[PT 10.2 (2009) 247-259] doi:10.1558/poth.v10i2.


Political Theology (print) ISSN 1462-317X Political Theology (online) ISSN 1473-1719

Radical democRacy and Radical chRistianity Bruce Ellis Benson
Department of Philosophy Wheaton College 501 College Avenue Wheaton, Illinois 60187 USA bruce.ellis.benson@wheaton.edu

In this essay, I consider the relationship between more radically open conceptions of democracy and the recent “return of religion” as the return of distinct, particular religions. The radical democracy of figures such as Derrida, Badiou, and Hardt and Negri is found to be not radical enough to be open to the particular religious other. Derrida’s “religion without religion” does violence to the particularity of concrete religious traditions, Badiou appropriates Paul’s universalism while abandoning the particularity and difference in his conception of collective identity, and Hardt and Negri advocate a “politics of love” while severing that love from its ground—namely, God. I then show a way of rethinking both society and Christianity so that Christianity finds a place in society and society makes room for Christianity. A radical Christianity devoid of self-privilege and triumphalism provides a model for an intersubjectivity of love in which the other really comes first. Paul’s radical conception of membership in the body of Christ accomplishes precisely what radical democracy fails to do: it allows for heterophony as well as polyphony, and incoherence as well as commonality. It is only when church and society allow the possibility of incoherence and heterophony that they are truly open to the other, and it is only when they are truly open to the other that they satisfy the demands of a truly radical democracy and radical Christianity. Keywords: alterity, Christianity, democracy, heterophony, intersubjectivity, love, polyphony.

Whether the so-called “return of religion” has provoked notions of an expanded conception of democracy or a more open democracy has created the possibility conditions for religion’s rise in prominence and influence is difficult to say. Most likely, it is some combination of both: religion— whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise—has increasingly asserted its right to be a player in the social and political arena, and the social and
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I argue that Christianity best enters the public square—and thus has the more positive effect—precisely when it is at its most radical. to give a preliminary definition. it is impossible to talk about the return of religion in general. Briefly put. and often begrudging. (2) consider the features of radical Christianity. and 3) show how central features of a radical Christianity can provide models for how democracy could be truly radical. same-sex © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. Instead of arguing that Christianity can only enter the political arena once it has denuded itself of its most radical elements and become a “gentle” (and thus “non-threatening” force).248 Political Theology political world has broadened in at least some ways to accommodate religion. The argument normally goes like this: as long as religious folk give rational rather than religious reasons for their views.” has likewise not been nearly radical enough. it is kinder and gentler. but in reality it is a liberalism that is simply more open and more tolerant. my concern here is limited to (a) what is sometimes called “radical democracy” (ostensibly a more open sort of democracy than that defined by modernity and liberalism) and (b) what I here term “radical Christianity” (which. they are welcome at the table. compassion for the stranger. quite uneven. but I am less concerned with exactly how we label the phenomenon than the phenomenon itself. that wider openness and greater tolerance is still limited and extremely reluctant to let religion truly be a part of the political discussion. because the return of religion takes quite different forms depending upon both the religion (as well as its distinct expressions) and the particular political system and climate in which that religion appears. Therefore. my argument is as follows: radical democracy is not nearly radical enough and Christianity. To be sure. with a deep secularism at its core. but only under certain conditions. Some might see this change as a part of the shift from modernity to postmodernity. Toward that end. Of course. this “broadening” is still burgeoning. as if these differences made no difference. However. Religious people can be part of the conversation. I use to denote a Christianity that emphasizes its most radical themes—love of the enemy. I will (1) examine some examples of radical democracy and see where they fall short. The Oppression of Radical Democracy Although seemingly promising. . when it has entered the “public square. radical democracy turns out to be little more than another form of universalism. and moral demands that put the other first and thus dethrone the self). Richard Rorty puts this point in his usual blunt manner: “The problems we atheists have with Christians usually only arise when the Christians start saying things like ‘We have religious reasons for opposing…(abortion. Moreover.

