Multiple philosophical-theological efforts in the last century, from W. Benjamin to J. Caputo, have been centered on a messianic opposition to normative structures, a challenge that invokes a long history in the West of breaking down the codes of ordered, civilized and religious society. That such an apocalyptic fervor is nothing new to the history of theology should not surprise us. What should surprise us, however, is how infrequently we are able to see the larger pattern behind these particular movements. Taking up the recent emergence of ‘queer theology’ as the current manifestation of such a trend, I want to isolate and clarify the theological implications of comprehending the existence of humanity as a state of constantly ‘being between’. What I argue is that developing a hermeneutics of eschatology that takes such tensions as foundational rather than merely heterodox indicates that the opposition of grace and law is to be understood not as a dualism to be overcome but as the structure of history itself. The question I am posing is this: to what degree does the queering or subversion of theological normativity, or the development of a ‘theology against itself’, allow us to subvert identitarian politics and to challenge the social and religious institutions that we are a part of? It is through the lens of ‘queer theology’ and its questioning of the existence of normativity itself that we are simultaneously returned to the basic structures that guide human life, while, at the same time, propelled forward into new configurations of resistance to just such structures. By firmly placing ourselves within this ‘queer critique’ we see the ‘already-not yet’ tension of eschatological thought not simply in religious terms, but in ones that reorient our relationship to the political and social orders of this world, calling for a permanent re-envisioning of norms as the individual—and the church—are found to be perpetually—and edifyingly—‘against themselves’.
Dickinson, Colby. Fragmented, Messianic, Paradoxical, Antinomian, Revolutionary, Secular: The Hermeneutics of Eschatology. Religions, 8, 3: 44-60, 2017. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, Theology: Faculty Publications and Other Works, http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rel8030044
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© Colby Dickinson 2016.