SLAVOJ ZIZEK, God Without the Sacred: The Book of Job, The First Critique of Ideology

Posted by @ 5:52 pm on January 2nd, 2011

The latest installment in the New York Public Library’s Three Faiths Exhibition (some of which is available online here) is a 106 minute lecture by Slavoj Zizek which is among the most plainspoken and accessible Slavoj Zizek lectures I’ve ever heard (click here for the lecture).

The St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in New York maintains (or at least used to maintain) the custom of inviting a stranger, often a non-Christian one, to deliver a sermon once each year. (The most famous of these sermons became the centerpiece of Kurt Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday.) It’s a tremendously broadminded idea — if we (whichever idea of “we” with which we’ve identified) are only listening to ourselves and not allowing any outside voices to speak unfiltered from our seat of authority, maybe we’ll miss the opportunity for a course correction as a community.

An early provocation in Zizek’s address is the intentional oversimplification that without religion, good people would do good things and bad people would do bad things, but only under the sanction of religion will good people do bad things. He complicates from there, but while I was listening, I was thinking about the oppositional power that provocation might offer within my own community of origin, which is evangelical Christianity, which, as a movement, did as much as any group to empower the rise of the Bush Administration and the horrors that accompanied that rise. I was trying to imagine one of the churches in which I was nurtured inviting Zizek to bring a message from the Book of Job in which he pursues the logical ends of the things that are said and done and believed in the name of God. I think that some people would be angry and some people would listen and become troubled. It is good to listen and become troubled.