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.
- Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (rikowski.wordpress.com)
- Reading Zizek: something like an introduction, overview, whatever (slothrop.com)
- Less Than Nothing: A Masterwork on Philosophy, Cognitive Science & Physics (bigthink.com)