The Apparatus of Christian Identity: Religious (Auto)Immunity, Political Theology, and the Making of the Racial World
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation examines what I call “the apparatus of Christian Identity” as a vast and complex network of power relations historically assembled and reassembled around recurring processes of self-closure and self-opening. Focusing on the political theology of St. Paul and its political legacy in the making of a global system of human identity divided along lines of race, I argue that the racism and violence of Christian Identity is a symptom of a repeated and self-imposed failure to immunize itself from encounters with a dangerous world of social, cultural, and religious plurality. I theorize white Christian racism and violence as reactionary responses to the inescapability of its own self-opening to otherness, which following Jacques Derrida I articulate as “autoimmunity.” In response to this cycle of racism and violence, I offer what I call a “theo-pragmatics” constructed around Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the term “pragmatics” and certain forms of black theory and religion. I engage these bodies of thought as offering strategies of resistance against white Christian immunity and as pragmatic responses to the inescapability of auto-immunity that privileges the temporal and embodied search for freedom over the idea of salvation. In so doing I seek to provide a theological and a religious frame in which the pragmatic negotiation and cultivation of temporal living in all of its difference, limitation, and contingency is prioritized above any attempt to secure absolute immunity/salvation of any constructed identity.