On the Christian Question (of sorts)
by Jonas Weaver
The Christian Church, whether one likes it or not, acknowledges it or not, is sitting in the middle of a cultural shift. A cultural shift spurred by new issues. Or, I guess, “new” means these issues are now more public than before. Between gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner, Christians have a lot more opinions than are fit to print. Besides the fact that the LGBTQ movement has been co-opted by the white, rich, elite and is no longer really a “little guy” movement (at least as concerns gay marriage) and ignoring the fact that somehow it takes a a rich, white woman to get people talking about trans issues, despite both of these things I think we’re asking the entirely wrong questions. And in this regard, Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option at least makes sense. That said, I still think there’s a better question for the American Church.
In The Gift of Death Derrida discusses the notion of the secret and how Christianity incorporates and represses what came before it. The point is that Christianity can account for everything and anything. As a friend pointed out, Christianity repressed Marcionism all the while embracing and incorporating it. The same goes for Platonism. The problem isn’t that folks like Matt Walsh are assholes who aren’t “Christian enough” (which means, I guess, not loving enough). The problem is that we haven’t dealt with Christianity on its own grounds. We haven’t really asked, or thought, if Christianity can work from within the differences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. We haven’t really begun to think about the white supremacy that fills Christianity full. This is part of the reason folks like Gil Anidjar have been writing (and asking) about the Christian question. We have a lot of answers about the Muslim question, the secular question, but not a ton about the Christian question.
The issue isn’t really about Caitlyn Jenner or gay couples or explicit racism. Rather, the issue is dealing with the ground upon which and from which Christianity arises, how it incorporates Lockean essentialism and white supremacy. But it doesn’t just incorporate. That’s the beautiful thing: Christians can say that trans murder and assault is wrong and evil but also manage to say that trans identity is invalid. Christians can condemn racism but never have to face the incorporated white supremacy of their doctrine.
In many ways Christianity is the most beautiful sleight of hand. And maybe Christians ought to start thinking the unthought, thinking what they’ve repressed rather than lashing out. Christians are good at criticism but awful at self-reflection. This isn’t to become better at being Christian but to actually start dealing with Christianity on its own terms. In this sense I don’t think we can ever have an honest conversation about racism or LGBTQ issues. Mostly since trying to have those conversations seems to boil down to surface tensions.
Maybe Dreher is right, maybe we need the Benedict Option. But maybe we need it so we can actually begin to think the unthought within our own belief system. But, I doubt that that’s Dreher’s goal.