Writing, Not Blogging (still more on religion and death)

Why do we adore The Slaughtered Ox? Because without our knowing it or wanting it, it is our anonymous humanity. We are not Christ, never Christ…no I will not speak of this. –H. Cixous

The Slaughtered Ox (Rembrandt)

I have not been blogging but I have been writing. I’m trying to pull together some of these thoughts on Fanon, religion, death, and secularity into a coherent paper. It’s disappointing that I didn’t get into a PhD program this year, as it means another year of reading and writing in my spare time. However, I will be taking some additional courses in the humanities to allow my intellectual trajectory to become more apparent on my transcripts. Those courses will open up some more time for reading, writing, and thinking through these questions.

Below are the concluding two paragraphs from the unfinished paper I’ve been working on–just so I have something up on here. My apologies for leaving Fanon’s gendered language as is and without comment–I’m still working out how to interpret “the man” (l’homme) that Fanon is and of which he speaks.

Within this atheological Christological confrontation with Western Christian Civilization, theology is not put to death but is called to proceed stigmatically (Cixous).  As Karl Barth has argued, Christian theology can no longer live through its self-proclaimed and self-sustained separation from the other religions.  It cannot present itself as the community of life over against other communities put to or symbolizing death.  It must be placed in weakness, unable to articulate its own salvific life, and trusting that, in Jesus Christ, it too will be forgiven and saved.  Theology need not retheologize Fanon but must instead move into the atheological mode opened up by Fanon.  The “first task” of the Church is thus not the promotion of a distinctly Christian life.  The temporality into which Christians are called is not the temporality that seeks to draw others out of death (the past) into the life that it already is (or will be).  It is a temporality that exists within Christ’s own desire to exist in, with, for, and in place of those whose lives are, in the present world, deemed–and produced–as laden with death.  Christ destroys the sinful temporality of social death and affirms again the pulse of creation:  “bind my black vibration to the very navel of the world.” Christ does not call people into social death–the form of the slave (Philippians 2)–but instead declares that God has entered into this side so as to break it open and release again the desire for the lives of others, for the lives of those deemed expendable, inhuman, animalistic, and incapable of true existence.  Theology lives, not by its distinct calling to represent or usher forth human life, but by a proclamation that exists even in an atheological or anonymous mode, for it is a proclamation surrendered to the movement of Christ’s desire.  That is to say, the first task of the church is to express Christ’s desire for black life.

It is this love for black flesh that allows one to gesture towards the universal with Fanon, who says, “there is no black mission; there is no white burden…The black man is not.  No more than the white man….Superiority? Inferiority? Why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover each other?” (203- 206).  This “future of love” liberated from the determination of “the density of History” (205) is a becoming-more-than-black.  Through the descent into or tracing of the hellish wounds of the past, this stigmatic desire for life opens up beyond blackness, not through the passing away of blackness but through the density and unwavering commitment to love all life, even life mingled with death, which is to say, even the white lives that were protected and ensconced in a colonial religiosity that continually gave death.  It is, therefore, necessarily, at and from the site of black life that both black and white are liberated from the “inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine communication [i.e., the opening of desire and love] can be born” (206). As Fanon clearly states near the end of the book, “I, a man of color, want but one thing…may I be allowed to discover and desire man wherever he may be” (ibid, emphasis added).

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This entry was posted in atheism, barth, bonhoeffer, Césaire, cixous, colonialism, ecclesiology, ethics, fanon, feminism, foucault, race, religion, secularity. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Writing, Not Blogging (still more on religion and death)

  1. Enjoyed this post, Tim, especially about theology, Fanon and “the making of a distinct Christian life” much like the modern day Hauerwasians put it.

    Have you considered applying for a PhD in African American religious studies (concentrating in theology) at Rice University in Houston with Anthony Pinn? You should look into it. Even if it is Houston.

  2. Tim McGee says:

    Thanks–you are correct to catch the Hauerwas quote. It was fun to try to translate Cone’s claim about Christ’s ontological blackness into the language of desire; it allowed me to follow Fanon’s suggestion that ontological thought–or here, dogmatic thought–is impossible in the colonial situation, or, in other words, our philosophical thought and dogmatic reflections must be anti-racist in their fundamental, most basic descriptions.

    Thanks for the note about Rice too. I only put out a few applications and just to the usual places–I decided I wanted to apply more broadly too late to properly research schools and get in touch with potential advisors. It was also helpful for me to realize what exactly I want to study and also that even well respected programs might not nurture my interests and approach. I’ll definitely keep Rice in mind for next year, and am open to other suggestions.

    Thanks also for your consistent encouragement and conversation. It’s VERY MUCH appreciated.

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