A Deterritorialised God

A quote from a great book I picked up today. Observations from an (atheistic, agnostic?) Roman Catholic perspective, but, as the blurb says: ‘far from losing himself in a thicket of erudition, Debray knows how to touch on the essential.’

Promised Land, Holy Land, Holy City—the New Testament knows nothing of such expressions. The Pauline epistles make no reference to the Land. The Word became Flesh and ‘dwelt among us’. Where was it? A mere anecdote. No fleshly attachment to the soil, no supernatural pegging to a plot of land. It is the body of Christ that is the territory and true Temple of the Christian. There are at present many Jews who do not separate their fate from that of Israel. How many Catholics bind their fate to the Holy See as a state? The imaginary space of the former is a radiance surrounding a heart. The space of the latter is centrifugal, dynamic, afocal, the sum of its vanishing points. The Host can be shared anywhere, ‘in spirit and in truth’. Yahweh remains politically competent in a given space (however imprecise it may be, the auspicious ‘between the Nile and the Euphrates’, the maximal option, being subject to many a squeeze of the accordian). The peregrinatory character of Christian existence also makes of the Church a people on the march, like Abraham. The Christian is a man ‘towards’, not a man ‘in’. Yet his march is not orientated towards a magnetic centre (despite the folkloric all-roads-lead-to-Rome). The dispersal of the apostles after Pentecost was without melancholy. For Jesus had left the Temple for good. When Peter, Paul, James, and the others packed their their bags to ‘go teach unto all the nations’, in keeping with Jesus’ plan, it was without the slightest need to see Jerusalem again, for it was a point of departure, not of return.

Regis Debray, God: An Itinerary (translated by Jeffrey Mehlman).

Debray is one of the staunchest atheist Republican intellectuals in France, and was once a guerilla fighter in Latin America. It seems to me so far that his observations on the Bible often put many Christian authors to shame.

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