Divine Rule and White Supremacy

Counter-demonstrations in Charlottesville. Source: NBC

I was fortunate enough to participate in the Graduate Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Barth Studies this week. Each person gave a 20-30 minute presentation on a selected portion of Church Dogmatics, Volume 3:3, followed by 40-30 minutes discussion. The presentations were amazing, and showed just how many diverse and brilliant lines of thought can be developed through to exploration of Barth’s work. The opportunity to listen to and engage in discussion with the community that had gathered was a true gift—not least because it showed how much there is yet to be learnt. In any case, given the current events in Charlottesville, I figured I might as well post the presentation I gave (as well as some of the lines of interrogation that emerged in the discussion afterwards). I hope it’s worth reading.


The purpose of this presentation is to explore the relationship between Barth’s account of the Divine Ruling and white supremacy.1 I am going to argue that Barth captures one of white supremacy’s fundamental conceptual mechanisms in his articulation of why creatures cannot share in God’s rule. I will then briefly suggest three theological critiques of white supremacist ideology which can be developed through his account of God’s providence in light of this. (I have used ‘white supremacist ideology’ as a shorthand throughout this presentation, but I should say that what I am discussing is, at best, one possible picture of that ideology. It is cobbled together from a variety of sources, and even if it is a true picture, then it does not exclude other accounts.)

First: how does Barth capture one of white supremacy’s fundamental conceptual mechanisms? In the Divine Ruling, he claims that “when we make the simple but … momentous statement that God rules, we must understand it primarily to mean the God alone rules.”2 Ruling can therefore “be only His work. No one else has any legitimate claim to rule His creature.”3 This solitude is grounded in God’s nature; God rules alone “because He is the One who in His freedom is gracious, and in His grace free.”4 The good of God’s sovereignty is thus uniquely non-competitive with the goodness of creation—since God is revealed in Jesus Christ to be the One who is free and gracious, it is unique to God’s rule that it is good for the creature.5

This truth about God grounds a series of truths about our attempts to usurp God’s rule. In saying why this usurpation is impossible, Barth writes “no concept of a creaturely whole, not even that of a whole co-ordinated by God, can ever take the place of God Himself.”6 This is “because the whole itself is only a creature … with no claim to rule either itself or its individual moments or particles,”7 such that “for any creature to be lowly in relation to this universal whole could mean only to be absolutely less than this whole. For the individual creature, to be subordinated to this … could mean only degradation, depreciation, and humiliation.”8

Whereas God’s glorification is good for the creature, then, the glorification of an aspect of creation as sovereign entails a structure of competition between exclusive goods. Within this, the good of those who approximate the being of the postulated whole is deemed essential, whilst the good of those who don’t is deemed subordinate. In Barth’s words:

[under this false view] in the universe as a whole there are some things which belong essentialiter to its perfection and therefore must not be destroyed, and others which can and necessarily do perish and therefore last only as long as they have to do in the interests of the first group.9

For within this usurpation, “the articulated whole is greater and more important than its component parts,” such that:

amongst the parts themselves there arises the further distinction between those which are more important and necessary for the whole and those which are less … It is obvious that countless beings are in this second case, existing only to be sacrificed at the last for the life and progress of the whole and the favored few.10

To summarize: given that God is the One who is in his freedom gracious and in his grace free, God alone can rule to the benefit of creation. Any attempt to replace God with a creaturely whole transmutes the framework of sovereignty into one of competitiveness. Within this, the good of individuals is subordinated to the good of that whole, and those less necessary to this good are deemed inessential. (On a methodological note, it is worth noting that this account is derived from reasoning about God, not humanity in and of itself; as always with Barth, we are what we are because of who the God that reveals Godself in Jesus Christ is.)

The Constitution of the People

It must now be shown that Barth has captured one of white supremacy’s fundamental conceptual mechanisms in this account. To do this, I am going to trace a genealogy of that ideology, so as to demonstrate the operative role of the transmutation described by Barth. In order to keep things close to Barth’s spirit, however, I am going to try and do so under the aspect of scriptural reflection. Kathryn Tanner has noted that talk of God’s providence is, for Barth, “a way of showing how what happens to Israel is written into the nature of things more generally.”11 Given that white supremacy is a type of will to sovereignty, it therefore makes sense to locate its genealogical roots within Barth’s account of Israel’s own sovereign impulse, in its demand for a human king—casting this impulse as an aspect of Israel’s history that is indeed written into the nature of things more generally.

