The Event of Interreligious Betrayal

In the event of a specific encounter between the religious expressions of the Absolute, that is to say between the different faces of religion today, there is – on a humanistic level apart from religious politics and the mere dialogue that only and ironically speaks in soliloquy[1] – a spur of a radical turn. Such a spur may not be necessarily incited from the fact that interreligious dialogue gradually bridges the gap from a breach of tolerance or of the utter iconoclasm of the ‘religious other’. Rather the encounter speaks for itself the contingent spur of a religious breaking point, the breach itself, slowly forming, enlarging, and reshaping[2] the covenantal bond of the religious subject towards God from the faces of religion as a whole. The fact exposes firstly the break – the betrayal of past factual changes in retrospect – the breach, out of which the religious subject encounters a radical turn that changes the whole landscape of religious order. In short, the so called ‘events of betrayal’ – the new regimes of the Afghanistan ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the Philippine Bangsamoro incident, the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo, and others such as the Côte d’Ivoire victimizations, Kosovo mass murder, and so on – bespeaks of a realization to the integral order of a wider prefiguration of an event, something that traces the causal facts and transports them into a radical turning. This specific encounter therefore of the breakage is the event in itself retroactively altering the field – from betrayal to an inauguration of peace.

What’s an event? An vital characteristic of an event among others is culpa[3], the ‘fault’, but also in its other meaning: the fall. Christian tradition, from Augustine, elucidates this as something so enthusiastically celebrated in Easter as Felix culpa  in the necessary fall of Adam. More closely, it was the ‘betrayal’ from humanity’s grand myth, paralleled as Judas’ kiss: both of which leading to the salvation of man, as if the fall was a conditio sine qua non from the start. The betrayal becomes necessary when it paves way for the radical turning of an event, in the case of Adam’s fall, the event of the ‘Incarnation’ – in the case of Judas’ kiss leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the event of the ‘Resurrection’ – assuming the very definition of the felix. But the fall, the betrayal, deserves not the main focus of the event, but the radical point where the whole schema itself changes during the arrival, the happening of the event. The fall therefore significantly contributes such advent, as if it functions precisely for it as the event’s retroactive element. For the event may have been a simple phenomenon, so contingent and yet made necessary by the fall, allowing the subject to ruminate on the fall as a retroactive field actuating the possibility of the event. When the event happens, it becomes an effect that exceeds its causes, even exceeding the fall.

For instance, the celebrated ‘works’ of Aquinas as an event in medieval philosophy would become necessarily a retroactive inquiry of its origins: what made him the angelic doctor, what school he attended, who his mentors are, what sources he read. In other words, with Aquinas as an evental writer, it was as if the likes of Aristotle, Augustine, and Peter Lombard made more sense. The event happens significantly that it changes the course of facts; it harmonizes the whole field by focusing on itself, appreciating and creating the path for its predecessors, its pre-contextual reality. Another instance would have been very human: falling in love as an event. When one falls in love, it is also as if every moment retroactively thought of becomes a precursor, a pre-context until the happening of the event itself: it would conjure the essential provocations ‘every moment of my life led to meeting you’, ‘perhaps I was broken to fall in love with you’, or ‘all this time, and now you are here’. Meeting the love of one’s life might be so contingent, like bumping into each other, or accidentally meeting over an ordinary event like passing by while having a normal eye contact. And yet in this ordinariness, the fall happens and the accidental becomes elevated into something that changes the person forever – this is an event.

In the event then of interreligious encounter, the causal chain might be traced to be the betrayal of religion. Its biggest betrayal: to justify murder in the name of its divine guarantor. But this is not to say that it is almost as if necessary to kill in the name of Allah or God for the sake of an eventual event. One hastily obfuscates the fact that such causes intervening the effect of interreligious encounter all point to this betrayal, this phenomena of massive beheading cases leading to the fall of religion in the secular eye. And yet the betrayal does not essentially commit the worldview into an unmasking of religion in its true violent face: the Old Testament sacrifices transported into the sacrifice of God himself on the cross, or the asphyxiating fundamentalism that abhors tolerance. No. The betrayal of religion is the fall of humanity, the fall of humaneness, when a certain breach is reached within the existential freedoms of the human and the respect he deserves in both religious and secular universes. The common denominator of the fall and the betrayal of all, is the disrespect of human life, regardless of religion or status. Did not Eve fell in disrespect of her being human when she thought of becoming God? This opens the true fall and failure of interreligious encounter, when humanity becomes undignified, when ethical conjunctions are no longer relevant in the dialogue of God-talk, of religiosity – of that monopolizing soliloquy when a human wants to talk as if he is God – because to dialogue is, most importantly, to speak in human language, to express one’s humanity. To honor the ‘religious other’ is to honor his humanity, the fragility of his experience bound also by the fragility of oneself – in other words, to honor God by honoring the golden rule that each man should do what is evental of him towards others: to establish peace out of love and joy to the world.

The betrayal of interreligious encounter must pave way for the coming of an evental eclipse in an interreligious faith that promotes peace. To encounter the religious other is to make such an encounter as if it is a fall, when both humanities of the persons dialoguing respect each other’s fallen-ness, and establish a radical order where, even if absolute peace is not attained, a contentment of ordinary life becomes an event: where there is peace of mind and heart in the encounter of religions. Peace must be the event of interreligious betrayal, because it must overwhelm the tracts of ruthless genocides, it must follow through the fall of being human. It then should furthermore be a prospect, an event that must cater humanity into a resolution of beliefs, a radical turning point of humanity where divisions are respected and lives are constituted for the well-being of dignified persons. This evental peace must be this radical turning when a new humanity is forged, a province where one can only retrospect the divisions that determine the fallen-ness of the human: it must exceed the betrayals of fallen humanity and transform them into a life of respect, joyfulness, and love. Is this not also how Jesus baffled every revolutionary consciousness of believers during his time with his arcane pronouncement: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34)? Perhaps the sword was a necessary fall, perhaps the Lamb of God had to be slain – perhaps Jesus betrayed his disciples at that time when they wanted military liberation – but perhaps too, all of this is to realize how peace is an event that would be imperative for humanity, and that means all persons in an interreligious meeting of peace here on earth.

[1] For there are dialogues that are so nominal they only allow the ‘other’ to speak for itself without a corresponding appropriate response. The response, in the name of dialogue, assumes a tolerable freedom for speaking, like listening to what each has to say, but suspends it by indifferently leaving it pointblank or by responding one’s position without connection. It thereby leaves and reduces the whole dialogue dialectic into a soliloquy of speeches hearing the ‘other’ in deaf ears – the speeches without the following actions, the dialogue for the sake of a sheer monologue for itself.

[2] Roy Borne in Foucault and Derrida: the Other Side of Reason, (Great Britain, Redwood Books, 1990, 81) reiterates the realm following the death of God where the subject enlarges and reshapes itself into a whole new set of transgressions and limits, continually being renewed in a plane contingently set for human transfiguration. This can aptly be situated in the secular universe where the common ground replaces social religious conventions into conversations of the human, i.e. of justice, the common good, ethics, and so on.

[3] For the ruminations of the term ‘Event’, see Slavoj Zizek, Event: A Philosophical Journey Through a Concept, (Melville House, 2014).


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