This post is partly a response to Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right: Post-9/11 Powers and American Empire by Mark Lewis Taylor, but it also begins the outlining work for the preface of my MA thesis.
Mark Lewis Taylor quite frankly stated his thesis for the book: “9/11 is best interpreted as a ‘mythic moment’ that temporarily ruptured the great myths of American Greatness by which many U.S. residents live” (xi). But the popping of the American bubbles of innocence and safety is not the end for the scope of the book, Taylor continues on to summarize the American response to such an attack: “groups already steeped in cultures of felt defeat and embattlement [i.e. the Christian Right] have harnessed the fear and patriotism of the post-9/11 moment for their ends” (69). Within this context of perceived violation and violent response, Taylor follows the Christian Right as it powers its way through politics, primarily through yoking with the neocons, the rich of wallstreet, and to whom the rich give money – Bush. Taylor then puts forth a response founded in his conception of prophetic spirit and a spirit that is inclusive for both Christian and non-Christian alike.
I liked this book, but that comes as no surprise since Taylor touched on the foundation for my thesis. On one hand I am actually annoyed someone already put this together in a similar way as I have planned, after all I spent a lot of time and my own thought getting to my position without the aid of Taylor. But on the other hand, it is reassuring to see someone else making similar moves, particularly someone who has a readership, and I realize the differences between Taylor and I can only make my argument stronger.
The first difference I noted was that Taylor hardly, if ever, mentions memory, instead he starts with the myth believed, characterizes it and moves on. I plan to start at deeper assumptions like memory and willful self-blindness. It seems from this distinction alone, that Taylor is writing to a different audience; he is writing about those Christians who believe the myths (interestingly he calls them Constantinian Christians a couple of times) while I will be writing both at and about. Also, without talking about memory, it does not leave him the thematic connection to use Metz and his conception of dangerous memory, which I think functions very well within prophetic spirit. Taylor, I suppose, did not have to talk about memory for his argument to hold, but it does feel less substantial.
Taylor also seems to collapse the myths that the Christian Right believes, and while I think there is greater value in distinguishing the myths, Taylor in a very short time and in his own way still summarizes the over all effect of the myths and explicitly makes the connection between Reagan’s hope. Despite Taylor’s seemingly simplification of the myths, he still describes the big picture well and so I do not think I can fault him for the simplicity.
I will write a thesis that cuts across both conservative and liberal movements, as opposed to Taylor’s critique of the Christian Right and some Liberalism, then again, I will be speaking in explicit Christian categories, while Taylor was choosing to address a broader audience. My thesis will cut both ways also because I do not plan on making a Constantinian turn in my argument and faulting the Christian Right alone, rather I will put forth William Cavanaugh’s critique of the nation-state and its anthropological implications for both conservatives and liberals. Despite how much I value the prophetic spirit – which I also see as the viable response to the state and culture – still latent within the prophetic spirit, as explicated by Taylor, seems to be an anthropology derived from our individualizing, enlightenment social contract (the constitution) as opposed to a Christian anthropology of organic relationship.
I also noticed that Taylor mentioned next to nothing about American terrorism. I do not think it a coincidence that because Taylor did not address innocence, or lack there of, Taylor did not also address American terrorism. However, Taylor did mention the idea of American righteousness, and this seems to be a move that covers similar ground at a quicker speed. For Taylor’s vision of the book, with a simplified version of American myths, talking of righteousness begins to strike at what innocence covers without all the argumentation. This was a good way to shore up his arguments, but I still wish he had talked about it to fill out both an explication about the Christian Right and his argument.
My last observation is not a compare and contrast, but noting once again that I was struck at how similar 9/11 and the Christological event of the cross function similarly. In fact I would venture to say, within the nation-state’s myth, creed and liturgy, 9/11 functions theologically as Christ’s cross – deaths of the innocent at the hand of this great monolithic, terrorist evil. I would also continue to say that this “messianic vision” subverts the Christian story and the Christian cross (44). 9/11 as used by the nation-state is a theological subversion of Jesus Christ. And as the Christian story of cross does not end with death, so to does the nation-state supply a hope of the grand future – however an anthropocentric future – most vividly seen in Reagan.