This book, a collaborative effort of two contemporary thinkers, a philosopher and a radical theologian, and is a thought-provoking, incisive look at politics and religion. It is a daring, unflinching look at long-held beliefs. In the course of their dialogue, they think outside the box, and deconstruct long held beliefs, and consider them in an entirely new light.
This book is an expansion of a public debate between Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher par excellence, and Boris Gunjevic, a radical theologian. While the two thinkers have much in common, there are glaring differences. Zizek has been called "the most dangerous philosopher" living today. This reviewer sees him more as the Gonzo philosopher, because sometimes he interjects his own experiences in his discussions such that he becomes the subject. He is also the rock-and-roll philosopher, because his writing style is confrontational, energetic, inventive, and provocative.
He is a brilliant thinker and is the source of many insights, but he does not always present these insights in a linear fashion. He will digress, and while returning to the discussion at hand, he sometimes takes a long time doing so. In his essays contained in this book he is more linear, more disciplined, stays on topic, and while there are digressions, he always return to the subject of his essay, tying his digression to the main topic. These essays display some of his best work.
Gunjevic is equally incisive and writes with a crystal clear reason. Boris Gunjevic is a radical theologian and writes with the precision of Aquinas and at the same time is in possession of the same level of provocation possessed by Zizek. Both Zizek and Gunjevic have the uncanny ability to think outside the box, and they compliment each other. Together they make a formidable intellectual match. The topics in this book pertain to the place of God, religion, Christianity, and the sacred in society, and its relation to politics in a post-modern world. While Zizek complains in his introduction, tongue in cheek, that after a while their dialogue resembled more a monologue, the individual contributions establish an inner cohesiveness offering a cogent analysis of the topics which comprise this book of essays. Consider:
Zizek: Atheism is not the denial of the existence of God, but having doubts as to whether God is conscious. If there is no God, everything is not permitted, as is so often said; rather, everything is prohibited. While atheism maybe the condition of this post-modern world, this very condition permits both the numerous instances of ethnic cleansings, and, the wide-spread sex abuse scandals in the church. In prohibiting everything, Christianity is at war with the sacred. Thus does religion make a good man turn bad.
Gunjevic: While religion may have this propensity, the ardor, discipline, renunciation, and sacrifice of the ascetic life and the understanding of St. Augustine displays the true revolutionary spirit necessary to combat empire and capitalism.
Zizek: This revolutionary fervor is inherent in the religion of Islam.
Gunjevic: This is because Allah is essentially unknowable and an unfathomable abstraction which only Muslims, and not Western non-Muslims, can fully understand. Just ask John Walker Lindh, the American al-Quaeda currently spending life in jail for fighting with the insurgents.
Zizek: John Lennon famously chimed "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." It is
really the other way around; it is GOD who is in pain. This pain originates from God's self-alienation which is present with the incarnation of Christ and corresponds with man's alienation from God. This tension is reflected in organized religion, which divides the whole between the unknowable infinite and earthly existence, which results in the divorce of reason and faith. Zizek implies that this division is the cause of political inaction.
Gunjevic: Gunjevic counters with a discussion and an interpretation of Radical Theology, a roots revival of the early form of Christianity as reflected in Augustine, Maximus, and Aquinas, and grounded in divine illumination, which is the most basic form of political protest.
Zizek: Zizek counters with a discussion of differences and implications in Judaism and Christianity, underscoring how the respective viewpoints of each influence their interpretations of history and the role of religion.
Gunjevic: Replies with a treatment of the interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, which is viewed as a radical political tract commenting on conditions in contemporary Palestine.
These are only the highlights of the discussion in this book. This gives a glimpse of the lively discussion between these two thinkers. This discussion is thought-provoking, and spirited. It is a wonder to behold these two intellects discussing the subjects in the book in such a cogent manner.