Tag Archives: anti-Judaism

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

This review is part of my fulfilment of an agreement with the editors of this text in exchange for a free advanced copy of this book.

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

What I enjoyed about this book:

Relational theology is a Protestant phenomenon, that is it is primarily an intra-communal conversation between Protestants, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, nondenominationals and the like. What is Relational theology? It is a theology that emphasizes God‘s interaction with humanity and creation, as well as the Creator’s capacity to be affected by the creation. In this theology, the passage, “God is love,” is invoked repeatedly.  Nothing is predetermined or foreordained in this perspective, and both the divine and humanity have more or less, libertarian free will, but for the sake of community.  My favorite essay from this collection SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT (it ‘s about postcolonialism) was “The Cross Or Caesar?: A Postcolonial Query” by Gabriel Salguero. I don’t know how many times I have said that the post in post colonialism is about hope more than anything else, but this quote is golden: “The ‘post’ in postcolonial is a call, a vision, a prophecy. ‘Post’ means that we hope. We can dream about and work for a day in which God’s shalom reign of Isaiah 11 is a reality. We can anticipate the lion and the lamb dwelling together. ‘Post means that love conquers our appetites to colonize, enslave and control. ‘Post’ in postcolonialism means that God’s love will bring to its knees all the kingdoms of this earth and establish a reign of love and justice for all of creation.”


First of all, the chapters were too short for my taste, but this was an introduction geared towards probably laypersons. Okay, fine. I get why the brevity. Still, some ideas need to be explicated. My other dislike about this text was that it severed completely, as Dirk von der Horst said, discussions of oppression and suffering from God’s relationality.  In fact, probably the fact that this conversation is a white Protestant male lead book on relational theology is part of the reason that the work of Catholic feminists such as Elizabeth A Johnson’s work is overlooked significantly.  We can’t talk about God relating people without talking about God’s suffering with persons in specific contexts, i.e., gender, race, and class injustice.  One of the more problematic essays in this collection, “Worship As Relational Renewal And Redemption of the World” by Brent D. Peterson is probably an example of what happens when male relational theologians  turn a blindeye to suffering. This essay is very problematic with the claims it made, and in only FOUR pages! First, Peterson ignores significant biblical texts in the Jewish canon where God accepts sacrifices (animal and produce), and where YHWH punishes for wrong sacrifices. But no no no no, Peterson argues, that “the Israelites‘ worship was inauthentic” and that it was like a “Wal-mart transaction.’  In other words, the rituals and ceremonies that Jesus himself participated had no meaning, that intentionality is something that God detests. This very brief but succinct argument is typical in white evangelicalism and white liberal protestantism. It is supersessionist, and anti-Jewish (not to mention a-historical). Peterson has privileged his (white) Gentile place above the Hebrews in his reading of the biblical narrative.

Peterson goes on to argue that because God is relational, we cannot “earn healing” by caring for the poor. (There’s one major religion that argues this, I’ll let you take a guess, even though Peterson gets them wrong hint hint). “The church cares for the downtrodden as an act of doxology:thankful worship.” See, relational theology leads back to conservative political notions of charity.  When you take away notions of duty (Christ’s commands, as well as all of the oh say relevant Hebrew Bible passages about justice), relational theology then become nothing more than a deity with a nicer image, smiling with the heart of Wal-Mart.

Relationality when separated from suffering, makes conversations about solidarity impossible.  The poor just remain charity cases to remain dependent upon the good graces of “THE CHURCH.”


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On Zizek, Theology, Women, and Anti-Judaism

Slavoj Zizek in Athens, 4 October 2007

The Power of the Woman and the truth about Blindspots in A Marxist Continental Philosopher

“As the religion of genealogy, of the succession of generations, Judaism is the patriarchal religion par excellence.”-Slajov Zizek

First, I must give Zizek credit for trying to make in-roads in his latest post at ABC Religion And Ethics [linked here] to portray the religion of Islam more historically accurate. Even though his reading of Islamic states and their politics could face the critique of those familiar with Edward Said’s ORIENTALISM, “Here we can see how the best and the worst are combined in Islam. It is precisely because Islam lacks an inherent principle of institutionalization that it has proven so vulnerable to being co-opted by state power,” as if the Occident did not have states co-opting religion themselves (I am sure Zizek knows a little European church history). For the moment, I’ll lay aside my resistance to Zizek labeling Christianity as “a religion of the book” rather than a “religion of the Word” (huge difference in my opinion).

