Essays

This week’s lectionary reminds us that power comes and goes. Today the church is tempted to resent its lack of influence, but Mark’s story of Jesus and the words of Paul remind us that even spiritual power has its limits….

Beiner suggests that I want a politics, and by politics he seems to mean what the state does, that is at the service of Christianity. As someone deeply influenced by John Howard Yoder’s critique of Constantinianism, that is precisely what I do not want. Of course I should like Christians to be free to try and convince their non-Christian neighbors that war is a bad idea, but….

By the time preachers in America address their congregations this Sunday, the nation’s Supreme Court will have ruled on the health insurance reform act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March of 2010. The coincidence of this much-anticipated ruling and a quirky Jesus healing story is irresistible!

Hollywood and academia may not often be thought of in one breath, but they do share some things, not the least being a hyperventilating and parochial culture of celebrity. Having been in this business now for a few of these cycles, I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go. Which figures are selected to be smiled upon by the fame machine seems almost random, a matter of tuche, the semi-theological bad luck of those who are selected, by a blind fate, or an erratic Greek deity. The perduring and valuable work of genuine scholars mounts in height and depth gradually over decades, chiseled out of serious matter, and their import is often recognized only in retrospect, late in a career or after the author is dead. Others—the academic version of one hit wonders—flash up in an instant, are talked about—though not as often talked to, and still less often carefully read—for a frenzied spasm of a few years, then are dropped like an empty foil bag of chips, left to blow heedlessly among the trees in the groves of academe, or to wander the halls of academic conferences, for decades to come.

I’m afraid, but I’m quite sure, that the work of Agamben falls into the celebrity category. […]