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  IJŽS Vol 2.1 - Graduate Special Issue There’s a Crack in Everthin! That’s #o$ the %i!ht Gets In - Ži&ek’s Parallax View   and The Perverse Core of Christianity Cameron Stewart Freeman, Flinders University of South Australia  As Slavoj Žižek writes in his book The Puppet and the Dwarf: the Perverse Core of Christianity (2! , one of the only o#tions $enerally #ermitted Christianity in the 2%st &entury is to re'a&tivate the dan$erous memory) of *esus and return to the radi&al &ore of truth and that had to be re#ressed in order for the institutional Chur&h to establish itself+ %  n undertakin$ this task, this #a#er will set u# a short'&ir&uit between *esus- most memorable tea&hin$s on the .in$dom of /od (as re&orded in the syno#ti& $os#els and Žižek-s re&ently #ublished ma$num o#us The Parallax View (20 in a way that dis&loses a disturbin$ &orres#onden&e between his latest work on the #aralla1 $a#) and the revolutionary kernel of the Christ'event while #rovidin$ an une1#e&ted o#enin$ for the #oliti&s of Žižek as a fi$htin$ atheist) who &laims the Christian le$a&y is worth fi$htin$ for+ his short &ir&uit between Žižek and Christianity takes its leave from the &ontem#orary 3uest for the histori&al *esus, a 3uest whi&h aims to isolate the ori$inal tea&hin$s of *esus from his ins&ri#tion in the Christian tradition #ro#er by revealin$ the elusive voi&e'#rint of this subversive sa$e from 4a5areth that is said to be buried beneath the he$emoni& stru&tures of the institutional Chur&h+ 2  And in turnin$ to the &entral tea&hin$s attributed to *esus in the syno#ti& $os#els, this #a#er will be$in by &learly showin$ that there is formal structure  that is intrinsi& to all of *esus6 most well'known #arables and a#horisms+ And by way of this re'&onstru&tion of the stable #attern   that under#ins the narrative stru&ture of *esus6 most re&o$ni5able #arables (here we will e1amine just 1  three7 the /ood Samaritan, the 8rodi$al Son and the Friend at 9idni$ht , it will be ar$ued that *esus- &onsistently em#loyed a tea&hin$ strate$y of  paradoxical reversals  that enabled him to re'define the rules and &ontours of the e1istin$ so&ial order+ And then it will be ar$ued that the #arado1i&al &ore of *esus6 #rovo&ative tea&hin$s effe&t a kind of strate$i& intervention that is virtually synonymous with the irredu&ible shift in #ers#e&tives or $a#) between o##osin$ views that has been un#a&ked in e1tensive detail in Žižek-s re&ently #ublished ma$num o#us The Parallax View (20 + :y turnin$ to Žižek-s most re&ent work, it is first of all ne&essary to des&ribe #re&isely what he means by the #aralla1 view+ For Žižek, the #aralla1 $a# involves a &onstant shift in #ers#e&tive between two #oints in whi&h no synthesis or mediation is #ossible+ !  n &ontrast to the #o#ular 4ew  A$e yearnin$ to find a balan&e) between binary o##osites su&h as mas&uline and feminine (se1 or liberal and &onservative (#oliti&s , Žižek affirms the inherent tension) or irredu&ible $a#) brou$ht about by a shift in #ers#e&tive between two #oints, and thereby maintains that there is a kind of minimal difference  whi&h divides one and the same obje&t from itself+ As su&h, Žižek $ives the standard definition of #aralla1 as the a##arent dis#la&ement of an obje&t (the shift of its #osition a$ainst a ba&k$round , &aused by a &han$e in observational #osition that #rovides a new line of si$ht+) ;  n attem#tin$ to brin$ to our attention the subversive &ore of a #ro#erly diale&ti&al materialism, the #aralla1 view is not about a differen&e between two #ositively e1istin$ obje&ts, rather we must re#la&e the to#i& of the #olarity of o##osites (as two sides of the same &oin with the &on&e#t of the inherent tension) between two #ers#e&tives and the minimal $a# between an element and itself + <  Žižek therefore s#eaks of this #aralla1 $a# as a #ure differen&e whi&h &annot be $rounded in #ositive substantial #ro#erties, as the the non'&oin&iden&e of the =ne with itself) and dis&usses to#i&s su&h as >eide$$er6s ontolo$i&al differen&e, &o$nitive brain s&ien&e and the #oliti&al theory in terms of this irredu&ible anta$onism that is effe&ted by a shift in #ers#e&tive or a minimal refle1ive twist that &annot be mediated by any diale&ti&al synthesis+ 0  ?hile #aralla1 sim#ly desi$nates the $a# that se#arates the =ne from itself (20, #+@ , it is here that one &an see that the status of the im#ossible Beal6 for Žižek is also #aralla&ti& as well while seein$ the #re&ise sense in whi&h his #aralla1 theory differs from the standard a&anian #sy&hoanalyti& notion of the Beal+ As the non'substantial $a# between two #oints of view, the #aralla1 view of the Beal is o##osed to the hard &ore of the a&anian Beal ' the im#ossible to say) that always remains the Same in all #ossible (symboli& universes+ @  he #aralla1 Beal, then, is not the hard kernel around whi&h all our symboli& formations &ir&ulate, but rather the hard bone of &ontention that #ulveri5es the sameness and a&&ounts for the multi#li&ity of a##earan&es+) D  For Žižek, then, the #aralla1 Beal is the ro&k of anta$onism or the disavowed E on a&&ount of whi&h our view of reality is always and already distorted throu$h a #artial #ers#e&tive, a stri&tly non'e1istent E whi&h &an only be re&onstru&ted retroa&tively from a multitude of asymmetri&al #oints of view+   :y rea&hin$ beneath the tired old dualisms of the ?estern #hiloso#hi&al tradition (nature vs+ 2  nurture, mind vs+ body into the minimal differen&e or $a# between two #ers#e&tives, whereby the Beal for Žižek is the truth of #ers#e&tival distortion as such or the anta$onism whi&h ru#tures our &ommon#la&e demand for dire&t a&&ess to an obje&tive reality, we &an now be$in to set u# this short &ir&uit between Žižek-s #aralla1 theory and the radi&al tea&hin$s of *esus of 4a5areth, for both of these radi&al a##roa&hes truth and meanin$ disru#t any #re'$iven hori5on of e1#e&tation with the #ure differen&e of a #aralla1 $a# by maintainin$ an irredu&ible tension between different #oints of view+ From the outset, it is a$reed by virtually all 4ew estament s&holars that the #arables of *esus o#ened a window onto a new world that he &alled the .in$dom of /od+ %  And moreover, in his #ronoun&ements on the advent of /od6s kin$dom, for *esus the meanin$ of human life had been radi&ally revised as our everyday e1#e&tations are turned on their head in order to brin$ about an alto$ether new fi$ure of Beality in whi&h our &onventional sensibilities are offended and our all too human attem#ts to sit on the throne of the divine are re$ularly frustrated+ As both a &hallen$e and invitation, the #araboli& stru&ture of *esus- tea&hin$s to be investi$ated here therefore refle&ts a transformed way of seein$ the world that #ut into 3uestion our une1amined assum#tions with a new way of seein$ that &orres#onds remarkably well with the basi& im#ulse of Žižek6s e1tensive work in overturnin$ many of &ommonly a&&e#ted beliefs with an une1#e&ted reversal that shatters the &o'ordinates of the e1istin$ order of thin$s+:efore turnin$ to the #arables of *esus themselves, we will briefly summari5e the key insi$hts of some of the more #rominent #arable s&holars in modern times+ Sin&e the %0s, modern #arable s&holarshi# has formed a reliable &onsensus in &on&ludin$ that *esus- #arables had a #rofound and life'&han$in$ effe&t on his audien&es+ A&&ordin$ to G+ innemann, to utter a #arable in &ertain situations is to risk all on the #ower of lan$ua$e+) %%  o further this &laim, eSelle asserted that the #arables &aused his hearers to lose &ontrol) over their lives as the story of their own lives has been torn a#art) in the #rovo&ative en&ounter with the lan$ua$e of *esus+ %2  =ther modern inter#reters have s#oken of #arables as revelatory and world'shatterin$), %!  