The Search for a New Church and Slavoj Zizek

Zizek writes:

“The will to revolutionary change emerges as an urge, as an "I cannot do it otherwise," or it is worthless. With regard to Bernard Williams's distinction between Ought and Must, an authentic revolution is by definition performed as a Must - it is not something we "ought to do" as an ideal we are striving for, but something we cannot but to, since we cannot do it otherwise. Which is why today's worry of the Leftists that revolution will not occur, that global capitalism will just go on indefinitely, is false insofar as it turns revolution into a moral obligation, into something we ought to do while we fight the inertia of the capitalist present.”

We might translate Zizek’s insight here into “calling” and “necessity.”  In terms of searching for a new way to be and do church in our culture, such a venture must spring from a compelling sense of call - one simply cannot not be passionately engaged (Zizek’s “must”) in restlessly, relentlessly, ruthlessly seeking a new form(s) of church for our time!

Much of the search for this new form(s) that I am aware of appears to derive more from necessity (Zizek’s “ought”).  The reality that the church we have known all these years no longer even approximates what church should be requires us to seek something new and different.  Even if we take on this search willingly, many of us still approach it as a necessity imposed upon us, not something we would otherwise do.  Such a search is, in my judgment, doomed to fail.

The voices that offer hope are those which come from that overwhelming, compelling sense of call, those that “must” do this whether they “ought” to or not.  Cling to such witnesses.  They are few and their voices are precious.  My guess (based on my experience as a PCUSA pastor) is that such folks

-often seem unlikely candidates for such a role,

-are far more often practitioners than academics,

-tend to be from the margins of the church (e.g. women, poor folks, gays, racial ethnics),

-practice the Jewish model of holding utter realism and extravagant hope in creative tension as their modus operandi rather than other models emanating from business schools or elsewhere, and

-usually operate with a theology of the cross rather than a theology of glory.

Find such person and apprentice yourself to them, if indeed, you too are possessed by such a call too!


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