Barth considers Israel’s demand for a king in Vol. 2:2 of the Church Dogmatics. He writes:

What [the Israelites] demanded and desired was human kingship in distinction from the kingship of God, opposing and in a sense complementing it. They wanted a hero and a leader from amongst themselves, an exponent of their national power, a symbol of their national unity.12

In other words, Israel desired to be ruler in virtue of which they would “be like other nations.”13

The fact that the object of this desire is given by God in the figure of Saul then suggests that the sovereign impulse across history can be interpreted under the aspect of Saul’s person—for “quite apart from everything that must be said for or against Saul, it is clear that the monarchy revealed in the decision of God at Ramah can have (only) the appearance which it has in Saul”14 Indeed, it is not too much of a stretch to read Saul as a paradigm of human sovereignty for Barth (especially given that his description of the desire which Saul satisfies is cast in terms of a Führer type, one who fulfills “the nation’s ideal”15). As he says, there is no substantial difference between the monarch who rules under God’s grace (David, for example) and the monarch who rebels. David and Saul are “hewn from the same wood … sinful types of the same sinful people.”16 They share an incontrovertible “inner solidarity.”17 As such, even “the king by God’s grace has the bull-king within him.”18 As we work through the nature of human sovereignty within the sphere of divine providence then, we must keep the figure of Saul in mind as an interpretive figure.

I am now going to jump to Thomas Hobbes and his epoch-making account of human sovereignty. Hobbes begins his Leviathan with the words:

Nature (the art whereby God hath made and governes the World) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal … [and] Art goes yet further, imitating that Rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, Man. For by Art is created the Leviathan, called a Common-Wealth or State … which is but an Artificial Man … and in which, the Sovereignty is an Artificall Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body.19

Hobbes then clarifies what it means to call sovereignty the soul of this ‘artificial man’ in his description of the Common-Wealth’s generation, saying that the only way to elect:

a common power … is [for the populace] to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will … This is the Generation of that great Leviathan, or rather (to speak more reverently) of that Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortall God, our peace and defense. For by this Authoritie, given him by every particular man in the Common-Wealth, he hath the use of so much Power and Strength conferred on him, that by terror thereof, he is inabled to forme the wills of them all.20

The essence of this Leviathan is then defined as “One person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the Author.”21 And “he that carryeth this Person, is called SOVERAIGNE, and said to have Sovereaigne Power; and everyone besides, his SUBJECT.”22 Although the sovereign comes to exist, then, through a community’s mutual emptying of power into a single body (whether the body of a king or an assembly), this sovereign is still the soul of the Leviathan, since it serves as the Common-Wealth’s point of origin, sustaining force, and formative power—“giving life and motion.”

Delving now into the consequences of the fact that sovereign power “is inabled to forme the wills” of every person in the Common-Wealth; as the community is formed by sovereign power, it is shaped as the body of which this sovereign is the soul (this the significance of Leviathan’s frontispiece, where the person of the sovereign is composed of the teeming multitude, with only the plague doctors and guards in the city excluded23). Those who have emptied their power into the sovereign thus come to be what they are as they are formed by the soul that is constituted through their civil kenosis. To put it another way, the populace becomes a people as it is formed into the body of the sovereign. In this power of formation, we thus have something very like the power that Foucault claims “categorizes the individual, marks him by his own individuality … a form of power that makes individuals subjects.”24

Now, Jay Kameron Carter has noted that as Europe began to privilege ‘reason’ over ‘authority,’ moving from Leviathan as monarch to Leviathan as democratic assembly, “the sovereign’s body and the people’s body became coeval. The modern body-politic arose.”25 The power through which the populace is shaped is thus dispersed across the being of that same populace. And given the formative role of sovereign power, one consequence of this dispersion is a kind of feedback loop—sovereignty has been constituted as the soul of an artificial man through civil kenosis; but when the people is identified with this soul through a democratization of power, it becomes incumbent on their bodies to manifest its sovereignty. The people who constitute sovereignty by emptying themselves of power must now therefore be constituted as a sovereign people, according to the postulated form of that sovereignty.

