Far from luring us into a perverse self-destructive rapture, adopting the properly apocalyptic stance is – today more than ever – the only way to keep a cool head.
This is Zizek (should I say of course) turning an idea on its head with a hope filled lucidity. The idea is that the apocalyptic stance is one that is about putting it off, not accepting that the end is nigh and actually that is it right there. Rather the end is nigh may well be true, indeed is the truth but the aim is to put it off (perhaps for ever if possible). Apocalyptic thinking is about keeping cool not encouraging self destruction or imagining its fulfillment.
This comes from a new book by Žižek which comprises an exchange of essays with Boris Gunjevic called God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse. I’ve read the first two chapters and while it carries with it repetition it also has new material.
Gunjevic’s introductory chapter is called The Mystagogy of Revolution. He is aiming to start what may emerge as a conversation with Zizek about religion. He sees it as building on the unfinished conversation of Žižek with Milibank in The Monstrosity of Christ a book, or rather, a series of chapters I found impenetrable. I like the way Gunjevic writes, partly because he uses a Zizek style of many cultural sources brought together on a rich bed of Marxist thought and history.
He is here concerned with a need for virtue as an ordering principle for any social revolutionary movement. He draws an analogy between the value now given to archaeological fragments of pottery and the value that is to be found in fragments of past systems. Here he is making the case for the revaluation of the thought of theologians amongst others perhaps, suggesting that the elements of their systems broken and discarded, recycled in the foundations of buildings can be read again valued as they are in the display cases of museums and galleries the world over:
What we used to think of until recently as rejects and trash can serve in building social relations and the world around us in an altogether new way.
He also uses a term in the context of theology I didn’t know
incarnational resources, incarnational tools for changing the world
rather nice ring to it.
Zizek writes about the event, the meaning of revelation, the engagement of God in the world in a carnal fashion, God putting everything at stake in total immersion in the world. We as living in the days that follow this with the consequences of utter and annoying freedom. The genie was let out of the bottle, fait accompli. This is for Zizek what Christianity has to accept, that this has happened, this is what it offers the world and is its sense.
In his first chapter, Christianity Against the Sacred, Zizek considers sacrifice as a central feature of the sacred. The section that drew my attention was when, drawing on writing by Jean-Pierre Dupuy (The Mark of the Sacred), Zizek discusses how meta-social forms emerge from inter-personal relations, how the ‘big Other’ emerges out of the interaction of individuals. The idea is that that the ‘big Other’ is maintained by sacrifice. The central ethical dilemma of Christianity is:
how to contain violence without sacrificial exceptions, without an external limit?
The latter died on the cross let us not forget. Christianity still maintains the sacrificial spin but by placing the victim, not the transcendent, centre stage (Christ on the Cross, the Martyrs, the suffering). The victim’s innocence is guaranteed by an unavoidable knowledge of contingency.
Therein resides the world-historical rupture introduced by Christianity: now we know, and can no longer pretend that we don’t.
These are properly apocalyptic times born of knowledge.
It is interesting to write up Zizek’s ideas because of course in my hands they lose their richness and reasoning no less. They also emerge as derivative in the sense that I can only understand or at least relate to those parts that I can. Thus the comment above about knowledge, my writing that revelation and Jesus as Father and Son on earth are God ending himself, concluding his external potential and revealing himself in the sole potential as human is vastly Judeo-Christian in its formulation. Zizek is courted by theologians because he will talk in the same language.
I’ll read some more, now a chapter by Gunjevic, to see how, if at all, a debate, engagement, develops.