My first post on this blog went up one year ago today. It had something to do with thinking after postmodernism and postsecularism. Today, that’s still what my practice of thinking is after. Today, I’m in the middle of Jean-Luc Nancy’s second installment in his deconstruction of Christianity, Adoration. It follows an opening of Christianity, exposing its various theisms to the open sense of the world, and sheltering its exposure without replacing it with another “-ism” (including atheism, humanism, rationalism, irrationalism, etc.). It warms my heart, opens my body…
Adoration is addressed to what exceeds address. Or rather: it is addressed without seeking to reach, without any intention at all. It can accept to not even be addressed: to be unable to aim, or designate, or recognize the outside to which it is dispatched. It can even be unable to identify it as an outside, since it takes place here, nowhere else, but here in the open. Nothing but an open mouth, or perhaps an eye, an ear: nothing but an open body. Bodies are adoration in all their openings. (20)
There is not even “atheism”; “atheist” is not enough! It is the positing of the principle that must be emptied. It is not enough to say that God takes leave, withdraws, or is incommensurable. It is even less a question of placing another principle on his throne–Mankind, Reason, Society. It is instead a question of coming to grips with this: the world rests on nothing–and this is its keenest sense. […] Let there be no more place for God–and in this way, let an opening, which we can disucss elsewhere whether to call “divine,” open. (32-33)
“Shine bright like a diamond.” That line is repeated over and over again by Rihanna in her song, “Diamonds.” Something about the repeated injunction to perform an act of unbreakable iridescence strikes me as profoundly beautiful and inspired, hinting at some deep source of inspiration that lies dormant in our average and ordinary experiences.
“We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky.” To be is to be an alluring and inviolable substance shining in the firmament of our elemental abode. Being is diamond-being, and the shine radiates with an injunction to shine: you and I are beautiful like diamonds, so shine accordingly! Be(come) who you are (becoming). “So shine bright.” Shining bright, I am always under the weight of the injunction to shine. I am always already diamond-being, which means I am continually returning to practice the injunction, repeating the refrain, “Shine bright like a diamond.”
What’s the source of this enlightened vision? I had my guesses, then I looked closely at the lyrics and confirmed my hypothesis. To put it rather allusively, it’s like a cosmic and molecular mode of ecstatic inspiration, an intoxicating and heartwarming panvitalism (or panallurism).
Palms rise to the universe
As we moonshine and molly
Feel the warmth, we’ll never die
We’re like diamonds in the sky.
You’re a shooting star I see
A vision of ecstasy
When you hold me, I’m alive
We’re like diamonds in the sky
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of other only a green thing that stands in the way.
I’m excited about the recently published book, Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude, which is a collaborative project by Joerg Rieger and Kwok Pui-lan. If you think it sounds like this book proposes a theology that draws on the concept of “the multitude” articulated by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, you’re right. Furthermore, the concept of the multitude in this book also draws on the biblical idea of “ochlos,” which refers to a mass or crowd of people (i.e., the crowds that would listen to the parables of Jesus).
It’s a good book with plenty of good news. It shakes up the tenacious yet increasingly irrelevant views of religion coming from modern liberalism. It rethinks the place of faith in the secular space of the public sphere, and it enjoins theology to overcome structures of domination and facilitate planetary transformation.
“Occupy religion” does not mean using force or other means to take over religious institutions and structures, holy sites, worshipping spaces, or religious goods, but rather indicates the conceptualization of a democratic and participatory space for religious life, broadly conceived, and active engagement to make this a reality. It challenges rigid boundaries between the sacred and the profane, as well as between the professional religious elites and the masses, and thus transforms narrow notions of religion as private or other-worldly. “Occupy religion” aims to demystify and debunk religious doctrines and social teachings that provide both religious sanction and justification for economic and social inequality. It critiques religious institutions and structures that silence, discriminate, and marginalize people because of class, race, gender, and sexuality, and thus hand the power to the 1 percent. “Occupy religion” call religious communities to account and asks them to engage critically in transforming the world to make it just for all and sustainable for the environment. (p. 5)