Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Readings in "Spectral Hermeneutics"

My thesis is twofold.  1.  In the Scriptures the odd phenomena constituting the "Kingdom of God" are the offspring of the shock that is delivered by the name of God to what is there called that "world," resulting in what I call a "sacred anarchy."  Consider but a sampling of its more salient features.  In the Kingdom, the last are first and first are last, a strategically perverted system or privileging, so that the advantage is given not to beautiful Athenian bodies that house a love of wisdom, but to lepers, deaf mutes, the blind, epileptics, and the paralyzed.  The favor of the Kingdom falls not on men [sic] of practical wisdom, of arete, of experts in freeness, but on tax collectors and prostitutes, who enjoy preferential treatment over the upright and well behaved.  In addition, in the Kingdom the way to be arrayed with all the glory of God is to neither sow nor reap but to behave like the lilies of the field.  If you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose it you will be saved.  In the Kingdom one should hate one's father and mother but love one's enemies, and if a man strikes you you should offer him the other cheek.  There, if you are rich, you have a very fine needle indeed to thread to get into the Kingdom.  If you would want to become rich with the treasures offered by the Kingdom, you should sell all you have and give it to the poor.  Moreover, you should give to the poor not only what you can afford but even what you need for yourself.  If one of your sheep is lost, then you should not worry about endangering the other ninety-nine but go out and search for the lost one, which is an unaccountably odd way to count.  If you host a party--even a wedding for your children--you should go out into the streets and welcome in the passers by.  There bodies pass easily through solid walls, rise from the dead, traverse the surface of water without sinking, glow with a blinding whiteness, and pass instantly from one state, like water, into another, like wine.  Cripples are made straight, lepers are cured, and the dead rise from their grave.  All these bodily metamorphoses are in turn figures of a personal transformation best described as metanoia, which might be retranslated from "repentance" to "being of a new mind and heart," being turned and attuned to the new being that come of belonging to the Kingdom.

2.  The event that shocks the world is not a strong but a weak force.  Underlying, or arching over, all these famous paradoxes, there is, on my hypothesis, a thesis about God, or about the event that is harbored in the name of God, one that is contrary to the powers that be in theology and the church, a startling thesis found in what Paul calls "the weakness of God."  Saint Paul puts this thesis about weakness very powerfully, even paradigmatically, in a veritably Deleuzian discourse on the "logos of the cross (logos tou staurou)," the mark of which Paul identifies as "foolishness."  Here, in a virtuoso performance of the interweaving of sense and non-sense, of a logos that is the offspring of moria, Paul spells out the way this weakness jolts the world:  God chose the foolish ones in the world to shame the wise, and what is weak to shame the strong, and what is the low down in the world, the ones who "are not" (ta me onta), to shame the men of ousia, men of substance, the powers that be.  The "weakness of God," Paul says, is stronger than human strength.  (I Cor. 1:25).

John Caputo, "Spectral Hermeneutics," After the Death of God, ed. Jeffrey W. Robbins (New York:  Columbia University Press, 2007). pp. 61-62.

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