I recently finished reading Willie James Jennings’s earth-shattering book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. While Jennings’s primary aim is to drastically reorient our theological approaches to race and racism, his project poses much broader challenges to conventional theological methodology. He insists that traditional western theologians who have rightly been concerned with questions of orthodoxy and intellectual edification have nevertheless failed to recognize how land, language, bodies, and “literary space” informs theological construction and evaluation.
A 2005 New York Times poll discovered that 80 percent of US citizens believe that it is indeed possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (quoted on p. 70). In her new book Solidarity Ethics, Rebecca Todd Peters argues that it is this belief in self-sufficiency that, in part, underwrites the structural issues of oppression and inequality of our neoliberal globalized world. Global structural evils stand on the values and worldview of the privileged. And the benefits of privilege are so deeply woven into the fabric of our quotidian realities that it requires a concrete change in perspective—a conversion, in fact—to recognize the problems this privilege also creates for others.
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.
In his new book, LeRon Shults gives us a very helpful tool to help evaluate religion and politics in the context of Deleuzian “theology” in what he calls the “bio-cultural study of religion, ” which claims that “religious phenomena can be explained by the evolution of cognitive processes [Attributions] that over-detect human-like forms and coalitional process [Social] that over-protect socially inscribed norms.”
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.