Why Should I Care?

Bevis and ButtheadA couple of weeks ago, after reading some posts on Tony Jones’ Theoblogy website about Slavoj Zizek, I sent an email asking “I’m so incredibly tired of intellectual hipster Christians discussing obscure theological thinkers like Žižek I could scream. Can you please explain to me, in terms that a regular person can understand, how these arguments have any influence on everyday life?” I thought it was a  fair question and, evidently, so did Tony because he answered it. Well, actually, David Fitch answered it, but Tony facilitated things. So, he gets a share of the credit.

I didn’t reply right away because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say and, since David submitted a very thoughtful reply, I felt I should do the same. After a couple of weeks, I think I’m there; although, you may disagree with the thoughtfulness of what I have to say.

In the lead-in to David’s response, Tony says that my question “has an edge to it” and it does. It’s not because I don’t understand Zizek (fyi, I have no idea how do those little marks over the z’s) or think he’s irrelevant, though. The truth is, I’ve always realized the significance of people like Zizek even when if I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about and that is certainly the case here. At best, I understand about every third word the man says. Fortunately, I don’t have to; that’s what scholars are for. And, Fitch has done an excellent job of explaining why Zizek is helpful. The thing is, he didn’t answer my question.

The meat of my inquiry is “Can you please explain to me, in terms that a regular person can understand, how these arguments have any influence on everyday life?” There, do you see it? I asked about the arguments themselves, not what Zizek said or his significance. Don’t feel bad, though. Hell, it took me two weeks to catch on and I’m the one who asked the question. As I said a few minutes ago, my query does have an edge to it and it’s not because of Zizek himself, but the arguments about him.

For me, the problem with arguing about Zizek is twofold. First of all, it smacks of entitled rich kids educated beyond their intelligence desperately wanting to prove just how smart they really are. Second, like so many other things privileged white Christians do, by arguing about whether Zizek, his atheism, or any other useless idea, we don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable fact that we live like royalty compared to others in our own communities who dwell in squalor. I don’t know whether Zizek is irrelevant or not, but your bullshit arguments are another story.

I realize that may come off as a little harsh, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. The emerging church may be dead, but emergence itself isn’t and because of it, there are many, many people out there who are beginning to question long-held beliefs and are looking for something new. I think the emergence Christianity could be that new thing for some of them. But they’re not going to give it more than a cursory glance if all they see is a bunch of academics arguing over folks with weird names and funny accents. What will make them stick around is a theology that is open and expansive, but at the same time is one they can use everyday. Absurd arguments over people they’ve never heard of isn’t going to cut it.