Instead, I want to carry this conversation into the realms of Christology and Judaism, which are inextricably linked forever and always. Zizek, in this blog post, as he does in his books and articles, argues that

“In Christianity, when the Son dies on the cross, the Father also dies (as Hegel maintained) – which is to say, the patriarchal order as such dies. Hence, the advent of the Holy Spirit introduces a post-paternal/familial community.”

Frederiek DePoorte in, “The End of God’s Transcendence: On Incarnation in the work of Slajov Zizek,” notes that in Scripture, God is personal, and by transcendent, it means that God is “Other than nature.” God is the Holy One Being who becomes Nothing in Zizek’s view. Zizek understands the Jewish God to be far too personal, far too involved in the matters of existence with Ya’s jealous rage at disobedience. (from ON BELIEF, cited by DePoorte). YHWH is a God of excess, “According to Žižek’s logic, one can thus conclude that, while Judaism is the religion of desire, Christianity is the religion of love.”

I find this trend highly problematic; Judaism represents everything that Christianity is not, Jesus is viewed as a political liberator outside of his 2nd Temple Jewish historical context. Zizek (who’s an atheist) reminds me of the fellow Christian I stayed up until 3am Central Standard time on Twitter arguing with. The Jews represent the Legalistic oppressors, while Jesus is freedom from patriarchy and a life guided by rules.

Amy Jill-Levine, in THE MISUNDERSTOOD JEW: THE CHURCH AND THE SCANDAL OF THE JEWISH JESUS, notes that Christian’s anti-Judaism has popularized the notion of a monolithic Judaism (yeah, ever read arguments against the New Perspective on Paul? I rest my case), one that oppressed the poor and women; that’s because it’s easier to preach Jesus stood up to the Jews rather than “a few Pharisees from Jerusalem” (pages 124-125). Levine is concerned (and I share this with her) that historical facts and context have become irrelevant in the name of identity politics and reader-response interpretations of Jewish sacred texts. Even if we ignore Zizek’s claims about Judaism, and just go with his claims about Jesus, where Jesus is stripped any notion of transcendence and the miraculous, Levine, who is Jewish, says that scholars and Christian skeptics still have run into a problem of making a distinction between Jesus and say, Hillel (120).

This is why I believe theologically that the Resurrection is just as equally important as the Incarnation, Ministry, and Death; we have Jesus who is introduced by angels who appear to two Jewish women, who in turn announce the Gospel (God’s Victory Speech) to the male disciples. YHWH choses these Mary’s to be the first two apostles. Zizek’s reading of Islam can be helpful here, for now Jews, Christians and Muslims have common ground by which to have dialogue; in Judaism and Christianity, God directly reveals Godself to women to instruct me on how to live their lives, while in Islam, it is indirectly by an angel.

“This should be emphasised: a woman possesses a knowledge about the Truth which precedes even the Prophet’s knowledge”-Zizek on Islam

