Archive for the 'John D. Caputo' Category

John Caputo on the Religious Right

John D. Caputo, in his introduction to a newly published book on the intersection of religion and politics in America entitled The Sleeping Giant has Awoken: The New Politics of Religion in the United States, offers a perceptive observation on the contradictions of the political agenda of the religious right. I’ve chosen to include it here in its entirety, despite its length, because I believe its worth spending an extra min or so reading a couple of paragraphs to hear what he has to say.

“In his teaching, Jesus advised a life of uncompromising simplicity and nonacquisitiveness, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, which is not bent on providing for oneself and building up a stock against the future, which trust God to provide. He said enough disturbing things about the coming of this kingdom, the rule of mercy, forgiveness, and nonviolence, to make the powers that be uneasy. Saying things like that in an occupied country brought him to an early grave and a cruel if not uncommon execution at the hands of an imperial power. But in death, he was no less forgiving and nonviolent. His earliest followers led lives of exemplary commonality, sharing all things in common, distributing to each what they needed. The first debate that broke out in what we today call Christianity was whether this complete commonality was being observed perfectly.

But the dominant form of American Christianity today, the Christian Right, has sat down at the table with virtually every power and domination that Jesus contested in his own lifetime, with the very powers of imperial rule, the rule of the world, which took his life. It stands for authoritarianism, nationalism, and militarism that contradict the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ words, who said to love one’s enemies, and if one is struck on the cheek, to turn the other cheek. It enthusiastically supports a war that cynically flaunts the classical conditions of just-war theory, “just war” itself being a strange turn of phrase to be found on the lips of a follower of the author of the Sermon on the Mount. It marches arm in arm with an unbridled capitalist greed that has recklessly permitted the rich to grow ever richer while grinding up the poor-flaunting the very ministry Jesus announced for himself. By lending its shoulder to laissez-faire capitalism, the Right undermines the everything it might have been believed to stand for. Unchecked capitalism wrecks family values by impoverishing families and leaving children homeless and parentless. As Lou Dobb-not exactly a member of the Left-has documented, the economics pursued by the Right constitutes an all-out attack upon the middle class, where family life is the mainstay. Unchecked capitalism turns sexuality into commodity; it seeds the fields of abortion, prostitution, drugs, and crime by holding its heel to the neck of the poorest and most defenseless people in society. Where Jesus found strength in the weakness of God, in forgiveness and nonviolence, the Christian Right openly lusts for a Christian Empire, even as it was an earlier Empire that took the life of Jesus.

The cruelest and most bitter irony is that the Christian Right does all this in the very name of Jesus, asking us, “What would Jesus do?”-as if Jesus were a capitalist out to make millions and a militarist with aspirations for imperial power, in search of a kingdom very decidedly of this world. What is this if not the will of humans in love with bare-knuckled power, with themselves and their own will, cloaking themselves in the name of the weakness of God and the nonviolence of Jesus?”

ed. Robbins, Jeffery W. and Neal Magee, The Sleeping Giant has Awoken: The New Politics of Religion in the United States, (New York: Continuum, 2008) pg. 4-5.

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John D. Caputo on Love

“Let us speak then of love. What does it mean to “love” something? If a man asks a woman…”do you love me?” and if, after a long and awkward pause and considerable deliberation, she replies with wrinkled brow, “well, up to a certain point, under certain conditions, and to a certain extent,” then we can be sure that whatever it is she feels for this poor fellow it is not love and this relationship is not going to work out. For if love is the measure, the only measure of love is love without measure (Augustine again). One of the ideas behind “love” is that it represents a giving without holding back, an “unconditional” commitment, which marks love with a certain excess…If a woman divorces a man because he turned out to be a failure in his profession and just did not measure up to the salary expectations she had for him when they married, if she complains that he did not live up to his end of the “bargain,” well, that is not the sort of till-death-us-do-part, unconditional commitment that is built into marital love and the marital vow. Love is not a bargain, but unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may. Lovers are people who exceed their duty, who look around for ways to do more than is required of them. If you love your job, you don’t just do the minimum that is required of you; you do more. If you love your children, what would you not do for them? If a wife asks a husband to do her a favor, and he declines on the grounds that he is really not duty bound by the strict terms of the marriage contract to do it, that marriage is all over except for the paper work. Rather than rigorously defending their rights, lovers readily put themselves in the wrong and take the blame for the sake of preserving their love…A world without love is a world governed by rigid contracts and inexorable duties, a world in which – God forbid! – the lawyers run everything. The mark of really loving someone or something is unconditionality and excess, engagement and commitment, fire and passion. Its opposite is a mediocre fellow, neither hot nor cold, moderate to the point of mediocrity. Not worth saving. No salt.”

John D. Caputo, On Religion (New York: Routledge, 2001) pg. 4-5.