ESR 5 Blog June/July 2022: Claude Nassar

Easter as Ritualistic Redefinition of the Christian Subject in Lebanon

With the renaissance of the religious awe of Easter that flooded my instagram feed in April this year amid the economic crisis in Lebanon, I feel inclined to reflect on the subjevities that a body occupies experiencing performing the theological rituals of these holidays, and the residue that these subjectivities leave on the body as the material ground of thought. However, this analysis does not claim to be a reflection of reality as much as it is a manifestation of my frustration with the reemergence of sectarian existential anxieties and the neurotic dynamic that these narratives produce, written in a rough note, from a position of an external analyst that I wouldn’t assume elsewhere, but for the length of this text, this will do.

I feel inclined to write about the religious significance of Easter and perhaps more specifically Good Friday due to the spiritual aspect that it has retained in contrast to the more social aspects of lets say Christmas, that were highlighted in recent years, at least in my experience. In a predominantly Christian village in Lebanon, Easter is an island in time when people relive the religious intensity that was eminent when I was growing up in the 90s and 00s. The war made religion a socio-political signifier, and the rituals that signal your belonging to a certain religion that receded to the background of Modernity in other parts of the world, in Lebanon—like many other areas in the region—these religious ceremonies retained their centrality to lived subjectivities.

The particularity of an intense religious experience is that it is an instance of embodied thought, where instead of learning theoretically about an event, the event is invoked through a series of recurrent rituals experienced collectively, that produces an alternative affective space in which the body can experience the event itself. The embodied experience of the narrative of Easter as such becomes part of the matter of the body receding to the background of thought where it is folded into its logics, its subjects, and the significance that these subjects can produce.

The experience of Good Friday is an experience of joy in loss, and folded into it are binary gender roles, and the dynamic relations between bodies that occupy these roles within the Christian subject. In addition to the subject that experiences loss, a political stance towards the bodies outside of the Christian subject that cause the loss needs to be implied as well. Accordingly, while other Christian theological events are centred around a dynamic that defines the Christian subject itself, in Easter the subject is confronted with what lies outside of it; an other whose actions poses a threat to the Christian subject as whole. Because the threat to the Christian subject comes from something that lies outside of it, the narrative is constructed around internal modes of organisation that forms the Christian subject in resistance to an other that poses the threat. This mode of subjectification is reproduced internally between the bodies that constituent the christian subject so that the individual that has the potential to embody the collective subject (Man) can defend it from external threats. This zone of encounter is what gives Easter its constituent role in the politics of the Christian subject and allows it to be coded within political strategies in the 21st century.

The internal structures of this defensive subjectivity is fairly simple: we mourn a man saviour that embodies God. The saviour is already dead, and will always die. While Man strives to become god, everything that falls outside of Man accepts the loss, and will always accept the loss. God will always prevail, and with him the Christian subject no matter what foolish deed may the Other do, since God is one with the Christian subject, in opposition to what’s outside it, and is defined by what is good. What is good is in the Christian subject and cannot be outside of it; What is bad is outside of the Christian subject and cannot be inside of it (unless it is infiltrated by the Other); What is good has already been taken from us by an Other, and will always be taken from us. A modality of life in loss, and as loss: what is dear is already lost even if it is here now since it can be taken away from us at any moment.

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