paul’s dislocated mirror

you’re are many members, but one body. – Paul

(soma) – body (which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself )

(heis) – but one (universal)

(melos) – parts, members (neutered)

In Lacan’s presentation of the mirror stage, the infant experiences his or her body as uncoordinated, vulnerable, and insufficient. This sense of frustration with physical limitations propels the infant toward identification with the (apparently) unified and stable imago of the mirror reflection or of the caregiver.

“The propositional exactitude of a certain absence”

the whole notion of church predominantly stems from the notion that we all have a participatory role to play. we each have something to both give and gain. something to leave and something to take. in the west, the idea of church is quite heavily driven by identity. for example, some go to charismatic gatherings because this expression seems to fit for them ideologically. others visit in small houses with candles and guitars because they crave intimacy with the divine.

neither one excludes the other, although the manner in which we guard and defend each expression would make others think so. we defend our understanding and ideas over that which might be beneficial to each other as whole. we would rather demonstrate our allegiance to the belief in something that projects itself to be a community at the risk of the greater community.

the jungian notion of the shadow claims that “the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts.”* by over-asserting our individualism not only do we deny the idea of what it means to be the body of christ, we deny the very weaknesses we are meant to claim about ourselves. we hide our weaknesses when we seek the ‘perfect’ church. but why do we seek the perfect church if it does not exist? what drives us to seek out the whole self when in reality we are disjointed? we are plural. i think it is in the mis-recongnition of wholeness where the church has been lost for centuries.

wholeness is plurality.

wholeness is disjointed. it is not that one is different from the other or even that one needs the other. the ancient sage wisdom of the ying and the yang does not stand in true form here because individuality is not the opposite of the body, individuality is the very body itself. but when we embrace one over the other we become the ‘body’ we were never meant to be. notice the word paul uses for body and how it is defined. it is a shadow created by something that is not itself. the shadow is the other. the shadow is the defining factor, or in the case lacan’s mirror.


the body is the issue here. the body is the problem not the goal. the body isn’t represented by wholeness, the body hides the reality of dislocation. the body creates another shadow that is not the true nature of what we now call church. the body, remember, is not wholeness it is the facade of wholeness. it is the promise of something that can never come, not because it is impossible, but because as we earlier discovered it is in our disjointedness that we are already whole.

also notice that paul uses a neutered term here when he refers to parts or members. neutered. no gender. christ is a genderless entity. jesus was male. its important to remember in the ancient world that the term christ was used quite widely and wasnt as scarce as we would like to think. many would have used it. jesus’ last name was not christ. it was a title. a description. but the description does not define the gender of the title. christ the title held itself as a genderless descriptor.

this notion flies in the very face of fundamentalist paradigms that claim certain rules either about gender or sexuality. those that spend their time searching through libraries creating perverse theology centered around injunctions seek to engender more meaning to the christ descriptor than itself claims to be aligned with. to be a part of the genderless community is to claim freedom for all of those who might lie within the undefined cracks. i am very hesistant to use the postmodern term ‘other’ here because that would assume that this other resides outside of this disjointed body we claim as whole. and if it is ‘whole’ then it also includes everybody.

notice the next term paul uses here. the word for one. it’s universal. not specific. not tribal. it applies to the whole of not just the audience who would have heard/read this letter, but because of the circulated nature of such a letter it would have included a variegated number of listeners. this ‘specific universality’ i claim is a microcosm for the world in its entirety. to be the church is to include responsibility for each other, including ecosystems, animals, economies, beliefs and etc. but this goes beyond taking care of the poor and other social justice practices, sometimes these practices are the very things keeping us from fully embracing every one that we might not be comfortable with.

i think the redemption of the church lies in: (1) eradicating its current master signifiers and (2) redefining them. for most there are certain ideas that define the church, or communities and what it is centered around and what makes them tick. i think these are all the wrong questions. we need to push them beyond them all and began looking at other possibilities – in the end, the full eradication of any master-signifier (the word/idea that gives ultimate (whole) meaning to ideas) – (ex: the church is meant to be ‘perfect’) should be the goal. for me this is why the death and resurrection is so important. it is the cycle/direction that the church, ideology and even life is meant to take.

the church cannot be self-referential. otherwise it becomes valued only through itself. it must point to a reality beyond itself. this is the ultimate weakness of any master-signifier it can only end in and of itself. the church for centuries has only led to itself. this is why there is an aggressive exclusive kernel that still remains yet attractive even within the rhetoric of the new movements within. because those within it have become institutionalized no matter how much structure they might kick against. to redeem the church is to redeem the world. i think this is why jesus spent so much time talking/critiquing/praying for the church because once it got itself sorted out, the world (which according to paul is the church) would by relationship itself be sorted out.


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