unedited - as it is common with all my
texts - your help is welcomed
FOR CHRIST'S SAKE ! - CURSING WITH
DELEUZE, LAURENCE, AND NIETZSCHE
Let me propose to discuss a short text by Gilles Deleuze that addresses
Jesus Christ and the Apocalypse. I advocate a selective misreading, a
readings against the grain. I might say - switching to a photographic
metaphor - that my reading is grainy. It almost surpasses the resolution
of the quality of an old newspaper. I admit, none of the addressed subjects
are pleasant for me but they are unfortunately dominating our political
Reading has become very difficult for me. I simply don't dare easily to
risk that much time away with books. Reading is as painful as writing
since it often pressures me into writing. With the arrival of high-speed
Internet, I feel my mind has gone public, consumed by messages, by news,
by these wars, by the terrifying politics of this current Bush administration.
I switch nervously back and forth between the internet browser, this writing
platform and e-mails. The world on the net is now vaster than the map
that wrapped the land of Borges. Whatever comes to my mind can be instantly
corroborated and multiplied with the help of powerful search machine on
the Google empire of references. My private world more and more dissolves
in conversations catatonically scattered over e-mails I misspell throughout
the day. The concentrated containment of a book, if it not only looks
like a book but is written as one, is provocatively challenging. It suspends
me. It renders me incompatible with the rest of my activities and obligations.
I am a very slow reader if the text isn't just a text, a text, a text.
And as I practically miss out on the requested time frame of a book, I
am also unable to write or finish my own writings. Remaining remnants
of bitter-amer feelings of failure to address fully the complexity of
things linger on. I walk away and move on to the next assignments, the
next tasks, the next attempt, the next deadlines. Therefore, I know already
upfront that I will not be satisfied with and not come close to a properly
worked through essay that could represent what I would like to outline.
The text I am proposing here is written by Gilles Deleuze and is included
as part of a series of essays published as "Critique et clinique"
in 1993. The essay is called "Nietzsche and Paul, Lawrence and Johannes
of Patmos." The text is about the question - a rather insignificant
one for me - whether the Evangelical texts and the Apocalypse share the
same author. Deleuze points out that D. H. Lawrence wrote his "Apocalypse"
at the end of his life (1928 - 1930). Nietzsche too wrote his "Antichrist"
before his collapse. Deleuze's essay was written shortly before his suicide.
I don't identify with these destinies and come right to the point of interest
that hopefully could show us ways to prevent killing in the name of god,
in the name of representing justice, freedom and superiority in values
and live styles. These three writers paint two contradicting versions
of Christianity: A Christ who is "aristocratic, individual, suave,
full of love, decadent and rather civilized" versus an apocalyptic
version of Christianity that is "collective, popular, uncivilized,
full of hatred and wild." Christ is the "most loveliest person
of all decadents, a kind of Buddha who has freed us from the reign of
high priests and from the idea of failure, punishment, sin, last judgment,
death and all that follows death" (my own translation into English).
Deleuze - in the footsteps of Spinoza, Nietzsche and Laurence - follows
this "enterprise Christi" which is seen as opposed to the tyranny
of high priests and its teaching of the "judgment" with its
sadistic punishments and schemes of revenge. It is difficult not to see
parallels to what unfolds for our televised eyes with the current "Operation
Iraqi Freedom", the "War on Terror," Homeland Security
and Bushes obsession to destroy the "Axis of Evil." The prison
abuse scandals in Iraq and elsewhere, which didn't surprise me at all,
can give only a contemporary illustration of the collective sadistic imaginary
of punishments, last judgments and eternal truth monopolized, interpreted
and defended by the empire of the most powerful regime as laid out in
these texts of the Apocalypse.
The politics of Christ as a person with individual love and the political
regime of Christianity as developed in the Apocalypse with its system
of a supreme justice, morals and punishments are here made perfectly readable
and help in the analysis of contemporary power and governance. Christianity
has created a new type of hegemony, a new type of dominance, rule and
power: the system of supreme justice. Nietzsche in his "Antichrist"
describes Christianity as "a power that penetrates all pores, that
multiplies their centers and disseminate across the universe. It is a
cosmopolitan supremacy that is not open as an empire but present in all
dark niches and folds of the collective soul. Finally and most importantly,
(Christianity) wants the supreme hegemony, that isn't delegated by gods
but is the supremacy of one god in its last instance." (Nietzsche).
