This book is both a project and a staging post on a shared journey. It is a place where, for a brief moment, the three of us came to rest in order to explore and expand upon our separate reflections on attempts to construct an appropriate contemporary conceptuality for Christianity, and its implications for engaged practice and public theology.
As a PhD student just starting my dissertation research I happened to meet the department chair of the theology department at a major Catholic university (my interlocutor and his university will remain anonymous). When he asked about my dissertation, I told him that I was researching Henri de Lubac. In a condescending voice he replied, “I didn’t realize anyone was still studying him.” I sheepishly responded, “Well, yes. Yes they are.”
With the start of the 2016 election season now coinciding with the publication of Kingdom Politics: In Search of a New Political Imagination for Today’s Church, we are reminded of the beginnings of this book project. As the 2012 election cycle began picking up steam, we embarked on a journey to research the ways five diverse congregations engage and avoid politics, and the reasons they give for doing so.
Living as a first-world citizen in a globalizing world presents a great moral challenge. Many people are aware that the wealthiest 20 percent of the world’s population consume 76.6 percent of the world’s resources, while the world’s poorest 20 percent are left with 1.5 percent. However, fewer people are aware that while basic education for everyone in the world would cost six billion dollars, US Americans spend eight billion dollars annually on cosmetics; that while water and sanitation for everyone in the world would cost nine billion dollars, Europeans annually spend eleven billion dollars on ice cream
The language of recognition is of such frequent use that its presence in everyday and academic discourse is striking, and yet critical examination of its meaning remains largely absent. Its frequent use is evident in the legislative acts promulgated, the public policies written, and the social struggles waged in the name of it. Its application touches upon a broad spectrum of issues ranging from multiculturalism to national sovereignty, from matters of international human rights to social movements within feminism and civil rights.
Last November, members of a Sunni militia in Syria went to a hospital, found a patient whom they took to be a Shi‘ite, and beheaded him. Showing a typical jihadi concern for public relations, they then made a video about the incident in order to get their message out, saying of the Shi‘ites: “They will come and rape the men before the women, that’s what these infidels will do. They will rape the men before the women. God make us victorious over them.” As it turned out, their video proved a bit of an embarrassment: it emerged that the man they beheaded was not in fact a Shi‘ite — but as jihadis will tell you, and not only jihadis, these things happen.
This book emerged from my attempt to understand what is going on when Deleuze’s philosophy speaks about creation. Along these lines, “Deleuze and creation” names the problematic that consistently runs throughout the book, even as addressing this problematic requires working within the distinct registers of the philosophical, the theological, and the political.
In 1965, the radical theologian William Hamilton stated the following:
‘If “Empty Bed Blues”, Tennessee Williams and “Guernica” are the sights and sounds of neo-orthodox theology, perhaps radical theology is closer to “We Shall Overcome”, Saul Bellow and Robert Rauschenberg.’
The activity of religious proselytizing or evangelism is often under attack, and would seem to be increasingly so today. Sometimes critics suggest that most proselytizing is immoral, while at other times they call into question the very institution of proselytizing. In other words, proselytizing is considered to be immoral by its very nature. This opposition to proselytizing spills over into the political realm, with at times growing world-wide restrictions on religious freedom and the right to proselytize.