Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Moment of Faith: Against Relativism through a Reinterpretation of the Story of Abraham

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Moment of Faith: Against Relativism through a Reinterpretation of the Story of Abraham

Article excerpt

Introduction: First Throes of Disentanglement

The story of Abraham, of Isaac's binding, is the story of torment. It frustrates in such a way that leaves many asking questions of why, of how. It pours ink from the hands and fingers of writers in the academy, in religious institutions, in society. Regarding this relatively brief passage of biblical text, we know a few things to which we may find comfort in our certainty. We do know the magnitude of discussion surrounding the passage. In word and ink, it is vast.1 In word and ink, much is imagined. That is to say, authors add details into the text, most notably a dialogue between Isaac and Abraham intending to explain Isaac's role, as well as a sort of inner monologue addressing the feelings of Abraham: what he thought or believed. A number of British plays, for example, craft Abraham in a state of sorrow or mourning over what the god asked of him. Further, "at the heart of the drama is the dialogue between Isaac and his father: a dialogue highly emotional, and emphasizing the mutual love of father and child."2 These fictionalizations existed not just as a part of those British plays, but as a main part, the rising action and theatrical climax. And both Abraham and Isaac shine forth in love and goodness. Soren Kierkegaard, as well, begins his Fear and Trembling3 with a number of vignettes imagining the biblical text. Fictionalizing the suffering. Crafting monologue. The imaginings, of course, contrast the silence of the original. As Kierkegaard and, later, Brian Bethune confirms, in the original, "Abraham said nothing."4

We also know that three large-scale religious groups (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) situate Abraham as a predominate figure within their respective religious narratives,5 and they conceptualize him in a positive light, with his act serving the good, as Abraham serving the god. Abraham exists as the father of faith. In Christianity, Abraham's binding of Isaac operates as a caesura, a moment that tore apart the fabric of the social, leaving the frayed strings to dangle in the void of faith. In essence, it changed the way social groups conceptualized and ordered their world, and its continued emphasis in modern religious institutions suggests that a new fabric, a fabric of faith, stitched itself over the tear to construct a religious ideology. This re-stitching is the moment of Abraham, and it serves as the "vision of language itself...its end"6-it created a break from that which came before, and structured the thereafter.

The story's importance within social religious groups calls for examination. One cannot ignore a social meaning-text7 that structures the lives of so many in its ideology. And while some critical theorists and philosophers seem antagonist toward the Bible as a text, allowing bitterness, arrogance and spite to overcome the discussion, I hope to avoid that, to not dismiss the original text as delusion or madness, but to instead see its interpretation as a particular form of ideology that operates within society to produce certain effects. In other words, I find greater concern in consideration of what, logically, the Abraham meaning-text8 produces. It undoubtedly affects conceptual notions of goodness, not to mention actualized behavior. Importantly, I hope to contribute substantially to the discussion of the biblical passage by soldering the state of exception, as the political event, to the religious event existent within the Abraham meaning-text. This I term the moment of faith, that moment when the average operant within Christian ideology justifies his or her behavior through a belief that it fulfills the god's will and a duty toward obedience. What, in religious ideology, restructures the self and the social away from ethics or morality is a moment of faith, where one, like Abraham, perceives a commandment from the god: either directly spoken, indirectly hinted at, logically deduced, deluded in mental illness or encultured from the social environment (to name a few potential causes of individual caesura). …

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