The Theology of Slavoj Zizek, a Critique – Part 3

This is the final post of a 3 part series on the Theology of Zizek. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series I strongly recommend you go through both. If you don’t this post won’t really make much sense.

Zizek in his book “The Monstrocity of Christ” attempts to explain how community is gained from the death of God. I’ll start in (Kindle) Location 1232:

It is not enough to say that people (individuals) organize themselves in the Holy Spirit (Party, community of believers): in humanity, a transsubjective “it” organizes itself. The finitude of humanity, of the human subject (collective or individual), is maintained here: Christ is the excess which prohibits simple recognition of the collective Subject in Substance, the reduction of Spirit to objective / virtual entity (presup)posed by humanity.

These precise distinctions also enable us to account for the passage of what Hegel called “objectvice spirit” to “absolute spirit”: it is through Christ’s mediation that OS changes into AS. There is no Holy Spirit without the squashed body of a bird (Christ’s mutilated corpse): the two poles, the Universal (the virtual infinity/immortality of the Holy Spirit (OS)) and the Particular (the actual finite/mortal community of believers (SS)) can be mediated only through Christ’s monstrous singularity.

And then later in Location 1240:

The passage from Objective Spirit to Absolute Spirit resides in nothing but the dialectical mediation between Objective Spirit and Subjective Spirit, in the above-indicated inclusion of the gap that separates the OS from the SS within the SS, so that OS has to appear (be experienced) as such, as an objective “reified” entity, by the SS itself (and in the inverted recognition that, without the subjective reference to an In-Itself of the OS, subjectivity itself disintegrates, collapses into psychotic autism). (In the same way, in Christianity, we overcome the opposition of God as an objective spiritual In-Itself and human (believer’s) subjectivity by transposing this gap into God himself: Christianity is “absolute religion” only and precisely insofar as, in it, the distance that separates God from man separates God from himself (and man from man, from the inhuman in him).)

One can also put it in the following way: all that happens in the passage from Objective Spirit to Absolute Spirit is that one takes into account that “there is no big Other.” AS is not a “stronger” absolute entity in comparison with OS, but a “less strong” one – to reach AS we pass from reified Substance to a subjectivized virtual substance. AS thus avoids both pitfalls: in it, neither is Subjective Spirit reduced to a subordinate element of the self-mediation of the OS, nor is the OS subjectified in Feuerbachian-Young Marx style (reduced to a reified expression-projection of SS). We reach AS when we (SS) are no longer the agent of the process when “it organizes itself” in-through us – not, however, in the mode of perverse self-instrumentalization.

The problem with Zizek’s account is that he fails to see how without the “big Other” the virtual space of the Holy Spirit which is “presupposed” by the individual so that a community can be built collapses as soon as the particular has no use for the presupposition. The corpse of Christ doesn’t change that. Even if we posit that this corpse truly is the corpse of the a God, and thus the Objective Spirit dies subjectively and thus can supposedly appear as Absolute Spirit. The only thing that the corpse of Christ does is kill the big Other, wouldn’t that simply put the individual in the position to choose his own objectivity? Or more likely, to rise out of the corpse an Idol, and Idol creating a false objectivity.

If we go back to the example of Joe Hill, isn’t it just more rational for someone who followed him to say “Joe Hill is dead, his dream was false, I’m gonna work for middle management, or start selling drugs” or to say “Joe Hill is dead, But this (whatever idol is made) is the real Joe Hill” than to say “Jow Hill is dead all we have is each other”?

The larger problem here, however, is that the only thing that makes Jesus divine is his resurrection. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

The reason is quite simply, if Chist has not been risen then he was no God at all. Had Zizek’s formula been true then Paul’s point here would be completely nonsense. Zizek would say that it is not Christ being raised that guarantees our faith, but rather our faith that Guarantees that Christ was raised.

If Christ was not truly resurrected, then there is no eternity, and if there is no eternity there is no guarantee for community. We can only truly rely on each other because we can also rely on God, without God we can rely on nothing, or we must rely on an idol.

Zizek in his book “God in Pain” talks about the point where Christ is forsaken by God, and in the process unites man with God in page 180:

In Christianity, the gap that separates God from man is not effectively “sublated” in the figure of Christ as god-man, but only in the most tense moment of crucifixion when Christ himself despairs (“Father, why have you forsaken me ?”): in this moment, the gap is transposed into God himself, as the gap that separates Christ from God the father; the properly dialectical trick here is that the very feature which appeared to separate me from God turns out to unite me with God.

I understand this is kind of besides the point, however Jesus is quoting from Psalms 22, which starts out like:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?     Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;     and by night, but find no rest.

But ends like:

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!     All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;     stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor     the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me,     but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;     my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;     those who seek him shall praise the Lord.     May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember     and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations     shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,     and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;     before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,     and I shall live for him. 30 Posterity will serve him;     future generations will be told about the Lord, 31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,     saying that he has done it.

This is not a separation of the Psalmist (and Christ) from God, it’s an affirmation of trust in the face of despair. It’s a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith.” If there is anything we can gather from what Christ says in his desperation, it’s that even when God seems to have abandoned us, he’s still there. Even in the face of utter despair and hopelessness, the poor will eat and be satisfied, because there is a deliverance. Is this not a much stronger basis for a true community of believers?

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The Theology of Slavoj Zizek, a Critique – Part 3

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