I wish I could quit you

For those hungry for more Milbankian outrage, X-Cathedra has a very thorough post detailing some of Milbank’s previous arguments in favor of Western imperialism, along with a few scholarly responses thereto. A highlight:

He also includes an odd and manifestly reductive genealogy of the fundamental difference that makes “the West” and “the East” culturally incommensurable (all in three pages!). This of course translates into two different views of religio-political power and thus two different kinds of empire: because the East has an essentially arbitrary understanding of divine and regal power, it has no resources within itself to regulate or redeem its imperial strain; but for the West, justice and the Good “are themselves the vehicles of Western imperialism.” And while the latter may occasionally don the mask of domination, at the very least the Western type can (theoretically) produce an internal cultural critique (295). Hence, the antidote to the Western abuse of power can only come from within Western culture itself. Further, because the idea of an “essential Christianity” free from all cultural attachments is a myth, a non-Western cultural expression of Christianity “is just nonsensical” (292).

Sounds like Milbank needs to take my Global Christianity course this fall!

15 thoughts on “I wish I could quit you

  1. I’m not sure that works here. You could say that Zizek is his own worst enemy because his bluster and disorganization distract from what he’s saying. You could say I’m my own worst enemy because I don’t moderate my tone in blog conversations. But this is just Milbank directly expressing opinions he’s apparently always had.

  2. That’s the intended reference, though I’m not 100% sure of the wording. (I was initially going to say I never saw the movie, then I realized I had — obviously it made a big impression.)

  3. ben’s got the line right. Interestingly, earlier in the conversation Jack says to Ennis, “It’s like trying to see the pope.”

    Hey Adam, be careful, or someone is going to psychoanalyse you on this one!

  4. What seems odd about the pro-Christian right and those who hope to build a lasting ideology on it are that they often get their facts about Islam really wrong. Two points come to mind: 1) at a virulently anti_Muslim, pro-Xtian, site run by a guy who writes under hte pseudonym Spengler, it is clear that they want to revise Islam out of the history books of early Scholasticism. No doubt they (and Benedict) are hard at work extirpating the appeals the authority of “The Commentator” from as much of the Summa and other scholastic before anyone has time to realize that he was Averroes (after whom a major school of Scholasticism vied with more mainstream Thomism), aka الوليد محمد بن احمد بن رشد‎ or Ibn-Rushd. He’s even octen depicted in Medieval iconography alongside various saints. Isn’t edifying to think that perhaps Chesterton was right, after all, and the Medieval Age was indeed more civiliazed on more numerous levels than the contemporary age? 2) One of the most amazing, enlightened religious writers I ahve ever read is Ibn-al Arabi, a Sufi. (Under the influence his work I quit drinking, drugs, and tobacco.) While I was studying political Islam right before the War in Iraq and afterwards, I read a scholar of Islam (I don;t have her name to mind now) who quoted a survey showing that a large majority of Muslims consider themselves Sufis. Needless, the good name of the Sufis has come under direct attack by the Islamaphobes, since they understand that any Muslim who actually preaches peace and love (and Jesus) must pose a danger to their lies and distorted view of the nature of things.

  5. To intertext another film, I picture Milbank as a Life of Brian Cleesey figure asking, “What have the Muslims ever done for us?” – followed by a raucus chorus of suggestions. The long and short of the cultural and intellectual history of the matter is that any genealogy that traces a direct line from the Greeks and the Romans through the Renaissance to modern western Europe, airbrushing out the significant influence of Islam, is a myth. In fact the very Gothic style of English churches that Milbank no doubt adores, from the engineering feats to the stained glass windows, is notably Islamic.

  6. What blew me away from the previous post on Milbank’s article (along with the revisionist denial of Islamic transmission of Aristotle) is that if you could assert the link between Averroism and Scotism, as the invasion of Islam (= voluntarism, a horrifying divine arbitrariness and worship of divine power as such) into the Christian West, and then of course the whole Protestant Reformation is an Islamic Reformation and therefore modern secular atheism is in fact a Muslim phenomenon. Which of course is unbelievably ironic in contrast with contemporary political Islam. So then we can see Milbank heroically defending Catholic Christendom from Islam within and without! Brilliant!

  7. Thomas Bridges: “Milbank really is his own worst enemy.”
    Adam: “I’m not sure that works here….this is just Milbank directly expressing opinions he’s apparently always had.”

    I take it Thomas was saying that some of Milbank’s views are egregious enough that they get in the way of being able to make use of whatever is valuable in RO, which may neither entail nor be entailed by said egregious views. (I’me reading this in in part due to his recent post here and his comment on post that you linked to above).

  8. Skholiast has interpreted my comment correctly. As I commented over at X-Cathdra’s post (I think it is worth repeating) “it may be worth sorting out when Milbank is right or agreeable here or there, lest we all be so afraid of sounding like him or being thrown in with him that we run from orthodoxy or various good ideas (many will, of course disagree with me here). In fact, the latter reason is probably the only one for why I am willing to engage in conversations like this.” I know many around here are not as enthusiastic about “orthodox” ideas as I am, but surely no one here thinks Milbank is wrong about everything.

    So maybe I should have said “Milbank is the worst enemy of certain good ideas by spoiling them with his colonizing instincts.”

  9. Thomas,

    “I know many around here are not as enthusiastic about “orthodox” ideas as I am, but surely no one here thinks Milbank is wrong about everything.”

    I can’t think of anything he is particularly right about, especially nothing that can’t be found elsewhere without the racism. What exactly are you thinking of?

  10. That’s what’s so weird about Radical Orthodoxy — with the exception of maybe Ward, who is really only tangentially a member of the tendency/sensibility/odor, they don’t really do much with the classical orthodox doctrines. The real libidinal center seems to be in the Neoplatonic ontological hierarchy, usually discussed under the heading of the analogia entis, and you can draw a more or less absolutely direct and unambiguous line between that stuff and his imperial stuff. In fact, it’s unclear to me why one would even think it’s possible to do the ontological hierarchy thing without also doing some form of imperialism.

  11. Adam and Anthony:

    Not that we need more posts about Milbank, but I am working on one to clarify my statement and answer Anthony’s question. It will be good for me, as well, to separate what i find to be wheat and chaff in Milbank.


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