My AAR presentation

This year I was fortunate to be part of a panel on “The Body of Christ” put on by the Bible, Theology, and Postmodernism group at the AAR. Presenters approached this theme from various directions — Mark L. Taylor critiqued Agamben’s category of bare life by arguing that his messianism is devoid of any reference to “crucified flesh,” Shelly Rambo put forward the idea of a “spectral Jesus,” and Jon Berquist discussed the Body of Christ in connection with the work of “the postmodern philosopher Paul.” I have posted my paper, entitled “Zizek and the Excremental Body of Christ,” on Scribd.

10 thoughts on “My AAR presentation

  1. Adam,

    Great paper! I just love the way you are able to have Zizek in constructive conversation with the Christian theological tradition and even link him up with Jon Sobrino. The link on excrement was a nice touch. I think I’m going to now search the Dogmatics to see if Barth ever mentioned poop.

  2. I’m also glad the paper is being shared, since I missed it (Unfortunately I thought your panel was at 2:00, rather than 1:00, and I booked a 1:00 meeting).

    Not to hijack the thread, but I was glad to meet so many AUFS lurkers at AAR! (and to meet regular conversation partner Bruce Rosenstock, who shared some great thoughts on Paul and [ancient] philosophy in conversation with Adam and me).

  3. Let me say how much I enjoyed Adam’s talk. He opened with a line that I think should become a classic. He earlier explained to me that he was going to use the word “shit”, so I suspected he might warn the audience about this. His warning went like this: “I want to warn the audience that this talk contains language.” My response to the other talks, all of them (except the final one, which wasn’t a talk at all but a high-brow sermon) quite good I thought, was this: the return to Paul recently has meant a strengthening of the law/grace dichotomy (the law put Christ to death, the law is the sovereign decision to put to death, the law is the law of the extermination camps, etc) that threatens to overturn not only sovereign violence but all talk of rights, democratic politics, and an international regime of criminal justice as all of a piece, all of it just a cover for genocidal power. Go tell that to the refugees throughout the world, from the Sudan to Lebanaon and the West Bank who have no recourse but the law to escape from their “state of exception.” Tell them that they are living the truth of the political and that therefore they should renounce political solutions. Tell them that the latest Christology sees in their suffering the body of Christ.. That is why I liked Adam’s talk more than any of the others: he tried to return liberation theology to the fold of this apolitical body of Christ.

    As to my ruminations about Paul and Epicureanism: I happened to have taught the Letter to Menoeceus and some texts from the Diogenes of Oenoanda wall in the same week that I taught selections from 1 Corinthinians. I forgot why I paired these two so closely, but as I reread them together I thought I saw a way to interpret Paul’s attack on Greek wisdom as an attack on the Epicurean offer of salvation through overcoming the fear of death by seeing the body and the soul as only made of atoms. That Epicureanism was the major philosophical system offering universal salvation (soteria) and blessedness (makariotes) became quite clear to me, together with the fact that Epicurus was described as a god (in Lucretius Bk. 5 proem). So, that all put Paul into a new context for me: his whole desire to position his gospel as the true wisdom and Greek wisdom as foolishness, the problem of how contemplating a dying man on a cross could be source of salvation (it is the exact opposite of contemplating the intermundial gods that Epicureanism proposed, together with the peaceful face of Epicurus on statues), the attack on fornication (Epicureans were from the first accused of hanging out with postitutes, since Epicurus invited women into the Garden, some of whom may have been hetairai), and maybe most significantly Paul’s attempt to demonstrate a different form of materiality that could be immortal (pneumatic matter in chp 15). And, of course, the remark that if Christ did not have a resurrected body, then “let us eat, drink, and be merry today.”

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