James Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship and Ideology (May 2012, Equinox)
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Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism is a sort of follow up to Jesus in an Age of Terror (one more ‘Age’ and we have a forced trilogy…). Whereas the focus in Jesus in an Age of Terror was on the impact of contemporary Anglo-American foreign policies and geopolitics concerning the Middle East on cultural trends and NT scholarship, the focus here is on the impact of the seemingly all encompassing neoliberalism. This inevitably means most (but not all) attention will be paid American-led scholarship over the past 40 years because, as might be expected with the rise of neoliberalism, America is where the ‘centre’ currently lies in scholarship. The overall aim is simple enough: to establish the general case for the importance of the context of neoliberalism for understanding major emphases in contemporary scholarship.
More detail about neoliberalism, tolerance, liberalism, ideology, postmodernity, extremism, culture, Jesus, Judeans, Red Tories, multiculturalism, the Pope, Jesus the Great Man, consumerism, some deeply weird beliefs, business-scholars, intentionality, patronising views concerning Jews and Judaism, biblioblogging about disasters, evangelicals, eyewitnesses, conspiracy theorists, ‘mythicism’ and so on will come later. For now, clearing the ground…
Happily accepting the ditching of the numerical dissection of the quest for the historical Jesus, this book will replace it with a simple chronological model of looking at scholarship in its own historical and cultural contexts. This might seem a blindingly obvious thing to do but it isn’t done that much at all, though enough recent work (e.g. Kelley, Blanton, Moxnes etc.) should hopefully change things. This book will also locate scholarly and not-so-scholarly ideas concerning Jesus alongside one another in a broad cultural context. This will mean extended analyses of contemporary culture, politics and ideology, just as a historical critical exegesis of a New Testament text would involve extended analyses of its ancient cultural contexts. Again, this should be obvious but curiously isn’t.
This book will also show how Jesus scholarship and scholars buy into broader cultural trends, wittingly or unwittingly, in their various portrayals of Jesus and his context. There is less interest in the personal nature of that now banal scholarly mantra ‘we all have presuppositions’ (uttered if something profound were being stated repeatedly; at least Bultmann was a little edgy when he said it) and far more interest in the broader social, cultural and political world of the interpreter. The replication of this world in describing Jesus’ world can regularly stand in direct contrast to the personal beliefs of the interpreter. There will be case studies on intentions but, for now, let’s work with the exaggerated assumption that your personal beliefs don’t matter very much. In practice it might be more generously (perhaps) understood by following both Marx (‘we are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it’) and Žižek (‘they know very well what they are doing, but still they are doing it’).
And yet another qualifier: this look at scholarship is not necessarily reflective of what is thought of said scholarship in terms of (say) historical accuracy and the polemic in the book is more reflective of what is thought of the ideological position under analysis. So (obviously): even if the ideological analysis carried out in this book is one-hundred per cent accurate, this does not mean a scholar is right or wrong in their historical analysis. Ok?
This is also why there are extended analyses of cultural contexts and also the interweaving of the scholarly and not-so-scholarly views of Jesus. They are all part of an interconnected cultural context and removing scholarship from this context would only serve to imply that scholarship is somehow beyond the apparent trivialities of contemporary culture and protected from the dirtiness of the outside word. Even the Cleverest Scholar in the World is as much part of the shared cultural and ideological contexts as an amateur blogger and even the best rated journal is as much part of the shared cultural and ideological contexts as an obscure evangelical journal or internet discussion group. Etc and so on.
As this may imply, scholarly and cultural constructions of (typically ‘liberal’) ‘centres’ and ‘extremes’ are important for this book: how they are interconnected, how the constructed centre generates and constructs its credibility, how extremes aid this credibility, how extremes can be absorbed, how extremes can allow politicised issues to be de-legitimated and so on.
That’s all general and fairly abstract background stuff so a chapter-by-chapter breakdown will be forthcoming. For now, here is the chapter outline:
Chapter 1: Introduction: Jesus Quests and Contexts
PART I: From Mont Pelerin to Eternity? Contextualising an Age of Neoliberalism
Chapter 2: Neoliberalism and Postmodernity
Chapter 3: Biblioblogging: Connected Scholarship
Chapter 4: ‘Not Made by Great Men’? The Quest for the Individual Christ
Chapter 5: ‘Never Trust a Hippy’: Finding a Liberal Jesus Where You Might Not Think
PART II: Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism
Chapter 6: A ‘fundamentally unreliable adoration’: ‘Jewishness’ and the Multicultural Jesus
Chapter 7: The Jesus Who Wasn’t There? Conservative Christianity, Atheism and Other Religious Influences
PART III: Contradictions
Chapter 8: ‘Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing!’ Other Problems, Extremes and the Social World of Jesus
Chapter 9: Red Tory Christ
Chapter 10: Conclusion: They Know It and They Don’t