with the &a#a&ity to break o#en established thou$ht forms by either sayin$ the im#ossible, or turnin$ the world u#side'down+ %;  n &ausin$ the hearer to re'e1amine the very $rounds of his bein$, by a &hallen$e that is effe&tive at the very dee#est $rounds of e1istential reality) %<  a #arable may also be e1#erien&ed by its hearers as a &alamity ' as a disaster for their sense of self'worth and #la&e in the moral order of thin$s+) %0  And a&&ordin$ to H+/+ Shillin$ton, the #arables of *esus are invested with a sort of #rovo&ative #ower) %@  so mu&h so that the #arables fi$ure as eviden&e in the mystery of what ultimately #rovoked *esus- e1e&ution+ %D  9oreover, there is also an emer$in$ a$reement amon$st 4ew estament and histori&al *esus s&holars that the ori$inal #ower and revolutionary for&e of *esus lan$ua$e has been lost and redu&ed to a series of moral or alle$ori&al lessons %  in the histori&al develo#ment of the Christian Chur&h+ As numerous s&holars in&ludin$ *eremias, Hia, Crossan, Bi&oeur, 8errin, and Funk now attest, *esus6 #arables neither #rovide a moral &ode or a &lear'&ut messa$e6, nor do they offer us a 3  #re'$iven Answer that sets in stone the obje&tive meanin$ of our e1isten&e+ nstead, as a harbin$er of the .in$dom the #arables of *esus tease the mind into ever'new #er&e#tions of realityI they startle the ima$ination) 2  and fun&tion like symbols in that they raise the #otential for new meanin$) 2%  and invite their hearer into a new #ossibility of world and lan$ua$e) 22 , while simultaneously revealin$ to us his own e1#erien&e of /od+ 2!  ?hile embra&in$ the main &urrents of re&ent #arable s&holarshi#, the followin$ se&tion of this #a#er will briefly establish a new #ers#e&tive on the histori&al *esus by way of a sim#le stru&tural analysis of just three of his most well known #arables+ :y briefly un#a&kin$ how the #arado1i&al stru&ture) 2;  within *esus- short literary narratives subverts, shatters, sur#rises and disorients their hearers 2<  with an alternative view of reality, the aim here, then, will be to offer a formal indi&ation of the &onsistent strate$y at work in *esus- radi&al tea&hin$s and demonstrate how these radi&al tea&hin$s &orres#ond most fruitfully with Žižek-s writin$s on the #aralla1 $a# and the #rin&i#le of non'mediation+ And from here, we will then turn to Žižek-s re&ent work on the revolutionary &ore of Christianity as a reli$ion of the /od'forsaken $od, by demonstratin$ that *esus6 own e1#erien&e of the .in$dom of /od is dis&losed to us in terms a #aralla1 shift between irredu&ible #ers#e&tives that shatters the #re'$iven assum#tions of the e1istin$ so&ial order and thereby o#ens u# the radi&al e1#erien&e of a &ertain unheard'of dimension 20  and an alto$ether new hori5on of thou$ht and a&tion+ %+ he 8rodi$al Son, uke %<7%%'!2n #robably *esus6 most memorable #arable, with the #rodi$al son $atherin$ his inheritan&e, what is at first e1#e&ted to be a life of unmerited favor and lu1ury 3ui&kly be&omes a life of destitution and #overty+ hen, the #rodi$al son6s e1#e&tations of a life of #overty and servitude on his return home, is really an event that brin$s about the unmerited favor and lu1ury of the father-s &om#assion with a joyful &elebration that symboli5es /od-s un&onditional love+ >ere we have an initial e1am#le of *esus6 une1#e&ted reversals of meanin$+n the same way, just as a life of shameful rebellion with the #rodi$al son is suddenly transformed into a honorable &elebration home&omin$ with the un&onditional favor of the father6s feast, what a##ears to be a life of un&onditional favor with the dutiful son ' who always lived in honor and obedien&e to his father, is really the root &ause of his shameful rebellion and his &orru#t refusal to share in the home&omin$ &elebrations of the father6s feast+=r more sim#ly, while the #rodi$al son a##ears to be on the outside in self'im#osed e1ile, he is really on the inside in home&omin$, while the dutiful son a##ears to be on the inside in loyalty to his father6s home, he is really on the outside in self'im#osed e1ile+ And more su&&in&tly7 those that appear to be shameful outsiders are really honorable insiders, while those that appear to be honorable insiders are really shameful outsiders... 4
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