Žižek and Gunjević on “God in Pain”

I’ve just finished reading God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse by Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjević (see previous post).

It’s a very stimulating book, as evidenced by the fact that (despite it often being quite dense and difficult) I’ve got through it in rather less than a week. It’s also rather unusual: the format is one of alternating essays by Žižek and Gunjević, without any direct interaction between the two writers’ contributions. In addition, neither writer is a particularly “systematic” thinker, so that each shows great diversity in subject matter and in the scope of their arguments. The result is that reading the book is rather like walking through a succession of seminar rooms in which in-depth discussions are taking place that one enters and leaves part way through – but in a good way, if you see what I mean.

(Name-dropping aside: I’m probably biased by the fact that Boris Gunjević is a good friend of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, whom I’ve met and talked to at reasonable length on one occasion, and whom my pastor (among others) regards very highly indeed. I’ve also met Slavoj Žižek more briefly, in the sense that he signed my copy of The Monstrosity of Christ which I bought after hearing him speak last year. “Oh, I like this one!” he said. I’ve, er, not quite finished it yet…)

You can probably decide whether you’ll enjoy this book or not just from looking through the list of chapter titles (which I’ve rearranged by author):

Žižek:

  • Introduction: For a Theologico-Political Suspension of the Ethical. (quote 1, quote 2)
  • Christianity Against the Sacred. (quote)
  • A Glance into the Archives of Islam.
  • Only a Suffering God Can Save Us. (quote 1, quote 2)
  • The Animal Gaze of the Other. (quote 1, quote 2, quote 3)

Gunjević:

  • Introduction: The Mystagogy of Revelation.
  • Babylonian Virtues – Minority Report. (quote 1, quote 2)
  • Every Book is Like a Fortress – Flesh Became Word.
  • The Thrilling Romance of Radical Orthodoxy – Spiritual Exercises.
  • Pray and Watch – The Messianic Subversion.

If those chapter titles make you think “ooh, sounds interesting!” then the book won’t disappoint you.

Finally, the contrasting number of links I’ve given to quotations from the book by each writer suggest that Žižek is the more immediately quotable of the two. However, I suspect it is Gunjević’s to which I will return to think through in more detail – especially his essays on “Babylonian Virtues” (looking at St Augustine’s City of God), Radical Orthodoxy and (above all) the final chapter, which argues that St Mark’s Gospel sets out to subvert and deconstruct prevailing notions of “Messiahship”, specifically in the context of the tragicomic jostling of rival Messianic claimants during the doomed Jewish rebellion against Rome in AD 66 to 70. I gather that Boris regards that final chapter as the true heart of the book: he may well be right.

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