Liturgy, Politics, and Theology
Liturgy is considered to be foundational for Christian theology. As James K. A. Smith contends in his new book Imagining the Kingdom (2013), liturgies transform us through counter practices in contradiction with the current individualistic, consumeristic, and materialistic discourses and practices that de-form us. However, the contemporary political thinkers are very much skeptic about the treatment of bodies in this Christian liturgical anthropology that render bodies as either inherently sinful or mute which can be ‘trans’-formed from outside. Political thinkers like Achille Mbembe argue for the transcendentability within the materiality of human bodies. Do we need a new Christian liturgical anthropology that attends the politicality and the poeticality of human bodies and social bodies and re-invents a postcolonial theology of de-transcendentalized God? At the same time we have to answer the question, what does political theory have to do with liturgy and theology?
It was Giorgio Agamben the well-known Italian political thinker who exposed the ‘mysterious’ (in Latin sacramentum) relationship between liturgy, politics, and theology through his well-read books The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (2007) and Opus Dei: An Archaeology of Duty (2013) and argues that Christian theology legitimizes the notion of sovereign power and its governmentality through its liturgical practices and ceremonialities. According to Agamben, in liturgy, the ontology and the praxis of God, the mysterious relationship between God and the world, Christ the high priest and priest the (ad)minister, and the celebrant and the recipient are endlessly distinguished and superimposed.
This paper intends to offer a critical engagement with the Agamben’s liturgical/ (post-biopolitical) political thought in order to construct a radical political theology which affirms the political becoming of human bodies and the theological destabilization of a 'transcendent Other' God.
Y. T. Vinayaraj
Currents in Theology and Mission, forthcoming issue