity and Capitalist governments; of which American lyricist Tim McIlrath poses a series of questions:

Would God bless a murder of the innocents? Would God bless a war based on pride? Would God bless a money-hungry government? Would God bless our
Henceforth, the early church is defined largely the absence of Constantinianism (Wilson, 1997, p79). In fact the early church is associated with persecution under Emperors such as Domitian. 16 The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes can be found in Matthew 5:1-7:29 and include instructions such as Blessed are the merciful and Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you 17 When government and church begin to mix, you got a problemIt's like mixing ice cream with horse manure: You will not ruin the horse manure, but it will ruin the ice creamto mix the church and state is to, in fact, to put the church in a compromising position (Mason, 2005).


ineffective court systemwould God bless America? (Rise Against, 2003)

George W. Bush personifies the paradox. On the one hand the President claimed to have a verbal relationship with the evangelical Christian God; famously he described how God instructed him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. 18 On the other hand, he was the leader of a corporate-led nation. Famously Bush told the American Public, two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to respond by going shopping. Perhaps in reference we may use the term that Thomas Muntzer used to describe the Princes of Germany who appropriated Christianity to suppress and exploit the peasant class: donkey cunt doctor of theology (Ming, 2010, p2). The national appropriation of religion depends upon the culturalisation of belief. Zizek applies this term to the disavowed beliefs of kosher Jews as an example of religion that is relegated to culture (Rasmussen, 2005). In this form religion has restricted impact on ones life, such as eating habits, but nothing more. I would suggest that the term is as relevant to culturised Christianity in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2009 Gordon Brown adamantly defended Britains continued existence as a Christian country (Beckford, 2009). What is important to note of the ex-Prime Ministers words are that when he refers to Christianity he is referring to culturalised Christianity. He states we're talking aboutboundaries, beyond which people should not go (Beckford, 2009). Because if Brown were referring to Tolstoyan theology of civil


President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq." And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it'" (BBC, 2005).


dissent 19 he would not claim that these are values that can bind your society together. Zizek provides us with an insight as to why Brown prescribes to culturised Christianity; it depoliticizes us. Eagleton claims that Any preaching of the Gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political state is in my view effectively worthless (Eagleton, 2009, p58). This of course runs contrary to Britains existence as a Christian country. Scandal and affront to the political state are not exactly what governments desire. Governmental leadership is contented for a religion to exist as long as it does not interfere with, or assists, the operating social order. The Chinese government were less subtle about this theory, when in 1994 they organised a conference to research how Christianity would better their economy (Morris 2008). I previously described how the Soviet concept of God-building was similar to the political Lefts appropriation of God. It is also more subtly similar to the actions by Right wing politicians. Lunacharsky proposed a creation of a state religion in which the god was the personification of the social ideal of socialism (Dimitry, 1984, p94). In a similar way right wing politicians have created a religion in which ideals of their party, primarily consumer-Capitalist ideals, are reflected back upon the god that they project. For example, what god did Margaret Thatcher build? Not surprisingly, he looked remarkably like a liberal economist. In her speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1988, she selectively quoted from 2 Thessalonians 3:10: if a man shall not work he shall not eat, creating the illusion that the Capitalist-god that she built is synonymous with the God of the British (Kingdom, 1992, p45).


Christian civil dissent a rejection of the payment of taxes, mandatory possession of passports, both police and military service, participation in courts of law (as jury and prosecutor) and oaths of allegiance (Tolstoy, 1984, p218).


The Weberian Theory: Christianity and Economy In addition to the collaboration with government is Christianity not guilty also of collaborating with Zizeks enemy, Global Capitalism (Zizek, 2008, xx)? Max Weber discloses the correlation between the rise of Protestantism and that of Capitalism. 20 Weber suggests that it was only through the religious and political shaking of the Feudal economic system by an event such as the Reformation (1517-1648) that Capitalism could be birthed (1998, p36). Secondly, Weber notes that a major contribution to the Capitalist ethic was the Protestant work ethic, which is the belief that God ordained his followers to work hard and accumulate wealth. The theory was particularly developed within Calvinism. Weber contrasts the Protestant ethic to the Roman Catholic ethic of spiritual detachment from the world that results in an aversion to material accumulation (1998, xii-xiii, p38). Thirdly, we must recognise the effect that predestination theology had upon the Protestant relationship to Capitalism (Weber, 1998, p110-11). How did the belief that God has pre-destined humans to salvation or damnation relate to the accumulation of capital? Well, within the Calvinist sect, pressure mounted to prove that one had been chosen for salvation; for which evidence was Gods material blessing upon a persons life. John Wesley saw the system of Capitalism as an unavoidable result of Calvinism: I feel, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. . Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to remain long. For religion must necessarily produce industry and frugality, these cannot help but produce richesFor Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently

Weber, Max. (1976) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Great Britain: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.


