Eating Jesus: Digesting Christianity or Christianity Digesting us?

I have begun to read Slavoj Zizek’s The Sublime Object of Ideology, and I have to say, it is thought-provoking as it is difficult. But as I have gotten about twenty pages deep into Zizek’s breakthrough work, I have come across a section where Zizek references Hegel on the topic of Christianity being digestible. Hegel states:

If the individual human being does something, achieves something, attains a goal, this fact must be grounded in the way the thing itself, in its concept, acts and behaves. If I eat an apple, I destroy its organic self-identity and assimilate it to myself. That I can do this entails that the apple in itself, already, in advance, before I take hold of it, has in its nature the determination of being subject to destruction, having in itself a homogeneity with my digestive organs such that I can make it homogeneous with myself. (Hegel, Lectures on Philosophy of Religion III, 127)

Now, we are not talking about a literal consumption as if we were eating a thanksgiving meal (although Zizek does mention the eucharist in this discussion). Rather, Christianity is consumable in the sense that we take it on and make it a part of our being. However, it is not that we have miraculously changed Christianity into something that it was not before; the apple does not change when we bite into it. Instead, Christianity is intrinsically sublatable: it becomes a part of us. When we grab hold of this Christianity project, when we bite into its sweet bitterness, we make it our own, and there is no separation between how we behave and who we are. Therefore, the apple is not longer and apple, a separate entity, but it is part of our very being.

Paul lets us know that at the very core of Christianity, this idea of total sublation is the case. He says that whenever we become Christian, whenever we consume Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free. In this way, as Zizek puts it, Christianity “swallows up” our entire life, leaving no distinction between the apple and the body that has digested it.

A question to ponder: are we the apple and Christianity is the consumer? Or, do we engulf Christianity? If the latter is correct, Bonhoeffer’s religionless Christianity may be absolutely right, or, on a scarier note, Hegelian.

Better yet, what happens when we go to the bathroom after digestion is complete?

I would love to know your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Eating Jesus: Digesting Christianity or Christianity Digesting us?

  1. I agree Christianity must digest us. I find that religion is often mans attempt to control the power of God (which is foolish because man cannot control God). Rather Christ and Paul teach us that we simply must yield to God’s power and let It control our lives!

    • Simple Theologian,

      Thanks for the comment. Although I understand the idea behind your comments, my point is that there is no seperation between the power and the wielder. Rather, the two are the one and the same, wholly inseperable. Again, I agree with your point, but in I think in Hegel’s view, there is no power to be controlled, only the power to which we become and live out. . . if that makes any sense.

      Also, I saw that you are a video game loving theologian as well!

      • Yes, it does make sense and I understand your point more clearly now. Thanks for explaining it! Yes, I enjoy video games from time to time!

  2. On the last question, it becomes shit. I can’t remember to what extent Zizek talks about this in Sublime Object, but he uses the quotation you mention at the beginning of “Hegel and Shitting” as well.

    Anyway, here’s something to think about from Emmanuel Falque’s The Metamorphosis of Finitude: “To eat the bread of Christ is not in fact the same as just to eat bread–in the same way that to be incorporated into the Word by the resurrection is not the same as incorporating the Word by the grace of inhabitation. In both cases in fact–eucharistic incorporation and resurrected incorporation–it is not I (the subject) who assimilates the bread (the object) in eating it (or who makes the Word mine in being resurrected). It is the bread itself that, because it is consecrated, makes me become this body that is not me . . . In other words, if we follow Irenaeus, it is not I who eats the bread of Christ but I who am in a sense eaten by him, since in assimilating this body I am assimilated into the body of Christ–the body that he is, inseparably. The digestion of the body of Christ is a kind of ‘anti-digestion’: It ‘bursts forth’ or ‘projects’ me, so that I am over there, toward what is not me–the Christ himself.” (86)

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