Longtime reader Joel emailed me. He asked,
I’m so incredibly tired of intellectual hipster Christians discussing obscure theological thinkers like Žižek I could scream. Can you please explain to me, in terms that a regular person can understand, how these arguments have any influence on everyday life?
Joel, tell us how you really feel. But it’s a fair question, I think, even if it has an edge to it. So I put it out to a couple of my friends who are Žižek experts, and David Fitch sent this back. Thanks, David. Here’s his post:
Studying Žižek is not for everybody. In fact Žižek is so difficult, few academics are willing to commit the time to understand him. But I still think reading Žižek is incredibly fruitful for Christians who are seeking to be a faithful political witness in the world for the Kingdom of God in Christ.
For me, Žižek provides the means to do therapy on ourselves in order to understand the perverted dynamics that drive so much of our political life together, whether it be our life in American capitalism, or our life in the local church, or the various versions of culture wars Christians strangely find themselves caught up in whether they like it or not. Žižek helps us unravel our political allegiances and what’s behind them and then work for truth and clarity in the way we seek to live life together. This can help Christians (because Christianity for me is a political allegiance). Yes, Žižek helps Christians reveal the antagonism/false enjoyments/perverted drives that lie at the core of our lives. He also gives helpful strategies on how to subvert the false politics that come from these places. I like these tactics because I see them (and I admit this is in the way I use Žižek) as a way of getting beyond the violence, which is important to me.
So, yes Zizek going to be a difficult read. But he’s worth it. He’ll help pastors deal with tons of crap. But he’s not for everybody. I suggest sticking to his compelling political/cultural work. I think Žižek’s theological ouvre takes too much work with very little pay off for the day to day Christian leader (Pete Rollins would disagree). But I admit to learning from Žižek’s theology, particularly his debates with Badiou (here) and John Milbank and Creston Davis (here and here). To me however this is not worth wading through. On the other hand his work with political /cultural theory, economic systems is golden. I’d start with this simple little book here. Or just read me on this here.
Another friend of mine, Drew Sumrall, also responded on his blog:
Of course Žižek is ‘really’ an atheist. Card-carrying. He doesn’t ‘believe’ (in the sense the gentleman does) because God himself doesn’t ‘believe’.God dies when he dies this second time.So the question is not: ‘did God ‘really’ die on Calvary’?—No, ‘he’ was always-already dead.The point is: Christianity is the site where God proclaims his own non-existence.