they increase in goods Is there no way to prevent this-this continual decay of pure religion? We ought not to prevent people from being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and to save all they can; that is in effect, to grow rich (Weber, 1998, p175) The Weberian theory denotes that the zealous Calvinists optimised capitalism; Eagleton suggests that in contemporary consumer capitalist society it is the anti-zeal of interpassive Christianity that betters capitalism. In fact, he states on behalf of Capitalism:

Zeal is more to be feared than encouraged. As long as the populace gets out of bed, roll into work, consume, pay their taxes and refrain from beating up police officers, what goes on in their heads and strictly a secondary affair (Eagleton, 2009, p145-146) Perhaps this is why Tolstoys work was banned in Russia and why Liberation theology was denounced as a subversive threat by the United States government: because it encouraged the Christian zeal that consequentially depletes the ability to comply with the social order (Horn, 2010; Eagleton, 2008, p 39). On the one hand Christianity has encouraged Capitalism by its Weberian economics and on the other hand it has supported it by its ignorance of economics. This claim is supported by artist/politician Ian Clotworthys experience in a Dublin Baptist Church in November 2010 (Griffin, 20.01.11). The sermon promoted influencing governmental policy toward Christian values. The ministers suggested that the congregation should challenge the legalisation of same-sex marriage; thus, in turn totally ignoring the corrupt political-economic policy of the Irish government and its imminent


services-cutting budget. 21 Terry Eagleton has a similar insight, commenting that sexuality for many of his [Jesus] faithful devotees today takes pride of place as a moral issue over nuclear weapons or global poverty, and that individual sexual morality is focused upon whilst economic-corporate morality is overlooked (2009, p57; 2007, xxiv). Which further enforces separation of Christianity and economy.

The Subversive Kernel of Christianity

On the other hand, despite Christianitys ability to be a collaborator, Zizek believes it to be a political economy dissident. Zizek promotes that within the shell of Christianity exists its subversive kernel; the kernel is the release from the social order that Christianity provides due to the non-existence of its God. The self-destruction of the Trinity is the key to his theory. He asserts that when Jesus was crucified and screamed out to the Father My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" God cancelled his own existence (Matthew 27:45). Let us begin with the Father; he is subtracted from the trinity equation due to his impotent inability to help the Son, which to Zizek shows nihility. The son is crucified and therefore Zizek does not include him as a Trinitarian aspect of God. Like a child eating butter having rejected the bread and the filling of his sandwich, Zizek upholds the Holy Spirit as the only existent part of God; though he does not recognise it


This assumption is made on the basis that the relationships between developers, their financiers and the

officials who authorised the building spree were usually cozy, often corrupt (Observer, 2010). Clotworthy declares that this was the month before the government published one of the most punitive budgets in Irish history. This budget was dedicated to cutting services to the majority, especially the disadvantaged, for the sake of paying off the gambling debts of reckless millionaire bankers and therefore that Surely that is far more of an affront to a Christian's conscience than some gay people seeking to apply the word "marriage" to their relationships? (Griffin, 20.01.11)


as a specter. He creates the situation in which [T]he Holy Spirit is the community deprived of its support (Zizek, 2003, p171; Zizek, 2008, p118). Via this theory Zizek maintains his atheism whilst enabling himself to philosophically play with theology. Henceforth, the Christian God, which Zizek believes in, is merely a sect of believers to which Zizek applies a revolutionary status. This then is the subversive kernel: that allegiance to an impotent Christian God allows freedom from the social order. Is this freedom from the social order only decipherable from a theologically questionable atheistic interpretation of God? The biblical concept of grace also provides the same result. The Father, being omnipotent and just, chose to incarnate, sacrifice and abandon himself for the atonement of humanitys sin. The fact that God altruistically chose this action overrules Zizeks claim that the Father is impotent. The resurrection, which Zizek ignores, re-establishes Jesus within the trinity. The Holy Spirit empowers the community of believers (Acts 1:8). In this equation the subversive kernel is that allegiance to a self-sacrificial God allows freedom from the Law and therefore allows freedom from the social order (Galatians 5:1).

Subversive Christ: Terry Eagleton Let us consider the founder of Zizeks Christianity. Terry Eagleton presents an alternative interpretation of the gospels in sharp contrast to the Wesleyan Gentle Jesus, meek and mild (Charles Wesley, 1742). Eagleton concludes that in regard to Lenin and Trotsky, Jesus was both even more and even less of a revolutionary (2007, xxx). Eagleton dramatically reduces Jesus revolutionary status primarily due to Jesus subscription to paying taxes (Eagleton, 2007, viii). Claiborne, on the other hand, does not see Render


