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Religion and Politics in Recent Theory

Religion and Politics in Recent Theory

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Iain Griffin. Originally submitted for Visual Culture at National College of Art and Design, with lecturer Paul O'Brian in the category of Philosophical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Iain Griffin. Originally submitted for Visual Culture at National College of Art and Design, with lecturer Paul O'Brian in the category of Philosophical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
1
Introduction
Christian theory by Historical Materialist philosophers has been on rise since 1997.Consider Alain Badiou’s publication of 
Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism
,
1
after which Slavoj Zizek wrote
The Fragile
 
 Absolute: Or Why is the Christian LegacyWorth 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 hisRoman Catholic roots, beginning with his criticism of Richard Dawkins’
The God  Delusion
, followed by his publication of 
 Reason, Faith and Revolution
.
4
This theist-atheist narrative has also been demonstrated by the reemergence of Ernst Bloch’s publication
 Atheism in Christianity
.
5
The popularity of the Materialist-theology dialoguehas led Zizek, John Milbank and Creston Davis to entitle their recent thesis
 Paul’s New Moment 
.
6
Is this Christianity’s new moment?The philosophers on whom my methodology is based are central figures in thecultural studies field. Terry Eagleton, is known as Britain’s
 
most influential
‘academicrebel and literary critic’ 
and it is claimed that his works have had a global impact on theteaching 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
Badiou, Alain. (2003)
Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism
. California: Stanford Press.
2
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)
 Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology
. USA: Brazos Press.
 
2
 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 materialistsBadiou and Zizek and respond with theology from Christian neo-monasticism.The first chapter will provide a categorisation of Zizek’s political motives for thecreation 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 andZizek.This dichotomy study will be continued in the second chapter. The purpose of thissection of the thesis is similar to that recently published by Milbank, Zizek and Davis
 
3
 In short, and siding with Paul, we propose that Christian theology contains withinit 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 theProtestantism’s encouragement of Capitalism as presented by Max Weber, both of whichcontrast to the socio-economics of alternative Christianity that Zizek affiliates himself with. An examination of Zizek’s Trinitarianism and Eagleton’s Christology will follow. Iwill 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 withJonathan Wilson’s theory of neo-monasticism. In order to assess monasticism better Iwill 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 andCapitalism, and their collaboration will be persistently under question. Davis has asimilar 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 Ihope to challenge a Christian faith that simply hands over 
itself 
to the corporationwillingly.

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