Salvaging Religion

There are two ideas which, for different reasons, consistently poke holes in the prevailing logic of my own religiosity: supersessionism and materialism. To those who may not be aware of these terms, I will (briefly) define them. Supersessionism is the belief that Christianity (and by proxy, those who claim to follow Christ) has replaced Judaism (or the Jewish people, depending on one's preference) as God's "chosen" people, that the "Church" is the logical and final progression of God's favor. Materialism is the critique of abstraction, common to both philosophy and spirituality, in that both to varying degrees create a hierarchy between the spiritual and material (e.g. the "world") and therefore ignore the material for the sake of some Platonic notion of the true, good, or beautiful. Both of these concepts illuminate tendencies within Christianity that have potent and damaging effects. Supersessionism, no matter how implicit, has long justified and produced horrible treatment of the Jewish people, not to mention the willful ignorance of the Jewish religious tradition and its own depth and variety. On the other hand, the tendency toward spiritual abstraction and ignorance of the material conditions of existence has, to varying degrees, created the capacity for what we now describe as capitalism, which predicates itself upon the very abstraction upon which Christianity rests. In short, Christianity has consistently destroyed livelihoods by its own internal logic and ignorance of its effect. 

To that end, the question now preying on my mind is simple: Is there any use salvaging religion, and Christianity in particular? As you might expect, I am predisposed to say, "Yes, of course." I have no reason to deny my own religiosity. And yet, in private conversations and online dialogue, I find myself more hesitant to answer in the affirmative, but no more ready to answer in the negative. Both of the ideas mentioned above do have weight, and for the record, let me be clear: supersessionism, in whatever form, is evil, and so is the tendency to ignore the material conditions of existence for vague, abstract spirituality. I now find myself haunted by the realities which are now exposed. Is Christianity able to escape these tendencies? Is such a religion even possible? Would one be able to create or invent a different expression of Christianity?

Some of my friends doubt that such a possibility would ever materialize and I sympathize with their reasoning. Predisposed as I am toward Marxism and its various expressions, my mind immediately returns to the living traditions of liberation theology or decolonial theory, or socialists who adhere to Jewish or Islamic practice—pioneers in these respective categories often returned to religious discourse for justification of revolutionary movements. They largely avoided the tendency of Christianity to subjugate the Other and ignore material conditions, to varying degrees of success (no one executed this perfectly). For better or worse, religious activists within these movements found no inherent tension in appropriating religion for their own methodology. And so, with all due respect, to those who would answer the overarching question in the negative—there is no use salvaging religion, Christianity in particular—the burden of proof is upon you to explain how the aforementioned examples failed to reconcile the history of religion and their own methods. It seems that although Christianity at large has often failed to recognize its own inconsistencies, and therefore engendered the worst forms of oppression and violence, there are indeed examples of religious individuals who found a path out of these tensions into something worthwhile.

As such, my own answer to the question of this post is "there should be." There should be a way to salvage religion, and Christianity in particular, to avoid the evils of supersessionism and abstraction. What this looks like in actual practice remains to be seen, and I admit my inability to fully vocalize that image. In time, this will hopefully come to fruition.

Please feel free to comment below on this post and whether you believe religion, and Christianity in particular, is worth salvaging.