unto Caesar what is Caesars, and unto God what is Gods as a submissive stance (Luke 20:22). Rather, Claiborne points to the humor of Jesus response to the question of Temple taxation (Claiborne, 2008). Jesus begins by stating the sons [his followers] are exempt. When pushed on the matter Jesus tells his followers to catch a fish and pull a coin out of its mouth with which to pay the tax (Matthew 17:25-26, NIV). Additionally, Tolstoyan theology dictates that Christians should not pay taxes due to Tolstoys belief that Christians cannot maintain dual-allegiance to the state and God (Tolstoy, 1984, p219, p224). So we will not diminish Jesus revolutionary status on account of supposed submission. On the other hand, in support of Christs revolutionary status Eagleton deconstructs and represents Jesus majority Zealot social network. The Zealots who are likened by Eagleton to the contemporary Al-Qaeda, fought the Roman imperialism of Jerusalem (2007, p1). James and Johns nickname is the Sons of Thunder, which Eagleton suggests shows their Zealot links. Judas Iscariots surname is translated as dagger man, which suggests affiliations with the Zealots. Additionally, Eagleton refers to Simon Peter as militant Simon due to the fact that he unleashes a sword in Matthew 26:51. The scene in Luke 22 in which Jesus tells Peter to sell his cloak in order to buy a sword gives further influence to this title (Eagleton, 2008, x, viii). Furthermore, Jesus fits within the niche of the accepted style of Jewish prophet: to challenge the wealth and piety of the Hebrew hierarchy. The Messiah it seems had a radical resonance due to the fact that he

is presented as homeless, propertyless, peripatetic, socially marginal, disdainful of kinfolk, without a trade or occupation, a friend of outcasts and pariahs, averse to material possessions, without fear for his own safety, a thorn in the side of the


Establishment and a scourge of the rich and powerfulJesus has most of the characteristics of a revolutionary activist, including celibacy (Eagleton, 2007, xxii) In addition to these traits Eagleton admits Jesus illegal interaction with women (John 4:13-30) and what he sees as Christs rejection of the nuclear family (Luke 14:26) as historically ignored revolutionary characteristics (2007, xxiii). 22 Subversive Christianitys Alternative Economics Christian-economics, I would suggest, is ideologically in opposition to its secular counterpart. I will use one of the more radical economic teachings of Jesus as a foundation of this claim: A certain ruler asked him, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answeredSell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy (Luke 18:18-23) Firstly, in this passage Jesus firmly correlate economy and religion. Wendell Berry, in his book Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community 23 states that to be uninterested in economy is to be uninterested in religion (Berry, 1993). This is evidential throughout the Gospels in which the discussion of money and possessions comprises more than fifteen percent of all that Jesus said. Which to put it into perspective is more than he said about heaven and hell combined (Wellman, 2009).


Eagletons suggestion of rejection of the nuclear family is based on Jesus words according to Luke 14:26, If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sistersyes, even their own lifesuch a person cannot be my disciple. Eagleton, Badiou and Zizek all take particular delight in referencing this verse. 23 Berry, Wendell. (1993) Sex Economy, Freedom and Community. USA: Pantheon.


Secondly, Jesus economic prescription to the young ruler is absurd. For the man to sell his possessions makes no financial sense. The bible is riddled with absurd systems, such as the Old Testament practice of Jubilee, in which every forty-ninth year all debts were cancelled, all prisoners released and land returned to its original owner, or absurd practices such as loaning money without expecting repayment (Lev 25:8-17; Luke 6: 3435). Another example is the New Testament practice of sacrificial charity, by selling their land and possessions and giving the proceeds to the financially challenged among them (Acts 2:45). 24 Thirdly, Jesus fatal request strikes starkly in the face of compromising Christianity. The very fact that Jesus did not barter the cost of eternal life but instead allowed the aristocrat to walk away contrasts with contemporary diluted Christianity. Tim Chester suggests that too often Churches tell people what they want to hear so as to gain a large congregation (Chester, 2007, p189). An example of which is the Lakewood megachurch, Texas, which hosts 16800 seats in which Joel Osteen preaches a brand of Prosperity gospel. Recent sermons include 2011 is your year, Deciding to Live Full in 2011 and Wear your blessings well. Claiborne, speaking on behalf of the church, comments that often we clip the claws on the Lion a little, we clean up the bloody Passion we are called to follow. Yet, ironically, Claiborne suggests that Lion claws are what Western culture is desperate for (Claiborne, 2006, p104). According to Nihad.Awad, 34,000 Americans embraced Islam in response to the Islamic extremist attacks in 2001. I would suggest that the reason for this mass-conversion is that


Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back (Luke 6: 34-35). They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:45).


Americans were hungry for a religion with radical or fatal costs, which compromised Christianity would not provide. In light of the three previous points it is clear that Christianity has an economy that is at loggerheads with secular economy. Shane Claiborne believes that the nature of the kingdom of Godhas an ethic and an economy diametrically opposed to those of the world (Claiborne, 2006, p104). He promotes that far from supporting our statesponsored consumerism Christianity stands in opposition to our culture, a claim that is based on his selection of anti-imperial and anti-consumerist passages of the Bible (Claiborne, 2008, p54-55). Such as the phrase Come out of her, my people, in relation to the Whore of Babylon in the book of Revelation (Rev 18:4). This phrase, in Greek is translated as coitus interruptus, literally meaning interruption and disruption during sexual intercourse prior to climax (Claiborne, 2008, p149). What is to be interrupted, asserts Claiborne, is the interaction with the socio-economic order of the empire. Therefore, the implementation of Christian economics would be a revolutionary action against Capitalism. In his book The Irresistible Revolution 25 Claiborne quotes Woody Guthries surreal image of Jesus in contemporary New York City repeating the teachings taught in Galilee. The song concludes that the result of such anti-Capitalist teaching would be that he would be crucified again (Claiborne, 2006, p249). R.H Tawneys in The Acquisitive Society 26 responds to the abdication of revolutionary Christianity economics (Tawney, 1948, p231).

