Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eat your theory!

Cultural theory is to the humanities graduate student what spinach is to most children. They may not like it, but some will consume it to please superiors who insist it's good for them. I make the connection fully aware of spinach's recently tarnished reputation.

In light of this, I'm glad to have been notified thanks to verbumipsum of a very worthwhile article entitled Christ and Critical Theory. It's a nice primer from a kind and confident Christian thinker that I wish I had read it before I started my program.

Griffiths chronicles the more familiar faith-flirtations of Eagleton and Zizek, but unknown at least to me were similar trends in the thought of postmodern action heroes Jean François Lyotard and Alain Badiou. Commenting on Lyotard's engagment of St. Augustine, Griffiths explains that
"Lyotard (in his late work, at least) was driven by hunger for the illimitable jouissance made possible only by the différend more different than which none can be thought."
Or consider Badiou's late turn to the Apostle Paul:
"The sense of loss from which Badiou reads Paul is palpable. He needs 'a new militant figure... to succeed the one installed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.' That figure (Badiou does not say but implies) is lost, frozen in the Gulag, crushed under the tracks of the Soviet tanks as they rolled into Prague, withered by the increasing willingness of China to accept capital's blandishments, and dismembered by the breakup of the Soviet Empire. This loss can, he hopes, be supplied by Paul, but only if Paul is disjoined from the fable that is Christianity..."
Perhaps one will notice here an intriguing parallel to the later inclinations of Foucault and Derrida.

No doubt Griffiths is correct that this is stuff to which Christians should be paying attention. He also rightly indicates that such "pagan yearning for Christian intellectual gold" does not reach the point of conversion for any of the aforementioned thinkers. But because conversion is a two-way street, in my more cynical moments I wonder if Christian yearning for pagan intellectual fool's gold will.