Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent Calendar: Ernst Bloch, René Girard

"This is a good essay, imo," said my Facebook friend, adding the disclaimer: "Better than usual for First Things."
Ernst Bloch — an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory — is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history. 
Our Secular Theodicy, by Matthew Rose
Bloch: "Mine ly-berry has the most colourful books"

Girard: "My Day Ty-MARE has the most boo-KINGS!"
Reading it put me in mind of René Girard, who followed some of the same currents to reach a similar conclusion, with crucial distinctions.
“Today’s ideology consists of presenting the 10 Commandments as the worst form of tyranny and oppression. The Enlightenment would never have done that. Voltaire was making fun of the church, and aspects of corruption in the Church. But today the 10 Commandments, for instance ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ is regarded as the worst oppression. Then everything is oppression. Everything is victimization. And this I think is the totalitarianism of the future. Marxism was only its most primitive form. 
I think there is another totalitarianism, which is to say, ‘Don’t believe Christianity is about defending the victim, it is just pretend(ing) to. And we are going to show you how to defend the victim,’ which is precisely everything we see today. And the idea of Anti-Christ — an imitation of Christ — which would at the same time be a total betrayal of Christianity, I think we have to read much of contemporary history in this light. Of course it’s so controversial and potentially explosive. I would say today what we call ‘Political Correctness’ and so forth is a Super-Christianity” 
René Girard, in conversation, 2001.
My familiarity with Girard, such as it is, is primarily informed by this CBC Ideas series by David Cayley — the best five hours I've spent on the internet in the last five years.

Post-Script: it looks like the Mother Corp has pulled the first episode out of circulation — others may follow. You know who to contact for sound-files, don't you?


paul bowman said...

Hmm, I’m pretty sure I read Rose’s item here and didn’t think much of it. (If so, true in two senses, because neither essay nor what I didn’t like has stuck strongly enough to recall it a few weeks later). Have to give it another look.

Whisky Prajer said...

Oof. Strike one, strike two...

Whisky Prajer said...

There is a difference of scale involved, but I would place a (much) greater emphasis on the Girard podcasts, FWIW.

paul bowman said...

The Ideas show I’ve been moved to listen to again first, actually, is the David Martin episode from the Secular Age series. Wish I could give this more time & focus. Martin points to reading Schweitzer in accounting for his path, and I have to think he knew Bloch well from some point, particularly as he turns to Latin America at some stage of his career, and Bloch is supposed to be important to Liberation Theology types.

More to be dug through / sorted out there.

One thing that bugs me about Rose is his heavy emphasis on the Christian-ness of Bloch’s idea of history — “goal-oriented,” in Rose’s characterization early in the piece, ”and our advancement as a series of conversions and liberations, the outcome of which is the creation of a community that can redeem our fallen history.” He corrects later on, very properly: “More important, it held that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the end of all history has in a sense already begun, and within history itself.” That, far more than linear shape and telos, is what makes your idea of history Christian; but like so many Christian western-culture defenders (as it seems to me anyway), Rose isn’t all that interested in the really essentially Christian thing.

Also bugging me is that it seems like Liberation Theology deserves to be more of a foregrounded bête noir for Rose here. Why doesn’t he address it more plainly? But maybe I’m missing something.

Do want to go back to the Girard series, though, yes!

Whisky Prajer said...

Well, yeah: Rose isn't being especially reflective here, it's true. It's more of a "Gotcha!" (or, considering this is First Things, a theological "Bazinga!") piece. Liberation Theology is a little too slippery, formally, to provide much ammo for that sort of thing. And besides: FT is crap at Lib Theo.

Whisky Prajer said...

I've been thinking of giving the Myth of the Secular another spin, but probably not all the episodes. David Martin would certainly qualify for further consideration -- thanks for mentioning him.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thanks for the nudge, Paul -- I gave Martin another listen while changing tires the other day. Incredible, to my mind, how Martin and Girard and Illich seemed tuned-in to some of the forces now vividly at work in the current atmosphere. I'd love to hear producer David Cayley's thoughts on all this.

paul bowman said...

Should have replied above: Good hits, not strikes at all, from this reader’s point of view! Much more to think about suggested in your few paragraphs than I’m ready to take on, generally. I feel good if I can get down something of one or two of the tracks my thoughts might take from there into a reasonably coherent comment. It’s true at the same time that my grouchy side is somewhat on display in comments here lately, of course. (Not as much here, then again, as in various FB forums & threads at times this year … but still.)

I have very little to go on as to liberation theology myself, and am sure I owe that shortcoming to hanging around people who are too much in First-Thingsish circles for too many years. Naturally there’s some frustration with myself finding expression in my grouch mode above.

Went down to the little movie house on Metropolitan Thursday afternoon to see Last Jedi. I couldn’t help hearing a tiny Matthew Rose on my shoulder, squeaking, ‘See that, see that? That’s Bloch talking. It’s all Bloch, the whole franchise, you see that don’t you?’ (After the show, dropped Aleister & Adolf off at the branch and visited my comic shop, both a few blocks up closer to where my end of the neighborhood intersects Metropolitan. Sort of feel like you’re with me in spirit, some days, here in Forest Hills. It’s unlikely, I’ll say, that the young men from the yeshiva would be stopping me to inquire whether I might be Jewish — really the highlight of that or any afternoon in this neighborhood — if you’d indeed been accompanying in person. But very little doubt in my mind about your getting as much a kick out of those odd occasions, too, as I do.)

Whisky Prajer said...

Rose as Snoke? Kinda fits, actually. Merry Christmas, man.