To preach in public that Christianity is absurd is legally blasphemy. To state that the social ethics of the New Testament are obligatory upon men in the business

Claiborne, Shane. (2006) The Irresistible Revolution. USA: Zondervan Press. Tawney, R.H. (1948) The Acquisitive Society. London: G. Bell and Sons Ltd.


affairs, which occupy nine-tenths of their thought, or which, the industrial organization that gives our society its character, is to preach revolution. (Tawney, 1948, p228)

Zizek is also preaching revolution; therefore Christianity with its revolutionary economics is the obvious choice of religion. It is clear that Christian economics cannot fit within the current mode of production (Kreis, 2000). I would suggest, that it is this economic incompatibility with the world that Zizek is attracted to.


Chapter Three

Do not conform to the patterns of this world

Political Implications

Badiou asserts that the Christ-Event is the resurrection of Christ (Badiou, 2003, p56). Zizek, whose ideas regarding the Christ-Event are clearly a footnote indebted to Badiou, promotes the Christ-Event as the death of Christ (Zizek, 2008, 110). On the other hand, Giorgio Agamben holds a differing theology, what can be described as a pre-messianic awaiting of the Event (Gratton, 2010, p9). Badiou recognises the death of Christ as a means to an end: the resurrection. The resurrection is the unfathomable act that disrupts Pagan self-satisfaction (Galatians 3:13; Badiou, 2003, p69). Apologist Daniel Petersen provides evidence of this when he states nobody had a category for the Son of God to rise to glory in the middle of history (Petersen, 2008). Zizek believes that the global balanced cosmic order completely collapses in light of the heinousness of the crucifixion of Christ (2008, p111; Davis, 2010, p76). The self-sacrifice of God via Christ is a slap in the face to the Pagan circular notion of death, rebirth, justice and balance (Zizek, 2008, 112). How is this theological debate relevant to political discussion? Davis claims that it is only by understanding the significance of the Christ-Event can we fully understand the future of theology and its accompanying political subject (Davis, 2010, p8). Peter


Gratton comments on Zizeks fear that Badious Christ-resurrection-event is too politically transcendent and therefore is unable to speak to the praxis of those engaged in political struggles here and now (Gratton, 2010, p5). What then does Zizek believe his Christ-death-Event can produce, politically? Zizek believes that the Christ-Event, like the subversive kernel, having disrupted all order, allows Christians to disentangle themselves from secular societys social order. Zizek describes this as unplugging and uncoupling: 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 that we were born into (Zizek, 2008, p111) Giorgio Agamben makes a similar conclusion without the use of the Christ-Event. In his Commentary on the Letter to the Romans 27 Agamben presents the Greek phrase Diditio in Fidem used by the Apostle Paul toward the Roman Christians in 50 C.E (2005, p116). In the context of the conquering of a city, this term would be used to describe the inhabitants if the victors chose not to exterminate them. In this event the citys spared population would become stateless people (Agamben, 2005, p116). Agamben remarks that Saint Paul described the post-messianic community in this way. Tim Chester refers to the Church as a holy people in a hostile world (2007, p142). The Hebrew version of the word holy, quadosh, means to set apart for a special purpose. Qedesh, of the same root, describes a male prostitute set apart for a sexual purpose in Deuteronomy 23:17 (Benner, 2007). Similarly, the Greek, as used by the author of Philippians: to all Gods holy people in Christ Jesus, refers to the differentiation of this group (Scott, 2010).

Agamben, Giorgio; (2005) The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Stanford University Press: California.


Churches therefore, according to Zizek, are to be non-compliant subversive counter communities of the current social order (2008, p116).

Neo-monasticism: The Rebel Child of Neo-Colonialism I will meet Zizeks and Agambens proposals with theology from the emerging church.

Alasdair McIntyre uses the term neo-monasticism to describe the exodus of the church

from the secular social order consequential on its infection by that order. Wilson is adamant that neo-monasticism requires a separation from the social order but not an abandonment of society (Wilson, 1997, p75). It is not a physical separation, like the Amish, nor is it a batten down the hatchets approach to society (Smith, 2011). Rather it is an exclusion from the socio-economics of wider society, whilst still living within wider society. Neo-monasticism is refusing to shore up the imperium of contemporary society (Wilson, 1997, p62). The emergence of neo-monasticism comes as no surprise to me. In the same way that Roman imperialism led to monasticism, neo-colonialism has led to neo-monasticism. McIntyre compares the current emerging neo-monastic church to the early preConstantinian Church.

