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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I wouldn’t agree with all their stances on everything, but I would still vote for them

[…] internal conflicts, after following the furious argument about Christianity taking place between LarvalSubjects and the writers at An und für sich. These internal conflicts are not unlike the debates within […] Chaucer's Prioress: Ignorance and Religious Violence « The Kugelmass Episodes said this on May 1st, 2007 at 7:30 am
I almost didn’t put in that bit about my own committments because I knew that you would pick up on it rather than address my other points or answer the question about how much you understand of the discourse of theology.
Essentially Levi, I agree with a lot of what you say. But I give you this: if I supported Labour in the UK, which I have done in the past, I wouldn’t agree with all their stances on everything, but I would still vote for them. I don’t understand how this is any more complicated. And as regards disagreeing with many of its stances, other than the terrible attitude to homosexual people (though not at all as bad as evangelical Christians, the pope urged discussion of this issue should be always conducted in the properly Christian attitude of love, not hate and condemnation), sexuality more broadly and their repression of liberation theology, I agree with a large quantity of what the church says, particularly in regard to social ethics and economics. So yes, disagreements are tolerable. This has been the way the faith has always been practiced.
I do think that you are right re: not getting too caught up in theological musing to not bring it down to the ground. But to say that this is how all theology goes down or the vast majority, which is my reading of a lot of what you have said so far, seems wrong to me. I notice, for example, or at least I can’t find, one instance of saying that Adam isn’t an example of this “high” abstract and socially worthless theology. Alex said this on May 1st, 2007 at 9:00 am
I almost didn’t put in that bit about my own committments because I knew that you would pick up on it rather than address my other points or answer the question about how much you understand of the discourse of theology.
Is there some sort of handbook for reactionaries theology students study at seminary? I didn’t “pick on your commitments”, I pointed out that it is implausable that the church is immune to the same socio-psychological mechanisms that all other human institutions are subject to. Pointing that out does not make you a victim or subject to some sort of ad hominem attack. It simply points out an implausibility in your argument. This, I think, is an important issue. No one would be “attacking” Churchland’s or Dennett’s or Deleuze’s or Badiou’s commitments by making arguments against their claims. They would be doing what philosophers do: engaging in argument and critique to show the shortcomings of a position.
I do not, to be sure, have an extensive background in theology. I’m familiar with a fair amount from the Middle Ages. Some contemporary theology such as Jean-Luc Marion. I’m not sure if you’d call what Descartes, Leibniz, or Whithead are up to theology as they’re not tied to Scripture in their claims in the way that a Christian theologian is (which isn’t to deny cultural influences, just to point out a very real difference between what a philosopher does in talking about God and what a Christian theologian does in seeking a rational understanding of Scripture while treating Scripture as true). Why would I get caught up in intricate theological discussions with a Greek about all the nuances of Greek theology (just how many gods there are, where they exist, how the daimons communicate with men, how they travel between heaven and earth, etc)? Why would I get in an intricate theological discussion with the Kaluli about the theology of the Gisaro ceremony and how it evokes the spirits of the ancestors? Extending the ethnographic argument and treating the various forms of Christianity as one more set of social practices among a particular people like any other: why would I get wrapped up in an intricate analysis of the theology of the Trinity or other such issues? This doesn’t, of course, mean that I would be uninterested in something like a Levi-Straussian or Bourdieuian analysis of the nature of those groups of people that calls themselves Christian and who happen to predominantly populate the America and certain parts of Europe, only that I don’t get caught up in the intricate discussions of how these peoples seek to ground their set of socio-symbolic practices. Any good ethogropher would be interested in the symbolic organization of practices among these various tribes, their social heirarchies, their modes of kinship exchange, their rituals, their histories and how they came to be and sometimes pass out of existence (no one, for instance, worships the Egyptian gods any longer… I religion that existed longer than the various forms of Christianity has), etc., etc. These ethnographies can make for some fascinating reading and can illuminate a number of things about the varied nature of human social practices, certain forms of conflict that certain social organizations invite, etc. larvalsubjects said this on May 1st, 2007 at 2:20 pm
Lest this great debate terminate, a few posers:
  1. When we are so passionately speaking against the political/religious detractors, how do we locate them as the other and under which ontological paradigm?
  2. Whether the thoughtless affiliation to some political/religious praxis has any potential of kindling emancipatory instincts in the individual? If yes, then whether it is a desirable phenomenon? And,
  3. Should it evolve through the ambiguity of complex moral choices instead of settling for simplistic black and white labels? Tusar N. Mohapatra said this on Your comment is awaiting moderation. May 1st, 2007 at 2:39 pm

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