Žižek on the Exclusivity of the ‘Universal’ Christian Message
Posted by NT Wrong on May 27, 2008
In Violence (2008), Slavoj Žižek wonders if every universalising system of ethics relies on a ‘fetishist disavowal’ of certain events, necessarily excluding them from consideration in the system’s very universalising system of ethics. So, Žižek asks, “Is even the most universal ethics not obliged to draw a line and ignore some sort of suffering?”
“To wonder at this fact is not a proper philosophical attitude. That is to say, what if that which appears as an inconsistency, as the failure to draw all the consequences from one’s ethical attitude, is, on the contrary, its positive condition of possibility? What if such an exclusion of some form of otherness from the scope of our ethical concerns is consubstantial with the very founding gesture of ethical universality, so that the more universal our explicit ethics is, the more brutal the underlying exclusion is?
What the Christian all-inclusive attitude (recall St Paul’s famous ‘there are no men or women, no Jews and Greeks’) involves is a thorough exclusion of those who do not accept inclusion into the Christian community. In other ‘particularistic’ religions (and even in Islam, in spite of its global expansionism), there is a place for others: they are tolerated, even if they are looked upon with condescension. The Christian motto ‘all men are brothers’, however, also means that those who do not accept brotherhood are not men. In the early years of the Iranian revolution, Khomeini played on the same paradox when he claimed, in an interview for the Western press, that the Iranian revolution was the most humane in all of history: not a single person was killed by the revolutionaries. When the surprised journalist asked about the death penalties publicised in the media, Khomeini calmly replied: ‘Those that we killed were not men, but criminal dogs!’
Christians usually praise themselves for overcoming the Jewish exclusivist notion of the Chosen People and encompassing the entirety of humanity. The catch is that, in their very insistence that they are the Chosen People with a privileged direct link to God, Jews accept the humanity of the other people who celebrate their false gods, while Christian universalism tendentiously excludes non-believers from the very universality of humankind.” (pp. 46-47)
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