Men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve insteadwas the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive in the coming ages of barbarism and darknesswe too have reached that turning

Emerging Church Used to describe a new movement of the church in America and Europe. This strand attempts to identify how best to fit within Post-Modernism. Movements identified with the term include such as 24-7 Prayer, Vineyard churches and Jesus Freaks.


pointthis time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontier; they have already been governing us for quite some timeWe are waiting not for a Godot, but for another-doubtless very different-St. Benedict (Wilson, 1997, p68-69) The term neo-colonialism has been used to describe the domination of populaces by multi-national corporations. McIntyre describes that they have been quietly governing us for a period already (Wilson, 1997, p68-69). This of course is not to be interpreted as a physical government such as Westminster, rather with an understanding of neo-colonialism, this is the same opponent as Zizeks: Global Capitalism. Wu Ming present this

They say they are new, they christen themselves by acronyms: G8, IMF, WB, WTO, NAFTA, FTAAThey cannot fool us, they are the same as those who have come before them: the ecorcheurs that plundered our villagesNowadays they have a new empire, they impose new servitudes on the whole globe, they still play the lords and masters of the land and sea (Multitudes of Europe Rising Up Against the Empire, 2001) In Greece for example, since the EU bail out in May 2010 protestors recognise the International Monetary Fund as a neo-colonist. John Pilger provides evidence of this: they [the protestors] are clear who the enemy is and once again they regard themselves as under foreign occupation (Pilger, 2010). 29


For a further study of neo-colonialism see Downey, Karen; (2010) Where are the people? Belfast Exposed Photography. UK.


Fig 4: Greek Protestors Face Riot Police, 04.05.10

In the same way as the early Christians used monasticism as a contingent tactic against the Roman social order, it should be expected that in these similar times, a similar reaction would occur (Wilson, 1997, p72).

A critical study of the Quaker Garden City Project

After the Second World War, in Europe and particularly in England, there were a number of physical monastic ventures that collaborated religion with the new romanticism that was born of the post-war years (Howard, 2010, p55). Therefore it is fair to assess these historical monastics in order to inform our contemporary situation. Churches frequently promoted that a correlation existed between the derelict form of the city and moral and spiritual corruption (Howard, 2010, p59). This concept was developed in General Booths


publication In Darkest England and the Way Out. In response the Salvation Army sent teams of settlers to found colonies in America such as Fort Romie, California (Spence, 1985, p25). The monastic group we shall critique though is English Christian faction: the Quakers and in particular, the venture Capitalist Ebenezer Howard. In the publication Garden Cities of To-morrow 30 Howard invented the Garden City; new self-contained cities characterised by features such as civic space including a central green, large gardens and assorted rent houses. Howard believed that these features would make the Garden cities a revolutionary contrast to their predecessors (Hardy, 2000, p65).

Fig 5: Garden City plans, Garden Cities of Tomorrow, p3 (2010)


Howard, Ebenezer. (2010) Garden Cities of To-morrow. United Kingdom: Dodo Press.


In 1903 Howard managed to produce two of these cities, Welwyn and Letchworth, each with populations of approximately 30,000 inhabitants (Howard, 2010, p63). To what extent does Howards model provide president for Zizeks proposals? Similar to Zizek, the Quakers were reacting against the sociological urban consequences of the creation of industrial capitalism (Howard, 2010, p56). The creation of Garden Cities was to be the very anti-thesis of the products of unbridled Capitalism (Hardy, 2000, p60). What is interesting is their incorporation of the capitalist system within the monastic escape of that very system. Rather than creating a new system or alternative community they merely placed a new community into a repeat of the old system within a new context (Zizek, 2008, 120). There were many praiseworthy aspects that differentiated these cities, such as large public spaces. On the other hand the cities were built to encompass factories; the very aspect that created the conditions they were escaping (Hardy, 2000, p63). One reason for such a repetition of the failed Capitalist system in the Garden Cities is obvious; Howard required the support of Capitalists, particularly Christian capitalists, to materialise his designs (Hardy, 2000, p65). Additionally, the cities were influences by Utopian novel by Edward Bellamy, Looking Backwards 31; which describes the fictitious future of Capitalism operating in its perfect form (Hardy, 2000, p61). An additional reason is the prominence of the Quaker sect within business, otherwise known as Quaker Capitalism (Brasden, 2004). Deborah Cadbury writes: The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises and their business aims were infused with religious idealism. (Cadbury, 2010) These included English businesses such as

Bellamy, Edward. (1996) Looking Backward: 2000-1887. New York: Dover Publications.


Cadburys, Frys Confectionaries, Rowntrees, Clarks shoes, the banking groups Lloyds and Barclays and the Irish firms Bewleys and Jacobs. Brasden suggests that a primary reason for the prominence of Quaker Capitalism is their theological opposition to the taking oaths and consequential abstinence from professions that required an oath, such as medicine, military service, law and University lecturing as they are (Brasden, 2004). Howard intended for Letchworth and Welwyn to operate as a catalyst in which to revolutionise the remainder of English society (Hardy, 2000, p61). As this did not occur the Garden City project remains a repetition or a reformation. Furthermore, due to the collaboration of Capitalism and religious monasticism the Quaker Garden City project could be described as a reformation at best.

