I’m excited to present with my awesome partner in all things radical Bo Eberle at Subverting the Norm this weekend. Here’s a description of what I’ll be discussing. You can also go here if you want to see what Bo will be presenting.
Repoliticizing the Church: Finding Postsecular Engagement in Adorno and Benjamin
At a recent speaking engagement, Brian McLaren said, “In many cases the church is not relevant in today’s world. But can it be and should it be is another question.” More forcefully, in their book on the new materialism, Jeffrey Robbins and Clayton Crocket describe the postsecular world as repoliticizing religion such that radicalized religion can no longer perform religious acts in solitary confinement, so to speak, but must engage its own culpability for and entanglement in the most pressing issues facing inhabitants of our world. Other postmodern philosophers, such as Slavoj Zizek and Judith Butler, have in recent years turned to the work of two early critical theorists—Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin—as examples for how to (re)think religion’s repoliticization. This presentation will return to Adorno’s critique of Enlightenment religion as secularized and de-radicalized before examining how both Adorno and Benjamin reinscribe religion with political import, allowing us in turn to rethink the church’s engagement with perhaps the two most pernicious problems facing the world today: the global economic crisis and the ecological crisis (which are inextricably linked). I will argue that the church should make itself relevant in today’s world by responding to these issues and ensuring that such issues are no longer ignored in our preaching, liturgy, and church theology. Adorno and Benjamin’s materialist conceptions of religion and notion of inverse theology (now in play in both the work of Zizek and Butler) provide a compelling means for moving the church from stasis to radical re-engagement.