Radical Democracy and Theopoetry

In the following passage from “Theopoetic/Theopolitic,” John D. Caputo writes the following:

 What would a political order look like, were the Kingdom able to be reinvented and transformed into a political structure? What would it be like if there really were a politics of the bodies of flesh that proliferate in the New Testament, a politics of mercy and compassion, of lifting up the weakest and most defenseless people at home, a politics of welcoming the stranger and of loving one’s enemies abroad? What would it be like were there a politics of and for the children, who are the future; a politics not of sovereignty, of top–down power, but a politics that builds from the bottom up, where ta me onta  (I Cor 1:28) enjoy pride of place and a special privilege? What would a political order look like if the last are first, if everything turned on lifting up the lowliest instead of letting relief trickle down from the top? What would it look like if there were a politics of loving one’s enemies, not of war, let alone, God forbid, of preemptive war?

Would it not be in almost every respect the opposite of the politics that presently passes itself off under the name of Jesus? Are not the figures who publicly parade their self-righteousness, their love of power, and their hatred of the other under the name of Jesus singled out in advance by Jesus under the name of the whited sepulchers and long robes whose fathers killed the prophets? In this connection, it would be amusing—were it not so tragic—to recall that the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”, which provides a cover for the arrogance, militancy, greed and hatred of the Christian Right, is taken from an immensely popular book written in 1896 by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps: “What Would Jesus Do?”  Sheldon was an early leader of the Social Gospel movement, and his answer to this question was, in brief, that Jesus would be found in the worst neighbors in the poorest cities serving the wretched of the earth. To do what Jesus would do, would mean to make everything turn on peace not war, forgiveness not retribution, on loving one’s enemies not a preemptive war, on all the paradoxes and reversals that can be summarized under the name of “radical democracy.”

A politics of the Kingdom would be marked by madness of forgiveness, generosity, mercy and hospitality. The dangerous memory of the crucified body of Jesus poses a threat to a world organized around the disastrous concept of power, something that is reflected today in the widespread critique of the concept of “sovereignty”—of the sovereignty of autonomous subjects and the sovereignty of nations powerful enough to get away with acting unilaterally and in their own self-interests. The call that issues from the Cross threatens what Derrida calls the “unavowed theologism” of the political concept of sovereignty by returning us to its root, to its understanding of God, to its underlying or archi–theology. The crucified body of Jesus proposes not that we keep theology out of politics, but that we think theology otherwise, by way of another paradigm, another theology, requiring us to think of God otherwise, as an unconditional claim or solicitation without power, as a weak force or power of powerlessness, as opposed to the theology of omnipotence that underlies sovereignty.

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