In the recent edition of my column at Nomos Journal, I consider the theologico-political dynamics of fame by looking at depictions of Jesus Christ in a couple musicals, including Jesus Christ Superstar and a musical currently in development, Spears: The Gospel According to Britney.
If faith is a matter of ultimate concern (Paul Tillich’s well-known definition), fame is a matter of repeated concern, which is to say, reputation and renown, where reputation is a matter of being subject to repeated considering (re-putare). An ultimate concern (faith) is not the same as a popularly celebrated or highly frequented concern (fame), however their difference is supplementary and not simply antagonistic. Fame without faith is empty, and faith without fame is blind, out of touch.
Looking out of my window, between the blinds, I’m left wondering about the quasi-transcendental function of blindness in faith (blind faith; faith sans voir), justice (blindfolded Lady Justice), and love (blindfolded Cupid; Theocritus, Shakespeare, and others saying that love is blind).
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)