Washington: a few thousand scholars are gathered within the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion to talk about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, assorted methods to query the object (religion), and parenthetical enterprises like archaeology. So many books on the bible, exegesis, moral theology, etc.: would Jesus have been surprised? Lichtenberg was not.
On my way back along K street, I glance at the windows of a Catholic Association’s bookstore: a new book on the greatness of christianity and how it has enriched the world materially is out. On a stone sill in the second window next to last, I can only guess a human form under a large blanket, sleeping in the cold.
More on the monuments to the dead and the political center: when one walks the whole length of the Mall and back, one can’t help but think that the White House, the Capitol and other political organizations of the state are the pullies of an engine that partly comes to life, better, that draws much of its life from the glorified dead of previous wars (Arlington cemetery across the river, the Vietnam Memorial, now the Holocaust monument, etc.). Round and round it goes, gathering steam from its contact with the magic transformation of tears and nightmares into hopes. Is this any different from what the Kremlin did and does when it momified and keeps on re-presentation the body of Lenin? Any different from the late Roman re-inscribing of the body of Jesus, the cross, etc. into the landscape of what became the “holy land?” Any different from the cult of relics, the cult of the shroud of Turin since the fourteenth century?
That aspect of politics is a radical problem if confronted to some of the most important texts in the Hebrew bible and the Christian canon. The story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 questions precisely the compulsion to glory and the fascination for the magic, frightening, pity-producing, and violence-justifying machinery that ancient and modern societies invoke in their effort to ground politics as usual. Isaac was not sacrificed, pace some commentaries. Neither was Ishmael? And more on bodies: that of Moses, the Solon-like law giver, was buried but is not to be found “to this day,” says Deuteronomy 34.6, no matter the Nebi Musa tomb in the slopes above Jericho. That of Elijah is even more fleeting, in life (a resident! an interstitial body) and even more in death. And to crown it all: the story of Jesus’ end, the story of the resurrection, is first and foremost the precise account of an absent body. It has a corrosive effect on the ever-renewed attempts to practice a politics of relics, pace Bush et al. The body politic is elsewhere, beyond the touch of the naïve and beyond the hypocritical attempts by the greedy to profit from human sufferings.