Zizek on the crucifixion

” “When Christ says ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ is he bluffing or not?” If he is in fact bluffing–and by bluffing I mean that he is simply saying this aloud but secretly knows that he is God–then the crucifixion is not serious.  It is just a spectacle staged for humans.  But if we take Christ’s statement seriously, then the implication is extremely radical.  We must not forget that in Christian theology, Jesus Christ is not thought of in the same way as messiahs in other religions.  Christ is not a representative of God; he is God.  This means that God is radically split.  A part of God doesn’t know what God is doing.  There is a kind of inconsistency in divinity itself, which is I think the crucial insight of Christianity. This is why I ask: how can we rejoin God?  In other religions God is a simple transcendence: We are here in our sinful, terrestrial life, but if we purify ourselves, it’s possible for us to get closer to and be rejoined with God.  In Christianity, when it’s said that the only way to God is through Christ, I think what’s implied is precisely this Christ at the moment of doubt on the cross.  This is why for Christianity you can, paradoxically, reach God only through this moment of doubt.  As Chesterton put it, God himself becomes, for a moment, an atheist.  The idea is as follows: We experience the utmost despair and alienation.  We are here, God is there.  We are totally abandoned by God.  How then in authentic Christianity do we reach God?  Not by somehow magically overcoming this gap but just by means of a shattering insight at the very point when we are abandoned by God.  There we occupy the position of Christ.  What was thought of only as alienation from God is the position of Christ himself: God abandoned by God.”
Slavoj Zizek, “A Meditation on Michelangelo’s Christ on the Cross” in Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology, eds. John Milbank, Slavoj Zizek, and Creston Davis (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 174-175.


7 comments on “Zizek on the crucifixion

  1. This is a really interesting view of the crucifixion.

  2. Theophilus says:

    Interesting, but I’m not buying. It doesn’t make sense of the fact that Jesus’ cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is an allusion to Psalm 22, which takes a distinctly more faith-filled turn almost immediately, and is eerily prophetic of Jesus’ Good Friday predicament. I say this because I just ran across a pretty good piece making this argument.

    • In the repetition of this phrase via Jesus the passage decidedly does not take a more faith-filled turn immediately. And even if it were ‘immediate’ it would not negate the event and its significance. I have gained much from Zizek’s critique here . . . my question with him comes on Sunday morning . . . still working on that.

  3. Mel, I was thinking a bit more of the Community-as-Spirit full stop. Adam Kotsko seems to be developing his thinking along this line as well and while I don’t know what do with the whole transcendence/immanence conversation and I do want to increase our level of responsibility I can’t follow fully here even if it is leaves me susceptible to appealing to some Big Other on these matters.

    • Kampen says:

      Can you articulate what it is you want (responsibility?) that you find absent or unavailable in Zizek? I’m interested in what you’re saying. (sidenote: I also have no idea what to do with the trans/imman discussion – I’m compelled but not yet convinced).

      • In short I want/need a God I can pray to . . . and funny enough there seems to be implications to this want/need.
        What I love about Zizek et al is how thoroughgoing I see their work reflect the prohibition of idolatry. I am just not sure if that negation would be the only thing that would lead to ‘true worship’ or whether it is just negation all the way down . . . if that makes sense. I am trying to take these various claims seriously and be careful of being yet another Christian ‘appropriation’ of them (though of course I think it is fine to take ‘parts’ from a given thought or figure). If there comes a point of fundamental departure I would like to understand that as best I can . . . and as yet I don’t.

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