there is no longer slave or free. Ray Brassier (Stanford. He says: “I confess that I hesitate between these two possibilities” which he describes as the view that “the events of revelation. ed. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. Yet this reinscription is actually more oppressive than liberalism because it is more insidious. . trans. See particularly p. and Islamic traditions. 4. Christian. or whatever)’.4 Not only does Badiou fail to note that Paul continues with the phrase “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (and so overlooks the particularity of Paul’s claim). 1995).”2 But Derrida is only able to postulate the “religious” (or the “messianic”) at the cost of doing violence to those religions (and thus to those “messianisms”). Alain Badiou.” it must move beyond its essential secularization and marginalization of the religious. Alain Badiou. irreducible events” and the view that there can be something like a “general structure of messianicity. 2. in an ironic twist. The Gift of Death. For Derrida in effect appropriates the essential structure of particular religions and so does an injustice to particularity. and with a commentary by John D. 2003). he also fails to place this passage in the 1. have been absolute events. “Richard Rorty on Religion” [an interview]. Badiou posits a universalism by appropriating Paul’s idea that “there is no longer Jew or Greek. Of course. Jacques Derrida.” That he says “between the two possibilities I must confess I oscillate” and even admits “perhaps one day I will give up this [view that there can be a pure and general messianic structure]” is telling.3 Yet precisely this kind of violence is what he claims to be attempting to avoid. too. For radical democracy to become truly “radical. but it is reinscribed in radical democracy. First. See “The Villanova Roundtable: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. 1997).Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 249 intercourse. 49. Derrida does admit to feeling some tension about this move. there is no longer male and female” (Gal. the biblical traditions. but this logic stands at the heart of the book in general. Richard Rorty. Indeed. IL: University of Chicago Press. trans. 3. Caputo (New York: Fordham University Press. and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.”1 Now.” in Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. So. the Jewish. the move from the concrete “religion/messianism” to the generic “religion/messianic” is motivated by that wish to avoid violence. Jacques Derrida’s “religion without religion” is an attempt to establish an ethics that would lead to a democratic environment that avoids the violence of concrete “messianisms. CA: Stanford University Press. the move to avoid violence turns out to be a violent move. in a remarkably similar sort of act of appropriation. What makes radical democracy oppressive? Consider three examples of people who can be read as in favor of radical democracy (whether or not they use that exact term): Jacques Derrida. 73. David Wills (Chicago. 3:28). this had been the liberal argument. 23–4. Second. Dialogue (April/May 1994): 11.

eloquently expressed in one of John’s epistles. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have very little place in their conception of “multitude” for religion. But. though only religion in some sort of radical form. Consider what they say: We need to recuperate the public and political conception of love common to premodern traditions. and your child. It is not just that love is a gift to us from God. your mother. Christianity and Judaism. It only means that your love does not end there.6 It is also that “God is love. it is amply clear from Paul’s other writings that Christians are members of a body and so have both a commonality and a difference. Third. What is decisive here is both the way differences have been effaced and also which differences are no longer important. one that must be passed on. regarding his restrictions as to the role of women in the ekklesia). that love serves as the basis for our political projects in common and the construction of a new society.g. 351–2. For instance. This does not mean that you cannot love your spouse. 2004). a love as strong as death. A truly radical democracy needs to account for both of these aspects. 6. Yet religions are inherently political (as Hardt and Negri themselves admit) and have great potential for subverting both oppressive political empire and the even more oppressive empire of global capitalism. namely God. whatever one makes of Paul’s comments regarding women. both conceive love as a political act that constructs the multitude… There is really nothing necessarily metaphysical about the Christian and Judaic love of God: both God’s love of humanity and humanity’s love of God are expressed and incarnated in the common material political project of the multitude. .5 But there is something “necessarily metaphysical” about love in Judaism and Christianity. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. it is that many contemporary readers of Paul would find that these differences are still too pronounced (e. Indeed. if anything is problematic with Paul’s pronouncement. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Both religions start with the idea. We need to recover today this material and political sense of love. Indeed. and those who abide in love abide 5.250 Political Theology context of Paul’s conception of “membership” (found in such passages as Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Here I simply pass over the whole question of whether gifts can be given. it is not as if gender differences no longer exist. while Hardt and Negri admirably advocate a politics of love. in a move much like Derrida and Badiou they want a love freed from any concrete religion.. for example. that “we love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). religion would seem to be the most likely candidate. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin. Moreover. if there is any force that could truly subvert the empire of global capitalism. which makes it clear that Paul’s conception of identity includes particularity and difference—not just universality (I will return to the concept of membership shortly).

