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Thursday, 17 July 2008

Deconstructing pretensions of power

John D Caputo has offered a deconstructionist reading of Jesus, a reading against the powers that be in What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Post-modernism for the Church (Baker Academic, 2007).

Some passages are powerful, imaginatively challenging and shook loose the comforting familiar ways of reading the New Testament. At a couple of points he stumbles, particularly where he fails to recognise that John Howard Yoder is an ally of his project. A shadow of Christendom remains lurking as an unacknowledged ghost at a couple of points. Never mind - at its best Caputo is disturbing and subversive, not least of the church when it moves to comfortable conformity with the powers that be and moves away from the impossibility of the gift.

Caputo acknowledges that there is no straight line from the theo-poetics of the kingdom into public policy. That does not mean he argues that there is no connection at all. The way is by a transformation of heart and imagination as much as by analysis it seems to me.

What would a political order look like were the poetics of the kingdom able to be transformed into political structure? What would it be like if there really were a politics of the bodies of flesh that proliferate in the New Testament, a politics of mercy and compassion, of lifting up the weakest and defenseless people at home, a politics of welcoming the stranger and loving one's enemies abroad?


A politics of the kingdom would be marked by madness of forgiveness, generosity and hospitality. The dangerous memory of the crucified body of Jesus poses a threat to a world organised around the disasterous concept of power ... The crucified body of Jesus proposes not that we keep theology out of politics but that we think theology otherwise, by way of another paradigm, another theology, requiring us to think of God otherwise, as a power of powerlessness, as opposed to the theology of omnipotence that underlies sovereignty. (p.87-88)

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