Letters: A Reply to John

To John,

I will probably just attempt to feel my way around in your thought as best as possibly and not so much respond critically but engage productively (which sounds goddamn trite).

You asked how I could consider myself Christian still. I still ask myself that. Of course, on one hand, the easiest answer is we’re all Christian inasmuch as we’re Western. And, while I think that to be at least generally true, I think it’s an exercise in avoiding the question. The question is still: how can I continue to be a Christian with the body I inhabit? Our bodies are ours and not ours. And I guess by that I mean a body which I had little say over is one I came to inhabit (not that I am anything other than that body). Lacking a “say over” my body has been the tension I’ve existed in. My body is read as male and relatively masculine at that and, similarly though not analogous to your experience with anti-blackness, I cannot escape the trans-antagnostic structure that frame my body while giving it a context under which to make it make sense. So how can I believe in God? How can I identify with Christianity? The answer is to some extent still to be determined.

But I wanted to touch on your tautology. I think your tautology traces a methodological commonness between us, or at least a shared assumption. It assumes that everything, at its core, is theological. And I think I would articulate it differently: namely that theology isn’t so much the study of statements about God (religious confessions) nor is it simply about religious practice but a study of explicit names of God. If your conclusion (via Feuerbach) holds, that theology is anthropology, I think it’s also to some extent fair that theology is genealogy.

Which fits nicely with conceptions of God’s death. God has died yet we require new names for God and I think you touch on this in stating that “God is a socio-instituted concept… God is real, but God did not have to be and does not have to be.” And I think that’s pretty apt. Though, I guess, for me, and here I might have a disagreement. I agree that God did not need to be but I do think the term God has a distinct referent. What that referent is I’m not sure. But if we need to name God and naming God isn’t some reductively Christian argument that “Money is God” I would contend that we are naming an actual Object/Subject. I think this to be true because I think naming God, theology, fundamentally originates in an encounter with something/one (whatever that might be). Along the lines of Julien Baker: “But I think there’s a God and he hears either way/and I rejoice/and complain.”

I like your “Matrix of Man” which seems to be the antonym (or at least a contextualizing partner) of intersectionality. And I say that since I don’t think one can identify as intersectional, or rather, make it an identity claim. Since intersectionality is a method of analysis, a tool to confront crossing forms of material oppression, I wonder if the “Matrix of Man” is a correction or at least a less positive encounter with material. And this is hard to work out in my brain so let me try to put it into this form:

1) Intersectionality is a tool to analyze the criss-crossing points of material oppressions. As such it’s useful to an extent but it has a strange rigidity. It can encounter and define and excavate but I’ve always felt that it was still a bit too rigid to encounter material harms;
2) In complement or antithesis to intersectionality the “Matrix of Man” seems more fluid, more topological and less geographical. Less oriented at a crossing but existing on a plane, a plane that enfolds us.

Are intersectionality and “Matrix of Man” absolutely opposed? No, I doubt it. They are antonyms but complement one another. Maybe intersectional is particular and “Matrix of Man” is more generalized, less centered on a foci or point but on self-justifying institutions that perpetuate themselves.

I find your last few sentences kind of intriguing since it seems to be a weird resignation. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s denying an outside, that we’re always inside this bullshit. And being inside means a refusal, what Beauvoir calls an “explosion in the heart of the world.”

So, why am I still a Christian? I’m not sure if I am or not (depends on how you define that term). I know there’s a God, am inclined to accept that the basic claims of Christianity are probably true-without-being-True, and I want to follow Jesus but following Jesus too often means following a white, cisgender, heterosexual norms (the whole “not called to heterosexuality but to holiness” stuff). And being within a Christian world (your Matrix is explicitly and distinctly Christian for us in the West I think) means to some extent learning to find ways of saying no to that World such that I could exist without it.

Your friend,

Jonas

 

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First post in this series of letters: On God and Theology