” he compares this move to “today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness. The Promise of Radical Christianity What we have seen so far is that radical democracy cannot accommodate the other in its full otherness. one might think that the first question regarding the relation of the religious and the political would be something like “how might society be configured so that the religious could possibly be a part of it?” However. Or at least not without the loss of precisely the features the appropriator wishes to retain. Slavoj Žižek speaks of this kind of appropriation in regard to multiculturalism. 96. in a supreme act of kenosis. cream without fat. Slavoj Žižek. In Christianity. In any case. 8. we have a love that just appears out of nowhere and so cannot be grounded. Noting that we have developed a market for “a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine. Hardt and Negri. God becomes incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. all three of these moves prove futile.Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 251 in God. So the whole community of love is grounded in God and that love comes to us as a gift. In Derrida’s case. we have a violent move in the name of non-violence. The logic in all three of these cases is the same. 2003). even though they freely admit that “without this love. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Cambridge. . 352. In Hardt and Negri’s case. But how could radical democracy be reconfigured so that it could be as open as possible? Note that this question cannot be answered simply as a political question. I will hold these questions in tension. beer without alcohol. Rather than be too much. we are nothing.”7 That “malignant property” would likely be—in regard to religion—either its potential for violence or propensity to superstition (or both). © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. the greatest of such gifts is that. and God abides in them” (1 Jn 4:16). In Badiou’s case. it is too little. Multitude. MA: MIT Press. But Christianity. demonstrating that they form an inescapable dialectic. we have a universalism that has no way of accounting for—and thus respecting—difference. at least as it has often been 7. In other words. that question can only be thought in tandem with its converse: “how might religion be configured so that the society could have a place for religion?” In what follows. It is the logic of appropriation in which something essential is appropriated from a religious tradition—whether Christianity or some other religion—with the assumption that the thing appropriated can be re-contextualized without significant loss.”8 So radical democracy fails because it is simply not radical enough.

10 9. Even if one does not take the Genesis account literally. 1984). Human beings are created as diverse. male and female. that the question of how Christianity fits into society must be answered in a dialectical relation to the question of how society makes room for Christianity. So the Christian account is simply one account that actually merges with that of others. Simply the violence and intolerance perpetrated in the name of Christianity is enough to make that point. vol. then.252 Political Theology expressed. then. I will argue that it actually does the opposite. but always find ourselves in families and communities in which we are already in relation. Moreover. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. can we rethink both society and Christianity so that Christianity can find a place in society? I’ve already signaled at least two components of the answer to that question: first. How. But even the story of the creation of humankind is complicated by the added aspect that Eve—at least according to Genesis 2—is created out of a rib from Adam. Already at the beginning of the creation account in Genesis there is diversity. we are not lone selves. then simply the fact that each one of us is the unique combination of male and female DNA that makes us who we are points to a diversity that is likewise an intersubjectivity. There is the sun and there is the moon. has hardly been an otherness that society would necessarily want to embrace. Thus.9 The insight. In order to examine each of these terms—“intersubjectivity.” by which he means simply that we exist in relation to one another (and he even goes so far as to say that “man is more of a political animal than bees.” and “heterophony”—let me turn first to the creation narrative and then Christianity itself as phenomenologies of human relations.” for our relationships to one another are far deeper and more constitutive of our being than those of bees). equality. Politics 1253a.” “polyphony. 10. 2. To counter a phenomenological description requires not a counter argument but a counter phenomenology. problems of diversity. Further. second. Phenomenological description is validated to the extent that it truly describes the phenomena. it would seem to be validated phenomenologically. in The Complete Works of Aristotle. Our very being is intersubjectively constituted. NJ: Princeton University Press. that Christianity must be truly radical and. . ed. and intersubjectivity do not begin with Hobbes or Locke but at the moment there are human beings. from both Christianity (not to mention the Hebrew Bible) and a nonChristian philosopher such as Aristotle is the same: we are diverse but interconnected. Although this might seem to be privileging a Christian account. Let me here add a third component: a concept of intersubjectivity in which polyphony is supplemented by heterophony. Aristotle observes that “man is by nature a political animal. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton. Aristotle.

