30 August 2006

Jesus is With You

A friend of mine sent me a link to these drawings of Jesus in ordinary life situations today. So I have to ask, are these a joke or did the artist genuinely intend them as devotional art? I recall years ago, as an annoying young man interested in disproving the existence of God, I took enjoyment in drawing absurd and disturbing consequences from the thesis that God is omnipresent. For intance, as omnipresent it clearly follows that God is there in the toilet when I defacate, etc. Clearly it's unacceptable to shit on God, but how could this possibly be avoided if God is omnipresent? And if God is not omnipresent, well that means he's finite and if he's finite then he's not God. Okay, sure, this kind of humor is crass and adolescent, but, well, I was an adolescent and this is how you console yourself when you're brought up in a city filled with self-righteous zealots doing their best to transform the educational system and city laws. Well it appears that this artist is striving to think precisely this.

I particularly liked the image of Jesus with the executive. Was Jesus with the executives in charge of Enron? Knowing a thing or two about religious ideology in the United States, I have little doubt that the executives of Enron themselves thought this. Of course, there's that monkey wrench surrounding all the communist teachings of Jesus and the early Christians. Perhaps Jesus whispers in their ears, diligently striving to persuade them to give up in their endless and ruthless pursuit and extraction of ever more surplus-value?

So really, are these drawings real or are they a joke? I'm particularly interested in what a Marxist analysis of contemporary religious phenomena might look like. What social forces, we might ask, have led to the resurgence of fundamentalist religious belief in the United States since the 70's? My money is on the thesis that fundamentalist religious belief has come to fill the vacuum left in the wake of the collapse of genuinely emancipatory political projects coupled with globalization, rendering all of us playthings of economic fate with little or no control of our own lives (it's not unusual, for instance, for those working in white collar jobs in the corporate sector to go through three or four job changes in the space of ten years due to layoffs and restructuring). With the collapse of emancipatory politics, we become Heideggerian: "Only a God can save us now." It's difficult not to get the impression that the omnipresent end of times fantasies present in contemporary American fundamentalist religious belief and cinema (Amageddon, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, the Terminator films, Dante's Peak, Volcano, coupled with the stunning success of Timothy LaHaye's Left Behind novels that can be found at supermarkets throughout the country, etc.) are indicative of a desire for the end or for some fundamental change... Who knows, perhaps films such as the Matrix trilogy and V for Vendetta are indicative that a new openness is beginning to be sensed and that we are collectively beginning to see the possibility of another way. In short, adopting a pseudo-Feuerbachian perspective, religious eschatology could be seen as an alienated desire pertaining to discontent with the social and a feeling of impotence with regard to our ability to change it.

3 Comments:

Blogger David said...

I hope you are right. I am sick of apocalypse porn.

August 30, 2006 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Levi,

MAN! What a coincidence! Two hours ago I was reading an extract from Ludwig Feuerbach's Das Wesen des Christentums (1841)

When your write:

In short, adopting a pseudo-Feuerbachian perspective, religious eschatology could be seen as an alienated desire pertaining to discontent with the social and a feeling of impotence with regard to our ability to change it.

- it is more like arrogance than impotence, as Feuerbach says:

Religion is the infantile being (Wesen) of man.

So, we are more into the omnipotence of adolescence than the impotence of adulthood.

The whole business of projection (a psychological concept Feuerbach knew nothing about, but eloquently described) is almost too trivial to mention now, but Feuerbach was the first to identity this infantile dimension of religion.

One reason I have always had a soft spot for him.

All the best,

Orla Schantz

August 30, 2006 4:39 PM  
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