The Village

Manoj Shylemalans 2004 film The Village provides an apt reference point. The plot centres on a secluded village in rural America in what we are led to assume is the year 1897. The villagers are contained within the boundaries of the village by a treaty that was signed with the Creatures that inhabit the surrounding forests. Throughout the film it is unveiled that the Creatures are a fictional tool created and maintained by the Village Elders to prevent the population from leaving. A later plot-twist unveils that the village is located within a wildlife preserve and was created in the 1970s by a collaborative attempting to escape the violence of urban America.


Fig 6: M. Shyamalan (2004) The Village, Movie Still

In Shylemalans film the revolutionary action of alternative community is based on repetition of the old systems and therefore is a form of reformation (Zizek, 2008, p120). It is the continued use of fear that maintains the flawed monastic escape from fear. In our Garden City study it was the continued use of the Capitalist system that maintained the flawed monastic escape from the Capitalist system.

Reformation versus Revolution

To unpack the theoretical aspects of the Quaker monastic project I will make reference to the contrasting characters of Martin Luther and Thomas Muntzer: theologians of the Protestant reformation. Wu Ming promotes Luther as a compromising reformer, whilst Marxist writers regard Muntzer as a leader of plebian revolt and a precursor to Communism (Ming, pxxv). Ernst Bloch labeled Muntzer the Theologian of the


Revolution because of his denouncement of the economic oppression that the princes sword [made] possible (Ming xvii). The two preachers had previously been part of the same reformation party, however in reaction to Luthers bias towards the German princes, Muntzer led the Peasants war against the aristocracy between 1524 and 1525. From this then we reach a decision between reformation and revolution. Claiborne points out that reformation is not what the early Christians chose, they were not reformists offering the world a better Rome. They offered the dissatisfied masses not a better government but another world altogether (Claiborne, 2008, p160). It is on this example that I reject the three previous options laid out. The Quaker Garden Cities project, though disguised as another world altogether, was in fact the attempted creation of a better Rome. Luthers Protestant reformation was in fact literally attempting to produce a better Roman Catholic Church but in fact concluded by creating a new Rome. Finally, what Muntzer offered was a better government; reformation not revolution. What occurred in the Early Church was that a small group, having identified themselves as citizens of heaven, no longer identified with or lived by the secular socio-economics (Philippians 3:20; Acts 2:44). Claiborne suggests Christianitys optimum form of operation within society is when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful (2008, p164). Furthermore, Zizek suggests that Christianitys optimum form is as an economically alternative tribe within society; which he expects will lead a better world under Marxism.


In conclusion, I propose we temporarily alter Benjamins image of the Puppet and the Dwarf. The game is no longer chess but rather poker: in which the stakes for theology are high. It is being recognised that the Western Church is in crisis, exemplified by the Church of Englands consistent annual membership depletion (Gledhill, 2010). Theologian Lesslie Newbigin presents the need for missionaries in the West (Wilson, 1997, p22). So how the emerging church deals with this crisis in a post-religious and relativist society is of key importance. The primary questions that I set out at the beginning were: for what reasons, in regard to Materialists, has CEM occurred? Why is this situation occurring specifically between these two parties? Finally, what are the theoretical outcomes of the answers to the previous questions? I answered the question of motivation by exposing Zizeks desire to rebel against Capitalism for which he requires CEM. This was interlaced with and followed by a critical assessment of Christianity in a good cop/bad cop format to show the passive and then the radical genre of Christianity that the CEMs desire. Then monasticism was an assessed outcome of the partnership of Zizek, Badiou and Wilsons theories. I presented the right wing and left wing God building. This presents a vital question; is Zizek simply building a Garden City, a repetition of the old factory-centered city just with bigger gardens? Eagleton states that Christianity is less and less able to legitimate the social order. I expect he is referring to the current social order, Capitalism, but will it legitimate any social order? If Christianity is the rebel intended to live out the social order that he presents it as then surely it will not bow to Zizek and 44

Eagletons social order of choice: Marxism. A questioning of Christianitys affiliations with Capitalism intersected the thesis. Consequentially Christianity was found guilty of incompatibility with any social order other than itself We have yet to see whether the Church will collaborate with the theories of CEM, whether Zizeks call to Christianity will be responded to. Theologian John Milbanks theoretical engagements with Zizek in publications such as The Monstrosity of Christ

suggest that the initial stages of collaboration are possible. Movements such as Love

Bristol in England are already responding to alternative interpretations of Jesus and his socio-economic principles via official and unofficial community housing in which two or more families live together in one house (Griffin, 16.12.10). However, on the question of whether Zizeks ultimate aims will be achieved: though early urban churches opposed and challenged dominant Greco- Roman culture, they did not consistently [seek] to overthrow or directly alter the existing political system (Hellerman, 2002, p14). Eagleton, though having highlighted Jesus insurrectionist comrades, reminds us that messianic sects were not intent on overthrowing the state (2007, ix). This makes Zizeks task even more difficult. For though, as we have established, Christianity has a revolutionary character, it is not an insurrectionist of the state. Though Christianity correlates with Zizeks hope for an alternative socio-economic community, I do not think it will assist in Zizeks ultimate purpose: revolution. If Zizeks suggestion of alternative community is achieved, the question arises: what now? For Zizek the question is answered with the call to left-wing revolution. For

Zizek, Slavoj. (2009) The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.