Speaking of the Great Judgment. the orphan—to an even higher level. of being dependent upon one another. For. In not responding in kind. In regard to these last two. even these examples must be offered up in political discourse only in a spirit of respect and with a willingness to dialogue with the other. Instead. precisely because they have provided for “the least of these” (Matt. offer the other also. the stranger. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. and those in prison will be welcomed into heaven. love. it is the Samaritan—clearly the “enemy”—who proves to be the one who finally helps the Jew in need. Lewis Edwin Hahn (Chicago.Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 253 There is a further way in which the Christian account turns out not to be privileged. 10:37). of loving even those who do not love us back. Although Hans-Georg Gadamer does not speak of love when 11. It is hard to see how suggesting that these teachings of Christ should be followed by all is triumphalistic. the enemy. For it takes the Jewish requirement that true morality is demonstrated by concern for the very least of society—the widow. the focus begins on the other. Jesus ups the moral ante even more when he says: “Love your enemies. naked. 25:40).” in The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer. for he too turns around the usual order. bless those who curse you. This Kierkegaardian motif guided me from the beginning. the Christian can only offer them in a spirit of deep humility. IL: Open Court. rather than start by focusing on me. to be truthful. do good to those who hate you. Gadamer says: “According to Kierkegaard. thirsty. precisely because they are examples of being truly humble. His injunctions are what one does in response to the other—whether the widow. one changes the entire structure of the relation: it is now structured by love. strangers. . Moreover. or the one who demands one’s clothing. instead of resisting the demand. 1997). it often hasn’t). Hans-Georg Gadamer. at least if Christianity rightly understands itself (and. Jesus in effect says “do the opposite of what you would be inclined to do”—instead of hating in return. If anyone strikes you on the cheek. 6:27-29). he makes it plain that these guidelines do not apply merely to people “just like us” (whoever that us may be) but to all—and totally indiscriminately. to be consistent with such teachings. “Reflections on my Philosophical Journey. give freely of even that which is not demanded. 46. pray for those who abuse you. ed. And Jesus concludes by saying: “Go and do likewise” (Lk. Of course. the stranger. infirm. this is fully in line with what Jesus says. Of course. it is the other who breaks into my ego-centeredness and gives me something to understand. Jesus says that those who provide for the hungry. in Jesus’ parable. and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt” (Lk.”11 The point is that. Here the example of Hans-Georg Gadamer is particularly helpful. In summing up his life’s work.

