Wednesday, March 7, 2012

anatheism and strange strangers

Review of Richard Kearney's book, Anatheism (Columbia University Press, 2010).  Excerpts copied below.
Anatheism is a fresh attempt to reconceive the possibility of the sacred for the 21st century, seeking a way, as the subtitle suggests, of “returning to God after God.”

So what is anatheism? Kearney describes it variously as a movement, a paradigm, an invitation, a wager, a drama; a position between, before, and beyond the division of theism and atheism; “another word for another way of seeking and sounding the things we consider sacred but can never fully fathom or prove” (p.3).

Yet it bids adieu to the God of metaphysics and traditional religion whose surname has long been “Almighty” taking seriously the critical and iconoclastic force of atheism.

Thus, anatheism works back from the experience of God-loss toward a genuine renewal of the sacred to recover forward a second, more mature faith. While insisting that anatheism is “nothing particularly new” (p.7), it seems to be of particular moment in this age where the gods have withdrawn. “Ana” – seeking ‘after’ (toward) God ‘after’ (subsequent to) the death of God.

Anatheism–seeking a rebirth of faith after the loss of faith.

The thematic core of Anatheism: Returning to God after God is the encounter with the Stranger and the event of hospitality/hostility. In this basket Kearney’s places all his eggs. While official theologies and the popular religious imagination typically emphasize stories of creation, salvation, miracles, power, or final judgment as inaugural solicitations of faith, Kearney takes up the neglected figure of the Stranger.

The second half of the book (Interlude and Postlude) details the third moment of Anatheism: sacramental transformations in the everyday, mostly in secular scenes,

The sacred for Kearney is “in the world but not of the world” (p.152). Hence the preference for the figure of the Stranger over a disembodied, otherworldly traditional Omni-God, and over the rather abstract and well worn master concept of postmodernism –‘the Other’.