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Grimm: Danse Macabre

The fairytale that inspired tonight’s episode of Grimm was “The Jew in the Brambles.” The Brothers Grimm, like many of the intellectuals in their time, had a problem with the people we call the Jews. That problem’s name is ANTI-SEMITISM. When I saw the preview and the title for tonight’s show two weeks ago, I immediately knew the story reference. “The Jew in the Brambles” is racist propaganda, a form of literary bullying if you will. There is a fool who is at the service of a rich man. Instead of getting paid his wages, the rich man gives him nothing but 3 pennies. The fool gives his last 3 pennies to a gnome who grants him three wishes. One of his 3 wishes is for every time he asks a favor, someone will do what the servant wants; another one of the wishes was for a fiddle. Well, the servant runs into a Jew, who the servant (like a good Aryan Third Reicher would) accuses the Jew of stealing money from others. So, playing the fiddle, the servant coerces the Jew into dancing in a bush filled with thorns. At the end of the story, after the Jew has alerted the proper authorities of the servant’s actions, the servant plays the fiddle, and forces the Jew to confess to a crime he did not commit. Like a certain Jewish savior for Christians, an innocent Jew was executed. The message of the story: There’s economic injustice in the world, so much so that foolish men-servants prosper, and the only thing to do about it is to find a scape-goat. That’s where the Jew comes in. On a religious symbolic, nay, theological level, “The Jew in the Brambles” represents a perverted religion, a complete inversion of the Cross–the Jew Christ Jesus wore a crown of thorns on his head and was crucified, hung high because he promoted spiritual and economic shalom. It is racist cultural narratives such as these that makes the notion of a transcendent God necessary, to combat radical evil in the world (by transcendent, I mean a divine Spirit who goes “to battle in front of humanity,” to show us the way to holiness).

Now to the televised rendition of this racist folk tale, Grimm’s Danse Macabre At the beginning of the episode, a mangled man’s body, Paul Lawson, was found in a car, apparently eaten alive by rats. Roddy Geiger becomes a person of interest, since his dad owns a pest control company. When our heroes Grimm and his partner Hank inquire about Roddy, he is playing a violin, “captivating” a group of rodents. Roddy’s dad complains, “I am tired of them treating us like garbage.” Roddy becomes frightened of Nick, afraid as a Grimm, he will kill the Geiger men right there at the trailer park.

Economic inequality and bullying loomed large in this episode. Captain Renard says that the department’s chief concern is about how a popular teacher at a private school for rich kids was murdered (and not any concern fro the victim as such). The obvious classwarfare between the rich (Carter Brimley and his family) versus the poor (The Geigers). “You’re gonna pay” Roddy promises Carter. “Some of us can afford to,”Carter replies. Sarah’s mother (Sarah we discover is Roddy’s and Carter’s love interest) tells Hank and Nick, “This boy does not belong at our school.” Hank (the Token Black) finishes the sentence for her, “or in your neighborhood.”

Nick convinces Eddie, the Big Bad Wolf (who just happens to play the cello as well), to talk to the Reinegen (rat humanoid monster) Roddy, and Monroe asks (in typical comic yet prejudiced fashion), “He’s not a rapper, is he? Nothing against rappers, but where is the melody?” Grimm tonight was a fantastic fantasy telling of the inner turmoil that the marginalized suffer. Carter Brimley the bully, and his friends are shocked to discover that their favorite local DJ, DJ Retchit Kat, was actually Roddy himself. DJ Retchit Kat (“a rapper”) represents the poor struggling to become included into society by the rich. [edit] The fiddle playing-cat comes from the story, The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat (another fairytale about class differences). [end edit-12/9/12] This alter ego is what W.E.B. DuBois called, a “double conciousness” or two souls warring against the other, one vying for acceptance and an integrated society, while the other struggling to affirm the self as is (much like the Jew exiled in 19th century German or the American Negro during the days of segregation).

Another interesting part of the story, as part of the story-arc over all, is the fear that creatures have around Nick. A plumber who happens to be a creature turns around, takes one look at Grimm, and runs out of the house without completing his task (fixing the refrigerator). It was the same kind of terror that Roddy had in his initial encounter with Nick. I suspect there is a trend here, that the Grimms are not just criminal profilers historically, but also terrorizing bullies as well. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek critique of the current power of militarized police forces in the USA these days?

For further commentary on “The Jew in the Brambles,” as well as “The Poor Miller’s Boy,” see the text, The Annotated Brothers Grimm.

Also see this link for an abridged German version of  Christ Crucified “The Jew in the Brambles”: A Jew in the Brambles

Link to the Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat: Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat

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