” “gratitude. 2003). such a concise text is rather an anomaly.14 In short.e. Although Gadamer presented a gracious address in which he spoke of the need for a mutual good will of interlocutors and also pointed out important commonalities between his hermeneutics and Derrida’s deconstruction. York: State University of New York Press. Derrida “responded” with an address on Nietzsche and Heidegger. the point he makes is all about charity: One does not go about identifying the weaknesses of what another person says in order to prove that one is always right. 470 n. For those who know Derrida’s work. the elder.12 It is worth remarking that these comments come from the (in)famous Derrida-Gadamer “encounter.. 2005).” he suggested (rather than merely asserted) that Gadamer was beholden to what Derrida termed a “metaphysics of the will” (which he connected to Kant) and suggested that it was a disguised move of power. 55. Diane P Michelfelder and Richard E.” in Jacques Derrida. Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography. In a moving eulogy published in 2003 (i. trans. the Poem. Only after the organizers urged Derrida to respond to Gadamer did he come up with a text of just two pages. Hans-Georg Gadamer. Such an attitude seems essential to me for any understanding at all to come about. never really happened. Gadamer.” What was intended to be a “dialogue. Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan.15 12. Joel Weinsheimer (New Haven: Yale University Press. “Three Questions to Hans-Georg Gadamer. had for some time been watching the unfolding of Derrida’s thought and even wrote to him of his interest. one year after Gadamer’s death and one year before Derrida’s death). making no reference to Gadamer at all. ed. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Fordham University Press. 1977].254 Political Theology he says the following regarding conversations. in the form of three questions all interrogating the very notion of a “good will. namely the will to power.” in Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter. 14. Jacques Derrida. Palmer (New . 13. See his “Rams: Uninterrupted Dialogue—Between Two Infinities. 135–63.” and “affection” for Gadamer. but one seeks instead as far as possible to strengthen the other’s viewpoint so that what the other person has to say becomes illuminating. Derrida writes of their affinities as well as his “admiration. Jean Grondin. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. 1989). “Reply to Jacques Derrida.” in Dialogue and Deconstruction. 33 [letter dated March 9. Many of us who appreciate Derrida find this to be one of his lesser moments. But Derrida did come to admire Gadamer and their similarities. ed. . This text originally appeared with the title “Bonnes Voluntés de Puissance (Une Réponse à Hans-Georg Gadamer)” [Good Will to Power (A Response to Hans-Georg Gadamer)] and in German as “Guter Wille zur Macht (I): Drei Fragen an Hans-Georg Gadamer” [Good Will to Power (I): Three Questions to Hans-Georg Gadamer]. 53.” in which Gadamer and Jacques Derrida were to discuss their similarities and differences. 15.13 Yet Derrida later admitted that he had never gotten around to reading any of Gadamer’s texts.

MI: Eerdmans. and multiple versions of melodies. ed. otherwise. ed. given how Gadamer defines “good will”: it is a power that I grant to the other. communication is the principal reason for engaging in discourse. Bill Kirchner (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Once again. Even immoral beings try to understand one another. 17.17 It is worth noting that jazz has also been a political movement. Jeremy S. “African Roots of Jazz. Floyd.” in Dialogue and Deconstruction. dissonance.” But note the kind of power this must be. Jazz turns out to be a particularly good example of heterophony. Yet the title of Gadamer’s reply tells us something about the good will. 55. 14.” in The Oxford Companion to Jazz. in which the marginalized of 16. Begbie and Steven Guthrie (Grand Rapids. I cannot believe that Derrida would actually disagree with me about this. 179).” and nothing at all to do with ethics.” which can be translated (somewhat freely) “Nevertheless there is power in good will. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. for it allows for (and encourages) differing voices. Note that Gunther Schuller speaks of “uncontrolled polyphony” (Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development [New York: Oxford University Press. And finally. . I have an exceptionally good piece of evidence for this: Derrida directs questions to me and therefore he must assume that I am willing to understand them. Jr. I borrow the term “heterophony” from Samuel A. and Ekklêsia. Whereas polyphony gets at the notion of multiple voices. 2000). There is no point of speaking unless one wants to be understood. the title is “Und dennoch: Macht des Guten Willens. Hans-Georg Gadamer. Of course. 1968]. Improvising Communities: Jazz. cross-rhythms. Gadamer’s point is reasonable enough. the powerful giving up power to the powerless. “Reply to Jacques Derrida. as anyone would do who wants to understand another person or be understood by the other. heterophony emphasizes the otherness of those voices. But. still.” in Resonant Theology. Heteronomy.16 While I would add that this is also a question of ethics. one would neither speak nor write. Whoever opens his mouth wants to be understood. In German.” And then he went on to say: This is nothing more than an observation. we see the reversal of power. It has nothing to do with an “appeal. see my “Improvising Texts. But a polyphony that lacks control (and so allows for alterity) is probably better described as “heterophony..” Gadamer then repeated his earlier formula of strengthening the other’s point and said that this is what he had meant by “good will. forthcoming). But I will make an effort. But how does this relate to politics and the voice of the religious? Here the notions of polyphony and heterophony are helpful.” For more on heterophony. many types of discourse are much more than about being understood—and both religious and political discourse figure prominently among those types that go beyond mere communication.Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 255 To this Gadamer tried to formulate a reply: “I am finding it difficult to understand these questions that have been addressed to me.

242. ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.. for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. 18. the result being “the goodwill of all the people” and the fact that it was growing greatly in numbers (Acts 2:47).256 Political Theology society were able to find their voice. only light can do that. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. Martin Luther King. [From an address titled “A Time to Break Silence” given at Riverside Church one year before he was assassinated. He that loveth not knoweth not God. did succeed in reminding the church that its main doctrine was that of grace and thus of love. And his namesake. for he recognizes that the power of love is greater than the power of duty. Jr. to the point of strengthening them so that they can be heard even more loudly. however great that may be. Jr. right after this passage. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door of ultimate reality. knew the mighty power of love: When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response.”18 King well understood the power of love as a power that stands above all other powers—certainly the power of violence and oppression. King goes on to quote Arnold Toynbee as saying: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word” (243). The book of Acts presents us with a short but powerful vignette of the early Church demonstrating love to one another. Martin Luther King.. 8–9). clearly. although personally not exactly the most gentle or loving person..” says Paul.] Interestingly. Martin Luther. In sending back Onesimus—a runaway slave who had converted to Christianity under Paul’s ministry—he appeals to Onesimus’s owner Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ and strongly implies that the right thing for Philemon to do would be to free him. for God is love. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King. It is a shrewd move on Paul’s part. Jr. “darkness cannot drive out darkness. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about the ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another. And Gadamer’s notion of dialogue is remarkably similar to jazz—at least in this respect. As he puts it elsewhere. . But it is how Paul appeals to Philemon that is so striking: “though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty. There is not simply the allowing for various voices in jazz but also the emphasis on listening to those voices. “yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love” (Phlm. I think we have an early example of this in—of all people— Paul. 1991). and compellingly. How might all of this be related to Christianity? I have suggested that Christianity is at its best—and most winsome—when it has been most truly radical.

and individually we are members one of another” (Rom. In other words. 119.” it seems that only a society that allows for 19. At most. That some recognize this reality and others do not can hardly be “credited” to the former as making them “superior. “multitude”). nor can any particular “church” (Protestant.” But.”19 As King notes. Neither emphasis should prevail over the other. or Orthodox) make that claim. The multitude is composed of a set of singularities—and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness. Christians can say that they have been given the gift of the euangelian. to speak with Hardt and Negri. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. then no member of Christ’s body can claim hegemony.. Here Paul reminds us of both particularity and intersubjectivity. Yet. the ekklesia is truly radical. If all members of the body of Christ are members. The emphasis on singularity and respect for each other first needs to be translated from the level of particularity of my church to the church worldwide. 12:4-5). 594 [From King’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?. as in one body we have many members. we are intersubjectively constituted. it neither privileges them nor excludes those who have not been given such a gift. We have identity as individual members. a difference that remains different.Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 257 Hate cannot drive out hate. only love can do that. . as gift. Further. Ibid. Such hegemonic thinking and acting is simply out of place in the body of Christ. In order to avoid the oppressive universalism of radical democracy. so we. . In this sense. For the good news is that we are all fallen and all loved by God. as Hardt and Negri put it. are one body in Christ. Yet. But how can that be translated to the multitude? It is to recognize that multitude. Slavoj Žižek.” A truly radical society is not one where we are all the same. The Fragile Absolute—Or. the power of love has been recognized by most major religions. 20. though Žižek has pointed out it is precisely what constitutes what he calls the “subversive core of Christianity. . 2000). who are many. the good news of the Gospel simply cannot be used to elevate its followers. Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (London: Verso. we can juxtapose Paul’s emphasis on similarity (“neither Jew nor Greek”) with his idea of membership within the body: “For. Roman Catholic.”20 A way of working out an intersubjectivity of love that allows for both polyphony and heterophony can be found in Paul’s metaphor of membership. as members of one body. and not all the members have the same function. it is likewise out of place in the body of humanity (or. “is not unified but remains plural and multiple. whereas they go on to say that multitude is not “fragmented” or “incoherent. published in 1967].