Power in the Apocalypse manifests as "extended politics of revenge,
as extended narcissism of a collective soul." This sentence by Deleuze
written over 10 years ago is for me just another accurate description
of current US politics with their deadly arrogance to hammer down ultimate
American justice with uranium enriched precision bombs implementing their
disastrous preemptive war doctrine.
Christ as a person lived and died for individual love and not power. Laurence
pointed out that Christ as a person rejected all pressures to rule over
his followers. He didn't organize them, he didn't spend much time with
them, he preferred to be by himself. Thus, he confused his followers,
left them by themselves, and rejected their quest for collaboration and
leadership. He wasn't opposing Roman power. Jesus even rejected his followers
when he was offered an escape. He didn't want to be their leader. He rejected
the collective soul that came to dominate Christianity later. Laurence
points out that the Christian priest will replace the Jewish priest and
both will then turn against Christ. "They will force Christ into
the worst prosthesis: he will be made hero of the collective soul - Christianity
will give him what he hated the most, a collective Ego, a collective soul
- a monstrous ego."
We all know that most of Washington's decisions are not determined by
the good of its constituency, the American people, but by the interests
of corporations. This was already best expressed by G.M. famous philosophy
uttered in the senate in 1955: "What's good for General Motors is
good for the rest of America." These business empires profiting from
our corporate welfare system make sure that we all eat and shit the same,
and in the metaphors of Laurence, Nietzsche, and Deleuze - that we all
buy into the same collective soul, nurturing the same collective ego.
"You are either with us or against us" G. W. Bush 11/6//2001.
Vice President Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, is the best personification
of corporate power in America. His former company in which he still has
high stakes is one of the biggest military contractor in the world and
belongs to the Avant-guard in the privatization of military power making
defense and security a mega-lucrative business today. The more Washington's
freedom operations (OP Enduring Freedom, OP Iraqi Freedom etc.) fail the
better the business of these contractors.
The devout and pious inner circle of this Bush administration practices
and interprets world justice at free. Doing so, they violate the US constitution
and human rights, international laws and UN resolutions. These compassionate
bible-for-breakfast reading fidels symbolize the characteristic wrath
of Christianity as laid out in the Apocalypse. The tragic events of 9/11
have been the epiphany for these born again holly warriors of Washington
to preach new crusades not only against innocent people abroad but also
against the lives and live styles of Americans in the names of Free Trade,
Freedom, Democracy, War on Terror and Homeland Security. Christianization
in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, faith based initiatives abroad and
at home and amendments to the constitution ("to protect the holly
marriage") are only a few unconcealed instruments in their religious
mission to rule and judge the world in their image of god.
Deleuze underscored that Christianity didn't collaborate with the Roman
Empire. Christianity demanded a complete different image of supremacy
and dominance. As mentioned earlier, it imposed the supreme court system.
It is a historic irony that George W. Bush was not elected president to
the United States but selected to the presidency by the Supreme Court
of the United States with judges placed by previous right wing administrations
in which his father was involved. The apostolic God-Father, Son
and Holy Spirit trinity materialized also with these Texans and
inspires us to wonder what the Holy Spirit is made of and what it conceals:
money interests, oil interests, religious interests, corporate interests,
GOP interests? But one thing is clear, the right wing agenda of George
Bush works with all means possible to change the very nature of power
in the United States and around the world. Mega-mergers, monopoly capitalism
and massive redistribution of wealth, knowledge and work on a national
and international scale will guarantee a transformation of the very nature
of the United States, its satellite states and the rest of the world.
Everybody today is made dependent on the US financial and economical system.
