Baker Academic

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism (Part II) - Le Donne

I just finished chapter two of James G. Crossley's Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism. I can tell already that I'm going to love about 80% of this book, perhaps more. This is my way of saying that I absolutely love this book so far. Crossley has a nails-scratching-the-chalkboard thing going for him. He tells you right up front that he's going to annoy the hell out you and he doesn't disappoint. I don't happen to mind being annoyed if I'm also entertained once every few pages. I had to force myself to put the book down to pound out a few thoughts. I honestly cannot wait to read his critique of bibliobloggers in chapter three.

A few thoughts on the first chapters:

Crossley swims gracefully from one complicated topic to another. He moves fluidly from power theory, the idea of a "liberal centre", Bart Ehrman, N.T. Wright, economics, popular media, liberation theology, etc. Normally, one might be tempted of accusing an author who attempts such a wide scope of "tinkering" rather than analyzing. The beauty of Crossley's introduction is that he is able to find common cultural threads that tie together conditions that seem disconnected otherwise. My interest is piqued from the start.

Crossley points out that authors who claim to represent a broad scholarly consensus (e.g. Bart Ehrman) tend to juxtapose and exploit fringe scholarship so to allow more mild theses to appear sane by comparison. The payoff here being the point that the "credible centre" is no less a scholarly construct than any other. It might be worth noting that Crossley points to E.P. Sanders, John P. Meier, and Dale C. Allison Jr. as the accepted "centre" construct with in historical Jesus studies.

His summary and adaptation of analytic / political philsopher Noam Chomsky is worth reproducing: "Chomsky spoke of what is perceived as the radical left in universities. He argued that it is possible to enter academia and be radical as long as the questions asked remain at least relatively incomprehensible or the dangerous questions of contemporary politics are not systematically addressed head-on and clearly. The scholar may feel like they are not selling-out by acting as, for instance, a Marxist economist, but in reality the individual has been neutralized and can keep working without being much of a danger to anyone. This seems to be a similar process to what is happening with the Jesus-the-radical in scholarship. By pushing criticism of imperialism back to the days of the Romans and Herodians, the effectiveness of criticism of the present has a tendency to be nullified..." p.15 (I'm not checking my work for typos here, so don't copy and paste this).

I do chafe a bit against his definition and use of "postmodernity" and "postmodernism" in chapter two. See my own take on this topic here. 

If that doesn't work try this:

...more on Crossley coming soon.


1 comment:

  1. It seems common enough for professors to retreat into the ivory tower. And to convey their often radical ideas, only in an obscure tongue that will only be understood by other intellectuals. Thereby avoiding direct confrontation - and action, and any effect in - popular culture, or "the masses."

    But this retreat unfortunately has long left some of the more offensive oversimplifications of fundamentalism and Babbittry unopposed in everyday churches.

    Direct confrontation with popular values is risky; for some time in popular radio (since the days of Limbaugh and Dennis Praeger), many conservatives have been explicitly identifying "professors," higher education, especially a liberal education, as simply part of their opposition. And they long sense began to speak out against education, college, in response. While legislatures began de-funding liberal arts programs.

    So what is the answer?

    I suppose one MIGHT try to find a middle ground between academe and the popular mind; and a polysemic language that might seem to accommodate both. Though finally the logical fallacies of ambiguity and equivocality, are sins in the field of logic. And end up obscuring the point.

    - Brettongarcia