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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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