US military power is exercising its might around the globe that dwarfs
any previous empire. This all changes the very perception of the United
States in the global imaginary. On September 12th 2001, the entire world
was in chock, saddened and felt the loss of many lives and a big international
symbol. Sympathies for America were felt worldwide across cultures and
believe systems. America was still seen by the majority as a nation of
traders and as a victim attracting compassion and the support in helping
to fight terrorism. Today, three years and two unnecessary invasions later,
there is only one country left that really loves us. The people around
the word have now become so outraged and angry at this current administrations
arrogant and self-righteous politics that any association of the ruling
elite with Washington can overwhelmingly decide elections.
Unfortunately, this global Bush-hatred and Anti-Americanism has also pushed
anti-Semitism to a raise and is getting nastier across the entire social
and ideological spectrum. The destruction of Afghanistan, the blatant
unilateralism of Washington, the war on Iraq, the inefficiency in the
effort to really appease and resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict,
and the cynical language of Bush have weekend and made less effective
the important global fight against terror. We have to keep in mind that
with this kind of international politics made in Washington, the pool
of potential terrorists around the world has multiplied. Nearly a decade
eclipsed before a second attack on the World Trade Center has finished
their job. Destructive intelligence fueled by hatred and humiliation has
now several generations of people and time to materialize again. The industrialization
of security without changes in international politics will never succeed
in the prevention of attacks. Terrorists always will have the pick and
their terror strategies are superior to the designers of security professionals,
the CIA, the Pentagon and Homeland Security.
Our old texts are full of similar scenarios. The gigantic Roman Empire,
the Christian insurgency, the David Goliath attack, and the Nibelungen-fate
of Siegfried are clear examples how overwhelming power and arrogant politics
are not immune of tragic and unexpected defeat. As the Germanic saga goes,
Siegfried was armored and protected by a fabulous non-penetrability that
granted him near invulnerability. Yet his personal politics was then so
supercilious and myopic that he was killed against all odds. Ironically,
Hollywood produces near identical storyboards: When I watched Matrix
3 on an airplane, I couldn't help but simplistically reduce the
dynamics of this boring film to the confrontation of a small remaining
group of "good human" insurgents fighting and winning against
gigantic, overpowering "evil machines."
Deleuze and Laurence detect elements of modernity in the Apocalypse. "The
Apocalypse is not the concentration camp, (Antichrist) it is the big military,
police and civil security of the new state (the celestial Jerusalem)."
/parenthesis by Deleuze/ Modernity doesn't consist in the waiting for
the announced catastrophes but manifests itself in the "programmed
auto-glorification, the glory construction of the New Jerusalem, the mad
installment of the ultimate juridical and moral hegemony." The paragraph
continues with more references that can be easily understood as anti-Semitic:
"An architectonic terror of the new Jerusalem, with its defense walls...
" I always feel uneasy to read or hear "Israel" or "Jerusalem"
as a systems with negative connotations without giving specific actors
or specific facts. In this case here, it is quite peculiar since Deleuze
died long before Israel started to construct a new security wall that
is causing many new problems, is condemned by the International Court
in The Hague and will most likely not have the wanted effects. I reject
any anti-Semitic or Anti-American generalizations. What I find interesting
is seeing analogies to existing systems of power-politics that operate
along the here described anatomies of government. So I see parallels in
the administration of G. W. Bush with its disastrous consequences in and
outside the USA and some of these ancient narratives. It is no surprise
that this still sitting president is using on his campaign trail apocalyptic
visions and fears in order to intimidate and pressure his constituency
to vote for him.
