The Ethical Dimension
In his book Laruelle: Against the Digital, Alexander Galloway puts forward an excellent chapter on Laruelle’s ethics. For Laruelle, Christ is the cornerstone of humanity through his victimhood: on the cross—not as the representation of humanity, but as a generic figure of humanity—Christ suffers as a human. He is a victim of violence. For Laruelle, the ethical act is one which shows compassion for this generic human as victim. He cares not for the identity of the prostitute, the tax collector or the leper, but instead treats them as humans who are in need of compassion.
Anthony Paul Smith provides an example of what this ethical action looks like. Smith describes two events that took place around the Arab Spring in Egypt. At Christmas, Coptic Christians were being attacked by militant extremists. In order to help these Christians, “Egyptian Muslims surrounded the church to provide a human shield and assure their Christian compatriots of their safety and liberty to worship.” After Mubarak had taken power in the region, his police surveillance force began to attack protesters on the street. In order “To Protect their Muslim compatriots during these vulnerable periods and to give them the dignity and peace required for prayer, the Coptic Christians of Egypt formed a ring around those at prayer repeating the act of becoming human shields” (Smith 2015, 108). Despite religious and identity based differences, each of these religious communities showed compassion for the Other as humans. For Laruelle, this is not an embrace of the Other as Other, nor is it an affirmation of difference. Rather, it is a withdrawal from identity into compassion for the generic victimhood of humanity. Galloway shows that, while the political is to focus on self-interest — I vs. Other — the ethical is an act of self-sacrifice in favor of the mutual: It is the “absolute inclusion of the totality at its lowest level” (Galloway 2014, 190). Christ’s self-sacrifice is an ethical action that breaks with individuality in favor of the totality: humanity.
At this point, the posthuman perspective provides two outlooks. First, the posthuman takes this generic humanity and extends it outward with the inclusion of the nonhuman within its totality. Second, it provides an avenue for the transformation of the religious towards a more ethical end.
Braidotti says of Posthuman ethics: “…to be posthuman does not mean to be indifferent to humans, or to be de-humanized. On the contrary, it rather implies a new way of combining ethical values with the well-being of an enlarged sense of community, which includes one’s territorial or environmental inter-connections” (Braidotti 2013, 190). This is an ethical system based on the togetherness of humans and nonhumans—it establishes an ethic which is centred on the mutual need of the multitude. Through its interaction with this goal, religion can become a tool which is used for the transformation of human subjectivity towards inclusion. There is, of course, a danger of oppressive aspects taking control of religious practice, but this is a danger with any tool. In prosperity theology, we can see the co-evolution of religion and humanity producing what Laruelle might call a political end (I vs. Other). The prosperity gospel stresses individuality by distinguishing the haves and have-nots. Capitalism’s individualism produces Christian individualism, turning the religious focus away from the ethical (inclusion). Despite, or in spite of, this danger, religion can be a tool of liberatory ends.
By adopting the inclusion of the victim, the church in fact follows Christ’s message in Matthew 25, that whatever is done unto the least is done unto Christ. How the church responds to this message changes due to various historically-based criteria over time. It could mean the church undergoes a transformation due to societal value: becoming more inclusive of all without any condemnation over selective criteria. But simple inclusion or identity politics does not go far enough: The centrality of the dominant group—white men—must be radically decentred within this space of the church. Truly relating in a posthuman manner would lead to the decolonization of the church, not to the exclusion of any group, but rather to produce a truly liberatory space which treats everyone as human. This means the church must go beyond token accounts of diversity and inclusion, and adopt methods which seek to end colonial and imperialist practices that are all too often inherent in its structural reality.
In other circumstances, due to human materiality, the transformation of the church can take place within the church’s very structure. First United was one of the first congregations in Vancouver, BC, initially forming in 1885, one year before the official founding of the city. In the 1890s the church moved to the Hastings Street area, which is now known as the Downtown Eastside. Over time, this area of Vancouver turned into a rougher area of town. Throughout its ministry in the area, First United dedicated itself towards helping those in its community, but during the mid-2000s it found the traditional church space an uneffective means of supporting this community. First United was transformed from a traditional space of worship into a space dedicated to serve those in need. It converted the building into a shelter, a soup kitchen, a needle exchange, and a storage space. In order to be in solidarity and serve, the Church needed to reconstitute itself into a space specifically for those who needed it. The church building was changed in order to become more inclusive and accepting of those typically not accepted within its sphere.
Christianity (and religion as a whole) is open towards change through interaction with humanity, towards a posthuman ethic which includes everyone—regardless of gender, sexuality, race, ability, or even belief. Christianity is based in the “absolute inclusion” of Christ’s victimhood without a form of exclusion. Like other religions, it is a technology which shapes humans and is shaped by humans in a relationship of co-production. It welcomes everyone in.
For all church paintings inquire with: https://wenatcheevalleypainting.com/