I write 'or' here instead of 'and' because it seems to me that the faith-based conservatism in the US is gunning for liberal reason in the name of faith. This is not a defensive Christian stance towards modernity and the Enlightenment that fails to see its dialectical character and barbaric reversal. On this reading God is dead or eclipsed or exiled. If God is to indeed return, it will be from the cages, from the margins, from life's liminal spaces, from somewhere other, not from somewhere beyond the earth.
Nor is the fundamentalist, faith-based conservatism in the US a theological reason based on the biblical vision of salvation that goes beyond personal guilt to a collective liberation from situations of human misery, suffering and oppression. This is a Christianity so alienated from a reason with its roots in Athens (ie., a Hellenized Christinity) that it has become insensitve and indifferent to to the outcry of suffering and the need for justice.
This is a Biblical Christianity, which has its roots in the Puritan's dissenters stress on the centrality of religious freedom and the sacredness of individual conscience in matters of faith and practice, and is at odds with what Jürgen Habermas has called "the unfinished project of modernism". Biblical Christianity is not only at odds with the hardened, reified, mechanistic Enlightenment, but also with a pluralistic modernism marked by transgression of national, ethnic and generic boundaries.
It is a self-righteousness fundamentalist Christianity whose central Christian message is to say No to secular modernity.
This post makes contact with the work of German theologian Christian Baptist Metz, who defends the heritage of Israel in Christianity and explores the significance of the fact that Christianity has its roots in Judaism. For the moment I am working from a paper by Habermas called 'Israel or Athens: Where does Anamnestic Reason Belong?' kindly sent to me by Ali Rizvi, over at the excellent Habermasian Reflections.
It appears that Christian Baptist Metz has been in conversation with the Frankfurt School over Adorno's haunting declaration that "after Auschwitz there can no longer be any poetry; and he defends a spirituality that is painfully yet hopefully open to the terrible suffering that has characterized the 20th century. It is a political theology that:
"...feels seriously challenged by history and society and defines theology as speaking of God in our time. Speaking of God in our time, always, means to give a diagnosis of our time, to find out what is going on in history and society. From this perspective speaking of God means to always speak about the so-called "signs of our time" and the signs, without which no one should speak of God today, are Auschwitz and the Gulag."
A political theology that remembers what has been forgotten. A Christianity that needs to be an anamnestic culture keeps track of the forgotten – the victims and their suffering.
So what is an anamnestic culture?
Jürgen Manemann says that an anamnestic culture concerned with historical catastrophe is rooted in biblical remembrance:
"Biblical remembrance is an inability to distance oneself successfully from the terror and abyss of reality through mythologization or idealization. Johann Baptist Metz calls this mentality "poor in spirit". Biblical remembrance is memoria passionis – memory of suffering. This memory is dangerous, because practising theology in the face of danger means that mysticism returns to logic, praxis returns to theory, the experience of resistance and suffering returns to the experience of grace and spirit. Such a memory is practical and apocalyptical. It does not by any means take its cue from counter-enlightenment, for it discloses the traditions that gave rise to interest in freedom."