Thursday, February 23, 2006

A PostModern Celebration of Discipline

With Lent just around the corner, many Christians turn to the question of Lenten disciplines (click here for a fabulous resource). Relatively few, however, see such disciplines as political practices that both constitute and substantiate a Christian selfhood. In this regard, Jamie Smith offers Michel Foucault as a somewhat unlikely ally (perhaps akin to Merold Westphal's invocation of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche as "atheists for Lent"), and furthers our engagement below with Romans 12:
I suggested that Michel Foucault’s critique of our contemporary "disciplinary" society echoed St. Paul’s concerns about accommodation to the forces of pagan culture. Like Morpheus in that respect, Christ’s redemption also frees our minds — and hearts and imagination — from the controlling forces that want to enslave them to other ends. The same call is repeated here in Romans: we are not to be conformed to "this world," but, rather, we are to be transformed through renewing our minds. Foucault would utter a hearty "Amen!" to Paul’s critique of "conformity" here. So both Paul and Foucault preach a message of freedom that leads them to be critical of what we might call "the culture of empire."
However, today I want to qualify this by explaining why I think that freedom is a bad idea. Or more specifically, since it doesn’t really matter what I think, I want to suggest that according to the New Testament, what Foucault calls "freedom" is just one more idolatry. While Paul and Foucault might be similar in their critique of the current configuration of our "disciplinary" society, what they envision as an alternative is quite different.

Read part 1: "Free Your Mind": The Postmodern Pauline Message in The Matrix" here
Read part 2: "Why Freedom Is a Bad Idea: A Postmodern Celebration of Discipline" here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


James Smith's two articles on lent are wonderful. Thanks for the links.