1st Edition

Racism and the Weakness of Christian Identity Religious Autoimmunity

By David Kline Copyright 2020
    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    Despite the command from Christ to love your neighbour, Western Christianity has continued to be afflicted by the evil of racism and the acts of violence that accompany it. Through a systems theoretical and deconstructive account of religion and the political theology of St. Paul, this book traces how the racism and violence of modern Western Christianity is a symptom of its failure to secure its own myth of sovereignty within a complex world of plurality.  

    Divided into three sections, the book begins with a philosophical and critical account of what it calls the immune system of Christian identity. Focusing on Pauline political theology as reflective of an inherent religious "autoimmunity" built into Christian community, a theory of theological-political violence is located within Western Christianity. The second section traces major theoretical aspects of the historical "apparatus" of Christian Identity. It demonstrates that it is ultimately around the figure of the black slave that racialized Christian identity becomes a system of anti-blackness and white supremacy. The book concludes by offering strategies for thinking resistance against such racialised Christian identity. It does this by constructing a "pragmatics of faith" by engaging Deleuze’s and Guattari’s use of the term pragmatics, Moten’s theory of black fugitivity, and Long’s account of African American religious production.  

    This wide-ranging and interdisciplinary view of Christianity’s relationship to racism will be of keen interest to scholars of Religious Studies, Theological Studies, Cultural Studies, Critical Race Studies, American Studies, and Critical Theory.



    Part One: Religion, Christian Identity, and Political Theology

    1 Genre, System, Observation: Sylvia Wynter and Niklas Luhmann on Autopoiesis and Religion

    2 Immunity and Autoimmunity: The Two Sources of Religion

    3 Becoming Christian: Pauline Political Theology and the Apparatus of Christian Identity

    Part Two: Apparatuses

    4 Apparatus One: Spanish Colonialism and Non-Christian Bodies as Theo-Juridical Problems

    5 Apparatus Two: Anti-Blackness and White Supremacy in Spanish and English Colonialism

    6 Apparatus Three: Race and Biopolitical Intensification in America

    Part Three: Thinking Resistance

    7 Being’s Salvation: Political Ontology, Apocalyptic Theology, and the Apparatus

    8 The Fugitive and the Katechon: Blackness and Pragmatics


    David Kline is a Lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His academic specialties are religion and race in the Americas, critical race theory, critical theory, and political theology. He is the co-author of Embodiment and Black Religion (2017)

    "With this sophisticated and illuminatingly interdisciplinary book Kline delivers a profound blow to received understandings of religion and race which is sure to send resonant shockwaves through our experiences of the political. Locating the twinned histories of race and religion at the heart of contemporary theories of auto-poetic social systems and their regular explosions of auto-immunitary or reactionary violence, Kline shows us how we will never really engage such violence without working through a repressed history of Christianity as a form of violent racialization—and violent racialization as a form of Christianity." –Ward Blanton, University of Kent, author of A Materialism for the Masses: Saint Paul and the Philosophy of Undying Life

    David Kline offers a theoretically rich analysis of the violent, colonial, white supremacist state, buttressed by western Christian theologies and racist modes of domination, that seeks to make itself immune from the threat of the contaminating "other" through militarized policing and security forces. In his work, we find compelling arguments not for the resilient power, but rather for the performative fragility, of the white supremacist state as it confronts challenges to its immorality and brutality. –Rima Vesely-Flad, Ph.D., Warren Wilson College, author of Racial Purity and Dangerous Bodies: Moral Pollution, Black Lives, and the Struggle for Justice

    "A powerful and enlightening study of race and religion, David Kline’s "Racism and the Weakness of Christian identity" finds in the heart of Christianity a conflict between the radical openness "without condition" to the Other that is the essence of the Christian ethic and the immunitary closure—the concepts of the sacred, pure, or unscathed—that protects the identity of any religious system. Through rigorous engagement with theories of immunity from the likes of Niklas Luhmann, Jacques Derrida, and Roberto Esposito, Kline exposes this hidden struggle within Christian identity as the driving force behind the ongoing catastrophes of white supremacy and anti-black racism. Most provocatively, Kline finds hope by suggesting that the paradoxical destiny of faith may lie in the ultimate risk of leaving even Christian identity itself behind." –Ryan White, author of The Hidden God: Pragmatism and Posthumanism in American Thought