Christ invented a religion of love. Christianity as projected in the Apocalypse
and as historical and factual entity is a region of hegemony, dominance,
and power. The "transformation of love into an enterprise of revenge,
the evangelical Christ into an apocalyptic Christ" in the author
Johannes - the question here is whether they are identical - invites Deleuze
to mediate also about love next to the complementary distinction of the
individual soul versus the collective soul. Even thought Deleuze and Laurence
organize many of their arguments about this distinction they do acknowledge
not only the dialectical relationship between the two but also criticize
the image of Christ as a person standing in for an individual soul. They
characterize his way of love as "terrible." He was giving passion
but was not taking any. He didn't want to accept any expectations of his
followers. He had something "suicidal" about himself. He didn't
accept Magdalena who wanted to give him everything. Deleuze points out
that Laurence sees in this individual rejection of emanating love, this
giving without taking, a similar aporie, a similar conflicting non-conclusion
to the one that is found in those, who take everything without giving
anything. From there, the text approaches the "Christ, the aristocrat,
artist of the individual soul, wanting to give it away" with the
Christ of the collective soul: "Paul, in order to close the link,
a kind of an aristocrat approaching the people, a kind of Lenin who wants
to provide the collective soul an organization - he will create an 'oligarchy
of martyrs' and will provide Christ with goals and the apocalypse with
means. Wasn't all this necessary in order to put in place the system of
supreme justice? Individual suicide and mass suicide combined with self-glorification
on sides. Death, death is the only single court."
It is quite amazing how this text is filled with vocabulary that sounds
familiar today. The majority of Arabic speakers sympathetic to suicide
bombers use the Arabic word martyrs. Suicide bombers are called on FOX
NEWS CHANNEL homicide bomber. Here already we can get understand how speaking
a certain language, using certain words, and the adherence to a certain
religion and culture have become politically sensitive and charged. In
todays America and in many parts of Europe speaking or learning
to speak Arabic makes you look suspicious. Oligarchs or can we
jokingly say oil-igarchs, from Saudi Arabia, via Russia to
Texas are trying to run the world anywhere on this globe. Return
to the text I end this essay with one peculiar aspect that too reverberates.
Laurence sees the very aim of the Apocalypse in the attempt to severe
us from the world and from ourselves. Self-alienation has become the norm
during the last four years in the United States. Bushs aggressive
and bellicose isolationism estranged the United States on the international
stage to a degree that vital US interests are now further threatened.
The American people are today more divided and severed from themselves
then almost never before. The GOPs right wing agenda combined with
its dramatic class warfare against the poor has divided the nation on
almost all levels. America is not anymore the same country it was four
years ago. Wes can only wish that this bible reading president will soon
come in contact with this Deleuze-text. He might have the same déjà-vu
experience I had when accidentally caming across this text. And
for the time being, we have to live the terror of this current paranoid
(homeland) security politics that already is wonderfullly layed out in
the Apocalypse. There, evens the evangelical powers of angels are transformed
into police powers and "police women." (Laurence)
Rainer Ganahl, July, August 2004
I myself am not religious at all. I am oinly interested in the history,
the psychology, the sociology and the politics of religion. The political
business with god is powerful and partially addressed in my article "Paranoia,
Homeland Security, Terrorism, God and Karl Marx" (published in
"Rainer Ganahl, Please, write down
" Paris 2003 and online
www.ganahl.info/paranoia.html) written in December of 2002.
For illustrating this paper, I'd like to suggest two films:
JESUS FACTOR by RANEY ARONSON produced for FRONTLINE, 2004 (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jesus/president/
This important documentary chronicles the development of George W. Bush
into a born-again Christian. It can be viewed on line and is accompanied
by a web site that corroborates facts and offers transcripts as well as
a synopsis of Bushs history-making religious transformation. 'I
believe that God wants me to be president.' (Bush) "This waste pool
of scary but historical material can be accessed with a click. Bush kicks
the US constitution with his feed ignoring the division between state
and Church. It is remarkable to see how Bush-son helped winning the presidency
for Bush-father thanks to his engagement with Christian conservatives.
Right now, he is trying to reengage the Christian right a third time to
assure the Bush family the presidency.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST by Mel Gibson produced by NEWMARKET FILMS, 2004
If I don't have to see it on an airplane, I will most likely not see this
film. I don't want to spend any money on a religious film that increases
profits and a new market with religious themes in Hollywood. Unfortunately,
the commercial success of this film already is changing Hollywood's traditional
hesitance for religious subjects. Since it is so widely distributed and
discussed, I suggest to watch the film with these questions addressed:
What kind of a Christ are we offered here on the screen? What is his personal
politics and what is the politics of the people around him. His he constructed
as apocalyptic or evangelical, as a person of (twisted) love or as one
dedicated to creating a Christian Empire?