As I begin to emerge from a just-passed-my-viva-(phew!) lull (I always tend to get a bit depressed after the excitement of finishing a piece of work, presenting a piece of work, or handing something in), I am doing my corrections (done!), writing my paper for the Edinburgh BSA SocRel conference on the Changing Face of Christianity (not done yet!), and submitting abstracts for a couple of conferences later in the year - 500 words for the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture's "Attending to the Other" (done!) and 200 words for the "Re-Writing the Bible: Devotion, Diatribe and Dialogue" symposium, held by the University of Glasgow's Centre for the Study of Literature, Theology and the Arts (not yet done!).
My submission for the Attending to the Other conference is called, "How to Eat Well in Church: Saying 'Yes' to the Other and Becoming Nothing in Derrida, Paul and Emerging Christian Discourse." Hopefully it'll get accepted by either the Continental Philosophy of Religion or the Theology panels, but I'm also keen to work this paper into a journal article so it won't be too bad if it doesn't get accepted. Here's the abstract:
‘Let us say yes to who or what turns up, before any determination... before any identification’ (Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality, 77).
‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you’ (St Paul, Romans 15:7).
‘...we can freely enter into a theatrical space in which we act as though there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female... Here we do not lay down our identity only to pick up our new identity in Christ. Rather it is in laying down all our identities that we directly identify with Christ’ (Peter Rollins, The Fidelity of Betrayal, 178-179 and peterrollins.net/blog/?p=889)
‘If a community is too welcoming, it loses its identity; if it keeps its identity, it becomes unwelcoming’ (John D. Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell, 113)
For Derrida, hospitality, friendship and love are responsibilities that are excessive to the complacent fulfilment of duty. While hospitality by rights and justice under the law protect the self-same, unconditional hospitality is to attend to (to pay attention to and to serve) alterity. Similarly, for (Badiou’s) Paul, the Christian community is to welcome the other, without quarrelling about or arguing over determinations of truth. Co-implicated in this is that, in order to welcome those with different truths, that which makes the host distinctive is to be sacrificed or performatively suspended, which is why there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Gal. 3:28). Paul’s injunction to hospitality is occasioned by questions regarding whether or not to eat meat and what Paul calls for is the creation of communities that attend not to the question of what to eat but to the question of how to eat, which is a ‘learning-to-give-the-other-to-eat’ (Derrida, “Eating Well,” 282). The event of Jesus’ excess in relation to all law is to be translated into hospitable ecclesial spaces that attempt to let the other be other, to privilege hospitality over the temptation to conversion or consensus, to refuse to subsume the other to the self-same, and to create a space that places unconditional welcome above conditions of entrance.
The “emerging church conversation” is one contemporary discourse about Christianity that is attempting to imagine and enact such spaces. This paper introduces the discursive motifs in which this Derridean-Pauline desire to attend to the other is expressed and through which it is being performed liturgically, particularly in the work of Peter Rollins and the Belfast-based ‘transformance art’ collective, ikon. I examine the ways in which alterity is welcomed, by which a place for the other is prepared, and through which Christian community negotiates unity and difference. I raise questions of openness and the possibility of radical sociality, of kenosis and the problems of self-identity, and of how deconstructive theologies (such as John D. Caputo’s weak theology) might be ecclesiologically, ethically and politically viable for concrete collectives.
If deconstructive theology interprets the church and the world, how might deconstructive religious collectives be changing them?