Christianity however, Badious Christ-Event (reconciliation with God through the Jesus death and resurrection) was the revolution. Which means that we are now living in the post-revolution era of which alternative community is the product. Zizek remains in state of pre-revolution waiting. Regardless the CEMs believe that Christianity belongs behind the barricades with Lenin (Harris, 2009). Furthermore, that this collaboration will create not reformation, like the Quaker Garden Cities, but a new form of revolution. What this new form will look like is still to emerge. Ed Gillium is quick to point out, in contrast to Claiborne, that it will not be a singular repetition of the early church, because

As soon as we start trying to formulate Christian life we begin to suck the life out of it and it becomes regulated religion. The principles demonstrated by the way the early church is described are the important things, but what that looks like in the 21st century can vary massively from person to person and place to place (Griffin, 16.12.10) Due to the high stakes for theology, political action is required in response to CEM. To demonstrate this I turn to The Marx Lounge by Alfreddo Jarr, which was exhibited at the 2010 Liverpool Biennale. The work comprised of a table laid with multiples of 500 titles of writings by or inspired by Karl Marx. Amongst those titles were many of the founding writings of this thesis. Sarah James interprets the interactive installation as a critique of the new surge in Pop-Marxist Literature (James, 2010). Jarr displayed a second work at the Biennale, entitled We Wish to Inform You that we didnt Know; three televisions playing image based stories of victims of the Rwandan genocide, intersected by a BBC news report and a plea of ignorance by President Clinton. The amount of horrific images caused the audience to feel disengaged. This pre-empted disengagement subtly highlights


Fig 7: Afreddo Jarr, The Marx Lounge (2010) Mixed Media Installation

Fig 8: Alfreddo Jarr, We Wish to Inform You We Didnt Know (2010) Video Installation


the Western estrangement between images and action. Therefore, it is fair to read an implicit message of estrangement between text and action in the Marx Lounge. Jarrs library installation asks his audience Never has there been so much interest in Marxist literature; so where is the complementary political reaction? With such a quickly emerging contemporary field we must be wary not to be guilty, like Marxist writer Theodor Adorno, of creating a disparity between theory and practice (Cutrone, 2009). Zizeks The Fragile Absolute is a strange twist of Marxs Communist Manifesto but it remains a manifesto for action nonetheless. Action is to be taken regarding the Johanine challenge: Christians must live in the world, embedded within the social order, but they must refuse to be of the world and its political economy. This challenge is a scar on the face of the forgotten radicalism of theology; an abolishment of the adherence of religiopolitical apathy.


Interview: Love Bristol

Ed Gillum is a member of the Christian group Love-Bristol based in Bristol, UK. Iain Griffin: Do you at Love Bristol identify yourselves with the New Monastic Movement? Ed Gillium: Probably not as a community / charity, but some of the individuals do. I.G.: What do you think are the reasons for the rise of new monasticism? Gillium: Dont know, sorry! I dont know that much about it. I.G.: How do you feel your form of Christian community is counter-cultural? Particularly in relation to consumerism and individualism? Please give as many examples as possible Gillium: Most people seem to want to create their own private space away from others, into which only a limited, select number of friends and family may enter. We are counter cultural in that we are aiming to share our lives as much as possible with each other, and with those around us, not limiting ourselves to just people from similar backgrounds. We believe that this leads to real growth as individuals in learning how to relate to others and work on our characters. We aim to live simple lives, without buying more and more useless stuff although this is something we are working through and it is had to say exactly what that looks like at the moment. We are also exploring issues such as where and how we buy the food we eat, what are the principles that should govern where we shop. As a reaction to this we are looking into developing a way of sourcing and distributing fruit and veg amongst the community houses and hopefully the wider community. I.G.: What is the history of the Love Bristol movement? Is it based on any previous movements? Gillium: As far as Im aware (I only got involved about a year ago) LoveBristol, as a community of people, has developed from a pastorate (mid-week group of around 30 people) at Woodlands church that split into two differing directions. Those that felt drawn towards social action in Stokes Croft and a pursuit of the supernatural formed the group that took on the name LoveBristol after organising an arts and music festival of the same name in 2006 ( LoveBristol the charity was registered in February 2010. I.G.: What do you feel the place of Christians within society should be? Are they to change laws and influence society as a whole, or live as a smaller network in contrast to wider society? Gillium: This is a question we have debating recently as LoveBristol and different people 49

