As you may have heard, because I am lukewarm, Milbank spits me out of his mouth. My “posturing,” my “pusillanimous theology” — all this is “bad faith.” As we know from that great church theologian Jean-Paul Sartre, bad faith is a serious problem, an obstacle to authentic human existence in the world. And so I should choose between the only two genuine options, being a complete hack for the (non-institutional) church or else going whole hog and being “an atheist and nihilist.” Fundamentally, my “posturing” seems to amount to my apparent belief that I can have it both ways, that I can get away with “repeat[ing] secular nostrums in a pious guise,” behavior that reveals me to be a “second-rater.”
All this is presumably motivated by my claim that theology might have something to learn from Zizek! A claim that he endorses, though of course filling it in with his own content. At this point, the exchange likely becomes incomprehensible to someone who has read only my (modest, expositional) book on Zizek, given that my description of Radox there is studiously neutral and I indeed recruit Milbank to support my claim that Zizek is engaged in a “Hegelian death of God theology” — something that the combination of The Monstrosity of Christ and Zizek’s panel with Altizer both reveal as unequivocally factual.
As has happened before, I am being blamed for describing Zizek’s views, scapegoated for pointing out what Zizek undeniably says himself. But of course there is also more to it than that: surely there is at work here a certain resentment of my conference paper that became an article in Political Theology “‘That They Might Have Ontology’: Radical Orthodoxy and the ‘New Debate’,” an article that includes jokes and whose conference version was accordingly panned as utterly non-substantive by the local representatives of Radox. (Undoubtedly the title of the current post condemns it to a similar fate.)
In a classic line, I aver that the Radox might paraphrase Christ as saying, “I have come that they might have ontology, and have it more robustly” — a line that was well-received by many who were doubtless unconsciously hungry to see Radox, not critiqued, but skewered. For as we all know, critiquing Radox is actually impossible. For instance, how exactly can I respond to Milbank’s fervent yet vague criticism? Do I point out that there’s no coherent sense in which I am a 1960s-style “death of God” theologian, that indeed I don’t know what that would even mean? Do I point out that even if the “invisible church” is not an institution, the “visible church” undoubtedly is? Do I point out the utter insanity of his definition of the church as the ingestion of Christ? How does one “critique” a theology that long ago degenerated into a set of stereotyped gestures, a theology that doesn’t even know how to respond to anyone outside? Am I repeating “secular nostrums” here when I imply that being able to talk to each other is good?
No response from Milbank is even remotely conceivable — he only knows how to point out figures he likes (often advancing an idiosyncratic reading with no actual textual support or argument) or point out things he likes in figures he finally doesn’t or can’t like. From all this engagement with Zizek, for instance, apparently the only usable material is that he reaffirms that Christianity and the Western tradition are good — a valuable reminder, to be sure, but something that Milbank obviously knew already.
For me, there can be nothing but dismissal, because I am nothing but bad, a belief that, it seems likely to me, results not from assessing my positions but from being really fucking pissed that I mocked his movement. For making jokes, my fate, as a young peon barely scraping by in academia, is to be publicly derided by a world-famous theologian — the behavior of someone who can only be described as a first-rate bully. Anyone who can’t laugh along when such a person is mocked is surely guilty of missing the joke of Christianity.