8. Face-ing the Nations, Becoming a Majority Empire of God: Reterritorialization, Language, and Imperial Racism in Revelation 9:9-17
Critical Theory and Early Christianity - Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler - Matthew G. Whitlock
Sharon Jacob [+]
Phillips Theological Seminary
According to Deleuze and Guattari, “Racism never detects the particles of the other; it propagates waves of sameness until those who resist identification have been wiped out (or those who only allow themselves to be identified at a given degree of divergence).” Revelation 7:9-17 gestures to a global vision of the divine Empire, where people from all the nations, tribes, and languages gather before the Lamb and actively and willingly submit themselves to God by crying out in one voice and in one language. For the author of Revelation, the new Empire of God, although very closely designed on the Roman Empire, is one that is founded on the “sameness” of all the nations. Conformity of the nations illustrates a reterritorialization of an imperial power that makes these nations recognizable. Deleuze and Guattari write, “The same goes for minor languages: they are not simply sublanguages, idiolects or dialects, but potential agents of the major language’s entering into a becoming-minoritarian of all its dimensions and elements.” The languages spoken by the minority nations, people, and tribes are inserted into the language of the Empire, thus compelling them to assimilate. An assimilation of the nations not only makes them recognizable, but their ability to speak the major language now makes these nations fathomable to the author of Revelation. Thus, the minor nations in their heterogeneous and disunited state are produced into a majority Empire through a homogenous language and cultural assimilation. Such a reterritorialization of the nations, I argue in the case of Revelation 7:9-17, can only happen after the nations are deterritorialized and detached from their origins, in order that they can be “facialized” or “Christianized,” making these nations recognizable, controllable, and comprehensible, by the new Empire of God.