Ungrounding Ourselves into the Christ-Ethic

Ungrounding Ourselves into the Christ-Ethic August 29, 2010

olas peligrosas - dangerous waves

For Lacan, public law such as “No Photos” or “Do not go on the grass” implicitly attracts the subject of that law to commit the very thing it prohibits (exactly in the way that if we tell the child not to eat the freshly baked cakes, we are simultaneously pointing out the method with which the child can ignore our demands). The point at which the attempts of prohibition by public law fail, like here, is precisely where superego emerges. And for Lacan, as it is for Žižek, the superego is not the moral conscience (as it would be for Freud) but rather the stigmatisation of our ethical betrayal, or in other words the invitation to transgress the law whether we like it or not, what is known as the superego injunction to enjoy! This adds something rather provocative to the pushing of boundaries.

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Paul of Tarsus

We tend to think ideas or truths are born out of tradition or something that has been established. In the narrratives where boats are involved in the New Testament, it does seem the idea that is being perpetuated is one where truths organically arrive out of what is ungrounded. Or said another way, out of the absurd comes the matieralistic. We use terminology like ‘we’ve been doing this for centuries’ or ‘we do this because others have done this’, and although they sound very poetic, these phrases induce a ritualistically bound coma where we live as zombies on the outside and ideologically are dying on the inside. Out of the darkness comes light. We must enter the darkness to experience the light. There is a 2nd century Rabbinic view that darkness is a good thing. That when God created the heavens and the earth and formed light, that the light isn’t what brought distinction, but it was the darkness that gives the light its purpose.

We must enter the darkness to experience the light.

The boat is an ungrounded object. The waves beneath it are not concrete, far from it. Peter was invited to step out of a boat, in that moment he walked out of something that itself was ungrounded into something itself that is inherently ungrounded (the waves). He found that he was able to believe in the midst of his ungrounding. He had to move away from the very thing he was sure of to find that Christ was present in the middle of his ungrounding. It when we move away from the solid things we have traditionally either been taught to or come to believe that we find that we truly have faith in ourselves and in the Christ ethic. It is in the pushing away of those things do we truly find ourselves.

I think Paul, the early church author, asks us to do the same in terms of understanding and relating to each other. That we can enter into a perpetual ungroundedness. Paul begins this ungroundedness in discussion of something that we tend to as westerners assume is the object of our groundedness. Paul refers to it as the Law.

In the verse above, Paul speaks of equality as if it supercedes the Law. We come to a place where we realize within the Law that the Apostle Paul speaks of is a perversion of transgression. That in the law there is an inherent expectation of breaking it. A good example is when we are casually walking across a patch of green grass and notice the sign that prohibits us from being present in the area. The ‘do not walk on the grass’ is a perversion in that it expects us to follow it yet realizing that the opposite itself is also true. That we might not follow it. It prohibits desire and defines desire as something to be transgressed. This is what I think was going in in the theology of St. Augustine who is repeatedly pointed to as the main ideological influencer of ‘Original Sin’; the idea that all of humanity is born with a permanent scar. St. Augustine seemed to call this permanent scar desire in era where the politicized Church got to define what was desirable and what wasn’t.

The Law represents that thing that is outside of us, for all-intense purposes it is the Objective. Paul redefines the Jewish law and opens it up to include the Greeks, the (majority) population of the known world. Paul introduces the idea of plurality and universalism by treating the law as something that is to be challenged. Which is in itself a challenge, because Paul himself was a Jew. Paul was re-envisioning the landscape of what it meant to be a Christian. By spending a lot of time on the Law, Paul was essentially distancing himself from what the Law represented. Its much like the person who overstates their case or exaggerates their position for the sake of direct irony.

The negation of something is found not in the public negation of it, but in the public acceptance of it. In fact, Paul’s re-envisioning of the Law from the ethnic to the personal took something objective and made it subjective. He seems to publicly accept the Law by speaking it, but he then changes the Laws focus on to the Christ ethic, the way we treat each other – Love.

Love is the



The Christ-Ethic is the new way we see each other.

He took something initially meant for the small and made it big. He replace the Law with an Ethic. But this ethic is experience subjectively rather than objectively. If anything, in this regard was more a subjectivist act than not. (The danger is to hear this and assume that that is a bad thing). I see the letter of Paul not necessarily as a collection of modern-day handbooks with which to measure ourselves against, but rather as letters between himself and his communities. Almost like two-way journals into their ‘personal’ journeys toward understanding God.

In fact, in Pauls’ statement there is an anticipation toward a neutered identity. That there is a reality where all of our identities are suspended in the Christ ethic. That when we treat one another as Christ teaches us, there is something that occurs within the human condition – we stop seeing each other as labels. When we love there is no Methodist, no Baptist, no Mormon, no Buddhist, no Muslim and no Christian – because in this instance there is only what Christ represents.

It doesn’t mean we lose our distinctiveness, it means we lose the spirit of competitive aggression.

It means we die to ourselves.

Paul believes this reality can exist. I think it partially lies in what he says after the ethnic designation, that there is neither bound nor free. In our society there is a ritualistic addiction in having and not having. The have’s tend to compare themselves to the have not’s. Those who are ‘bound’ to the things they have seek justification in their violent comparison against those who lack. Paul says in this new landscape of hopeful equality, there are no have’s and have not’s.

That we all exist as equals.

That one religion isn’t better than another, nor is one house better than another, or one bank account is bigger than another, nor is one country better than another, that all exist as equals in this cosmic Christ. Paul is perverting the Law to the point that is beyond something that we could ever be bound to, in fact, in his talk of the law he continously turns the conversation back on to Christ. Essentially, make Christ the ‘new law’ or the new objective. And in Christ we are all one. We are all beyond the law, we are neutered yet defined in this Christ ethic, in the way we treat one another. When we treat one another in this new Christ Way we are perpetuating the dream of God.

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