7. The "Body of Christ without Organs" and "Becoming-Christ": The Apostle Paul and Christian Deterritorialization
Critical Theory and Early Christianity - Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler - Matthew G. Whitlock
Bradley H. McLean [+]
University of Toronto
The traditional Enlightenment distinction between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” is as relevant to Pauline theology as it is anywhere in the New Testament. But even though Paul’s resurrected “Christ of faith” seems to exist outside the historical framework of human life, the Pauline “body of Christ” still possessed material, semiotic, and libidinal coordinates. This chapter will conceptualize Paul’s “body of Christ” in terms of Deleuze’s “body without organs” (BwO), which is a deterritorialized body existing outside of any determined state. The Pauline “body of Christ without organs” is a deterritorialized body that is simultaneously coterminous with the body of believers (1 Cor 12:27), with Eucharistic bread that is broken (1 Cor 12:27), and with the individual bodies of Christian believers, whom Paul exhorts to become Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 3:18, 4:16, 5:17-18, 6:2, Gal 6:20, Phil 3:10). Indeed, for Pauline Christians, the existential counterpoint to “body of Christ without organs” was “becoming Christ.” All becomings, according to Deleuze, “begin with and pass through becoming-woman and are directed towards becoming-imperceptible.” This chapter will argue that “becoming-Christ” similarly entailed “becoming-woman” and “becoming-imperceptible” as its necessary starting point and terminus. But regardless of the specific pathway by which “becoming-Christ” was attained, the bodies of Pauline Christians, so transformed, continued to possess bodies formed through material-discursive practices. For that which the Pauline “body of Christ without organs” and “becoming-Christ” shared in common with other kinds of bodies in the Graeco-Roman world was that they could all be traced back to the material-discursive practices that inscribed boundaries in and between bodies on the plane of immanence.