have different opinions on it. The easy answer is that I think we would say its both. The important thing is the motives behind it. Obviously where injustice is taking place on an institutional level then laws and society need to be changed and if Christians can step up and push for change then that is great (take Wilberforce and the slave trade as an example). However, if Christians are trying to return to a Christendom model of a church led state then I think the motives begin to become a little compromised. At the end of the day Christians are just called to love God and love others. Different people live that out in different ways, so for some that will mean loving their immediate neighbor in a behind the scenes way, whilst others will get passionate about much larger issues. I.G.: Do you see a relationship between your form of Christianity at Love Bristol and the early pre-Constantinian church? Or the church described in Acts? Gillium: Yes, but only in the sense that we are trying to live out what is written in the bible. I dont believe this means we copy exactly what the early church did, that was right for them at that time. As soon as we start trying to formulate Christian life we begin to suck the life out of it and it becomes regulated religion. The principles demonstrated by the way the early church is described are the important things, but what that looks like in the 21st century can vary massively from person to person and place to place. I.G.: Has Shane Claiborne been an influence on the Love Bristol movement? Gillium: Yes in that we have met with him and discussed community living together and Im sure most of us have read Irresistible Revolution, but as far as I am aware, Greg and Clare were already experimenting with community living before Shane Claibourne became well known. I.G.: Are Love Bristol members still affiliated with institutional churches? Gillium: We are all members of churches if that is what you mean. Most of us go to Woodlands (, which is a non-denominational church. I am also a member of an Anglican fresh expression church called Crossnet ( and another member goes to Elim ( I.G.: Please give examples of how Love Bristol generates community Gillium: LoveBristol meets once a week in a local caf to share stories of what Gods been doing in our lives over the week, worship together and share teaching. The idea of this is to encourage one another to live out Christian lives the rest of the week. We have a few organized activites during the week (praying for passers-by in the street is the main one) and people meet up as friends. Then the community houses (although OneB is the only official LoveBristol house, other members of LoveBristol do live in community houses) provide obvious hubs for generating community, both through the friendships of the housemates and through having a culture of hospitality with many guests passing through.


I.G.: Is Love Bristol a reactionary product of our current society in particular? Or could it have existed at any point in history, anywhere? If it is a reaction to the 21st Century society of England, then what in particular is it in reaction to? Gillium: I think (although because I havent been around since the start I cannot be sure) that the different elements of LoveBristol are reactions against characteristics of our society. The hunger for seeing more of the supernatural power of God is born out of frustration at the apathy found in much of English Christianity and an unwillingness to really seek everything that the bible seems to promise. The social action side of things is again a reaction against a church that at times has lost its sense of duty to look after the marginalized in society. And the community houses react against individualism and materialism.


Interview: Ian Clotworthy

Ian Clotworthy: I first came to Grosvenor from being invited to a friend's baptism into the church. I was very taken by the enthusiasm and wisdom emanating from pastor John Samuel's sermon so I became a regular attendee. I frequented the church most Sundays for about 18 months in 2007 and 2008. I learned a huge amount about Christianity and I think that in that time I learned to see things from others' point of view and to be more patient with other people. I learned this from both the Bible and from the attitude of most people I met in the church. The people there were unlike any other group of church goers I had ever met. They actually cared about and read the Bible and were for the most part open minded rather than dogmatic. A few Sundays in Grosvenor will blow apart anyone's stereotypes about Christians. I also went to some student Bible study sessions. These were friendly affairs presided over by an older volunteer from the church and attended by fellow college students. However I was the only regular Irish attendee. I felt a cultural gap because all the others were medicine students from North America or SE Asia. Many had been Christians all their lives. This feeling of cultural alienation only increased. Even though the other young Irish people I met were friendly, they had invariably been raised in the baptist church and were not inclined towards the kind of questioning that I was. It reached a point where I no longer felt I had anything in common with them and I no longer enjoyed going to church. My occasional revisits to Grosvenor yield mixed results. In a visit on a Sunday night last November, the assistant pastor brought up the issue of the Christian voice in national conversations in his sermon. In the political sphere he said something along the lines of, "in politics, Christians should not be afraid to say that we don't agree with the secular consensus on gay marriage." I don't mind that he does not agree that people shouldn't have the right to marry in the same sex. I was just appalled that he chose the insignificant issue of gay marriage as an example of where Christians might dissent from the mainstream view. This was the month before the government published one of the most punitive budgets in Irish history. This budget was dedicated to cutting services to the majority, especially the disadvantaged, for the sake of paying off the gambling debts of reckless millionaire bankers. We all knew it was coming. Surely that is far more of an affront to a Christian's conscience than some gay people seeking to apply the word "marriage" to their relationships? This is one of several events that convinced me that my understanding of Christianity was quite different to that of many members of that church. This isn't part of it, but it's a further note on the issue of the cultural gap: I felt that my tenuous adherence to the Christian faith was alienating me from the people I thought of


as my real friends. I found it impossible to form friendships of equal strength among the others in the church. This was due I think to not being able to get enough time with them and not having as much in common. I also felt that my cultural difference, as a "Christian" was making it more difficult for me to find a loving relationship with a woman. My experience since then has perhaps vindicated this suspicion.


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