Saint Paul has, in recent times, found renewed life and acclaim among the continental philosophers – this has filtered its way through to the world of radical/weak/deconstructive/material theology or theopoetics (we need to streamline the name, folks). From John Caputo, to Peter Rollins, to Slavoj Zizek, Paul’s writings are being read in compliment with Derrida, Hegel, Heidegger and others and the results (while still unfolding) are thrilling and superbly illuminating.
(n.b. If you want to some introductions to this kind of thought I recommend Caputo’s The Weakness of God, and this online course hosted by Homebrewed Christianity, and if you want an accessible kind of intro to what radical theology might be, this interview of John Caputo by Jay Bakker might be helpful)
While all this is going on, I’ve been thinking about another New Testament author, nowhere as prolific as Paul (though perhaps equally divisive and cutting with the pen… or quill or dictation/whatever), who I think could also be worth reading through a radical theopoetic (there you go, streamlined) lens, the man named James.
James, we might find exemplifies the radical theology trend of recasting faith away from metaphysics and belief, and toward the idea of faith as a way of being-in-the-world, faith as the deconstructable, contained by structures, which cannot contain it. James, we might argue, is so conducive to a kind of way-in-the-world reading of faith, that he is able to avoid any talk of doctrine, any talk of the after/beyond, and even any talk of Jesus (at least at an explicit level – though that might just be brotherly teasing).
This is James, who says the most purified form of religion is love of the other, who says doctrine matters nothing if we’re not deeply committed to the people and their needs. Who goes further and says that what you believe about God is unimportant (or at least unimpressive). Who reduces the entire structured law to the deconstructed call (to love). Whose wisdom is deeply focused on fostering a deeper and more just community here and now. I think we might find in James, amidst a bunch of other stuff, a hope in God through us - in the weakness of God, where the happening (or not happening) of God is dependent on our response (or non-response) to the call.
So that’s my little introduction into the first little series here on Love - rinse/repeat. A series into the depths of James, with the radical hope that we'll find no bottom. A hope that what we may find by reading James theo-poetically is another unlikely ally of theopoetics. I’ll probably drop in and out of it as I have time/as I find something, and maybe next time is when we'll explore what I mean by theo-poetics (which my laptop is trying to autocorrect like a fiend... not an ally). I imagine I’ll be reading James a lot in the next little while, and if you wanted to do so too and throw out some ideas that’d be great also.
Ron Swanson, the mustachioed stalwart of Parks and Recreation, is a fan of a simple toast “to the hunt”. If I could summon up my best Swanson impersonation, may I propose my own toast – “to the depths!”
(OK, so that was a pretty tenuous link… full disclosure, I may have just wanted to gain some cred by referencing Parks and Rec… is that such a bad thing? Maybe our time in James will tell)