Sunday, February 6, 2011

Theology in a Post-Theological Moment

"What is the fate of theology in a post-theological moment?"* asked Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, a professor of Religious Studies and African American Studies at Brown University.

"A post-theological moment?" One might ask when, and perhaps why?

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are talking openly about God. The TV evangelists have not shut up. Even atheists, such as Christopher Hutchins and company, are busy talking about God --though negatively.

Is it way too early to speak of a post-theological moment?

Walker, of course, does not mean that there is no theology done. He is saying that the way we used to do theology needs to change, and change fast and radically.

So what are the problems as Walker sees them?

First, there have been much intellectual stimulation and discussions on the theological and the political that the traditional boundaries of the theological can no longer contain the depth and breadth of the discourse.

Second, there is the crisis of thought, in that the ways we understand theology cannot be contained within the traditional theological proper.

Walker's arguments touch on the more fundamental questions of "What is theology?" and "Who is defining it?"

When Asians and/or feminists do theology, our works have been seen as "less than," or "not quite" theology. The implicit norm is still white male theology.

But Walker's "post-theological moment" connotes an ethical inquiry: Why is theology seemingly impotent to address the present? He is particularly interested in the conjuncture between the theological and the political.

As Mark Lewis Taylor comments in his recent book The Theological and the Political:

"This moment has often been discussed at the resurgence of a particular kind of "theologico-political," viewing Theology, with its diverse beliefs and practices of its faith as rife with political meanings and consequences for wide sectors of secular and public life, even for purportedly nontheological and nonreligious sectors."

Taylor has written a very important book and the subtitle of it is "On the Weight of the World."

The author of The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America, Taylor has been involved in prison reform for decades. In this new work, he presents an analysis of the politicality of theology, which persists as "the theological."

The book is divided into five chapters. It engages critical political theorists as well as the art of Richard Wright, Guantanamo's detainees, and other torture survivors.

It also develops Jean-Luc Nancy's concept of "transimmanence" to gesture beyond transcendence and immanence, and to open spaces for a "creative world-projecting and world-making power."

For this, theology must open itself to artful imaging: whether in music, painting, poetry, sculpture, and cyberart.

The book may be difficult for those unfamiliar with Nancy, Bourdieu, Agamben, Butler, and JanMohamed. But it will be very rewarding for all those searching for new ways to re-energize the theological discourse and to speak to the "post-theological moment."

My mind has been stretched. But more importantly, I was deeply moved by Taylor's concerns for the tortured, the colonized, and the war victims, who have too often been left out in our imaging of God.

*Corey D. B. Walker," Theology and Democratic Futures," Political Theology, 10, no. 1 (April 2009): 200.