” we are right back to the logic of liberalism. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. Benson. A.258 Political Theology some degree of fragmentation or incoherence is truly radical. vol. Hardt and Negri. “Improvising Texts. NJ: Princeton University Press. New York: Fordham University Press. He is the author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche. His areas of research include continental philosophy of religion. that contestation has been both negative and positive. Only a society in which commonality (or coherence) and incoherence are possible is truly radical. B. the history of which has always been one of fragmentation and incoherence. For the contested church—and the contested society—is one that is alive. Princeton. trans. MI: Eerdmans. Interestingly enough. 2. Bruce Ellis Benson is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College (IL). Jonathan Barnes. He is co-editor of The Phenomenology of Prayer (Fordham). Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom (Indiana) and Evangelicals and Empire (Brazos). Multitude. Badiou. Begbie and Steven Guthrie. Ray Brassier. indifference) but on what it has in common. multiple social subject whose constitution and action is based not on identity or unity (or. Grand Rapids. Yet “incoherence” is—if not equally—at least truly important. and Ekklêsia. Hermeneutics at the Crossroads (Indiana). forthcoming. ed. aesthetics. In The Complete Works of Aristotle. Anything less falls short of a truly radical democracy or a truly radical Christianity. E. Stanford. bibliogrAphy Aristotle. If we only have “coherence. . and truly open to the other. CA: Stanford University Press. Only when there is the possibility for heterophony can a church or society be truly open to the other. then I think we need only consider the body of Christ. 99–100. growing. Caputo. ed. 21. 1997. 2003. But. The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music (Cambridge) and Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith (Indiana).” In Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. Improvising Communities: Jazz. even those limits have been the source of contestation. 1984. Politics 1253a. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. 3–28. John D.” In Resonant Theology. of course. ed. and striving to find commonality among different cultures and religions is a central goal of any society. Contrary to what might seem to be the case.”21 I am all for holding things in common. Should that proposal seem odd. albeit within limits. “The Villanova Roundtable: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. Heteronomy. Jeremy S. much less. Hardt and Negri go to define “multitude” as “an internally different. and political theology. Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry (IVP).

ed. A. Negri. Bill Kirchner. 1995. “African Roots of Jazz. ——“Reflections on my Philosophical Journey. MA: MIT Press. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. . trans.-G. 1989. Grondin.Benson Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity 259 Derrida. 135–63. New York: Oxford University Press.. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King. Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography. ed. 1989. 2003.” In Jacques Derrida. Lewis Edwin Hahn. ed. R. David Wills. S. Floyd. ——The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. Chicago. 2004. Chicago.” In Dialogue and Deconstruction: The GadamerDerrida Encounter. M. Dialogue (April/May 1994): 8–11. State University of New York Press. 1991. ed. The Fragile Absolute—Or. Jr. New York: State University of New York Press. H. 1968. G. Palmer. New York: Penguin. Rorty.” In The Oxford Companion to Jazz.” In The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer. 2005. S. Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. M. Cambridge. 55–57. New Haven. New York: . Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? London: Verso. L. 51–54. ed. ——“Rams: Uninterrupted Dialogue—Between Two Infinities.” In Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. 3–63. the Poem. New York: Fordham University Press. J. Jr. “Reply to Jacques Derrida. Diane P Michelfelder and Richard E. Palmer. 7–16. Joel Weinsheimer. Žižek. Diane P Michelfelder and Richard E. Schuller. IL: University of Chicago Press. “Three Questions to Hans-Georg Gadamer. Jr.. IL: Open Court. Gadamer. trans. ——The Gift of Death. Oxford: Oxford University Press.. J. King.. ed. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009. . 1997. 2000. James Melvin Washington. 2000. “Richard Rorty on Religion” [an interview]. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen. CT: Yale University Press. 2003. and A. Hardt.