I realise I leave two significant questions hanging from those raised in the earlier part of this essay. These questions are related: why there has been increasing attention to the nature of Jesus Christ's embodiment since, say, Tom Driver's short but influential article 'Jesus and Sexuality'in 1965;45 and what kinds of body is Christian theology implicated in producing today. The answers I give are more speculative because the evidence upon which I am relying is more disparate than the rich texts of the ancient or Renaissance pasts. I would suggest the attention to the nature of Jesus Christ's embodiment is part of a wider cultural obsession with the body in affluent locations around the world. This wider obsession that desires to turn the body into the most finely balanced sensorium so that it might experience its own joys and pains to the full is, I suggest, both a response to the fear of the body's disappearance and also a response to the new working conditions created by globalism46 that demands a machine's optimum efficiency. While the call goes out for new incarnationalisms (from critical theorists like Irigaray, Cixous, Kristeva and Butler), while new health and sports clubs open every week (in the UK), while cooking and the celebrity of chefs are daily taking up more media time, while high street fashions populate the pages of every glossy magazine and film stars parade their designer labels, while films like Hannibal are produced reflecting the fears for and fascinations with the consumer body and while the Human Genome Project publishes its regular breakthroughs — the deepening of cyberspace, the multiplication of mobile phones and the endless mobility of peoples make gnostics of us all. Our working is becoming more and more disembodied; and in becoming more disembodied we are each becoming more depoliticised. A profound invisibility is the cost of our society of the spectacle. And the invisibility most affects bodies: the bodies of workers in countries and continents that do not appear on maps of global operations; the bodies of the disenfranchised within our own societies; and our own bodies too. As I said, this is speculative because the evidence is disparate and the examinations of it are being conducted across many different disciplines.
But what kind of bodies is theological discourse — in its very reflections upon, interpretations of, and participations within the body of Christ — producing today? The court is out on this one for the moment. It is the kind of research into contemporary ecclesial studies that needs to be funded. What
45 Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 20 (March), pp. 235—46.
46 See Colin Crouch, Post-Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), pp. 66—7.
seems evident to me is a new malleability, ambiguity, porousness, hybridity and mixing of the organic and the mechanistic. The cyborg and the angels are figures for new bodily perfections, and we theologians are busily inventing queer Christologies that somehow offer Christian models for an incar-nationalism or emphasise an embodiment that is culturally more pervasive. Perhaps theology is doing no more than reproducing the bodies that are culturally in fashion. But if so, then theology really has lost its critical way, and needs to return to the wounded and violated body of Christ: the body as always in some sense circumcised and in need of circumcision. What knowledge issues not only from the gendered body and about the gendered body, but from the wounded body about the wounded gendered body? I believe this question to be central for Christian theology today in thinking through the relationship between Christology, ecclesiology and a culture of endless competition whose only value is success. We need to address this question because we can generate such wonderful images of communion, of the eschatological coming together, of paradise regained in the Kingdom of God, of eucharistic communion. Such images can ally themselves with the cult of the perfect body, not the wounded, circumcised, crucified body. Footage of newsreel taken during the siege of the middle school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September 2004, showed Orthodox priests out in the streets of the town speaking to the crowds of distraught people whose children, friends and partners were tortured, injured, murdered, mutilated, calling them to prayer. The Church is a wounded body for the wounded; a body racked by the burden of a hope borne in a world of violations. Among the saints some have been martyred, and the Lamb on the throne in the Kingdom of God is a lamb that was slain.47
47 See my 'Steiner and Eagleton: The Practice of Hope and the Idea of the Tragic' in Literature and Theology, 19 (2) June (2005), pp. 100-11.
THE LIVING CHRIST: ECONOMIES OF REDEMPTION
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