In this, however, the people does not take the place of the sovereign in and of itself. Rather, the place of the sovereign is taken by the ideal that delimits the form of sovereignty—the ideal which serves as the criterion according to which persons can be adjudged members of the sovereign people. The ideal itself becomes the soul of the Leviathan, and so the image of the body of this Artificial Man. If it is allowed that the particular ideal in any given state will be culturally formed, even as it forms the culture, then this ideal can be described in the terms of Sylvia Wynter’s sociogenic principle (developed through Frantz Fanon). For insofar as we are formed to approximate a culturally determined ideal of sovereignty, we come to experience ourselves as human—as persons—“through the mediation of the processes of socialization effected by the invented tekhne or cultural technology to which we give the name culture.26 The internal logic of the sovereign ideal thus becomes the grammar according to which our self-hood is determined, and the essence of selfhood within the body of the people comes to be expressed by this grammar. Within this grammar, then, we are members of the people not as we are made in the image of God, but as our personhood is molded in the image of Leviathan.27

Secularization and the Fracturing of the People

The basic structure of this account is discernible within Barth’s thought. The constitution of sovereign power in Hobbes can be read as a type of Barth’s description of Israel’s sovereign impulse—as an etching of Israel’s history into the constitution of European power, the significance of which is illuminated in Saul. And the process by which democratization elevates an ideal to the seat of sovereignty exemplifies how the concept of a creaturely whole can take the place of God (a process made explicit, for example, over the course of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit). It must now be shown that this process leads to the emergence of a white supremacist ideology, through the subordination that Barth describes as following from the placing of “an all-embracing third factor” between God and creation—whether this is articulated in terms of “the house or state, the totum opus, the universuum, the communitas,”28 or the expression of any of these according to the sovereign ideal.

We can first turn to Barth’s own claim that, in all God’s ruling, God ultimately accomplishes God’s “own glory as Creator, and in it the justification, deliverance, salvation, and ultimately the glorification of the creature.”29 Given that this is the telos of God’s rule under at least one aspect, and given how the concluding chapters of Volume 2:1 of the Dogmatics articulate God’s glory, we can then treat glory as a necessary concomitant to any pretence to sovereignty. After all, in Hobbes’ words, “as the Power, so also the Honour of the Sovereign, ought to be greater than that of any, or all, the subjects.”30

To jump again; in The Kingdom and The Glory, Giorgio Agamben gives an account of secularization as the transposition of theological concepts—and so theological structures and relations—into profane spheres. Developing the thesis of Carl Schmidt, he states that “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.”31 We have already seen Barth’s claim that the glorification of the creature as sovereign instead of God introduces a competitive structure. And with this in mind, if it is allowed that glory is a necessary concomitant of sovereignty, we can read Agamben’s account of the biopolitical fracture between sovereign power and bare life as a consequence of a secularization of the structure of God’s glory. For if human sovereignty must appeal to a distinction in glory in order to legitimate itself, then it in some sense transposes the infinite qualitative distinction between God and creature into a postulated distinction within creaturely reality itself. Turning to Agamben’s account of this fracture—and bearing in mind what’s been suggested about the formation of selfhood according to the grammar of the sovereign ideal—we read that what we call ‘the people’ is:

not a unitary subject but a dialectical oscillation between two opposite poles: on the one hand, the set of the People as a whole political body, and on the other, the subset of people as a fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies … at one extreme, the total state of integrated and sovereign citizens, and at the other, the preserve … of the wretched, the oppressed, the defeated.32

The people, then, “always already carries the fundamental biopolitical fracture within itself,”33 a fracture between those members of the people that constitute its sovereignty and those elements of the populace that are “by essence lacking to [themselves] and … whose realization therefore coincides with its own abolition.”34 (It is worth repeating here Barth’s description of the “distinction between those which are more important and necessary for the whole and those which are less … existing only to be sacrificed at the last for the life and progress of the whole and the favored few.” And under the aspect of Saul as a paradigm for human sovereignty, it is worth keeping in mind Saul’s jealousy toward David, David’s sending of Uriah to be killed, and Ahab’s claim of Naboth’s vineyard—each of which expresses the competition between the sovereign and what is deemed as standing in the way of its fulfilment.)

With the secularization of God’s glory inscribing the biopolitical fracture onto the body of the people as an underlying framework, we can now turn to the work of Sylvia Wynter, Willie Jennings, and Jay Kameron Carter, who demonstrate that the racial calculus of white supremacy provides a concrete form of this fracture as it has been fleshed out by the colonial West—with whiteness coming to symbolize the being of sovereign power through the posited supremacy of white Europe, and non-whiteness coming to signify accidental, inessential life. In Unsettling the Coloniality of Being, Wynter argues that society in the Middle Ages was ordered according to distinctions of relationship with God. With the advent of modernity, however, this order lost its operative power—and so a new stratification of glory was developed in Renaissance humanism according to which certain persons were represented as sovereign according to their rationality, others as ‘Other.’ The nonhomegeneity between God and creation entailed by the structure of divine rule was thus “now to be mapped onto a projected, ostensibly divinely created difference of substance between rational humans and irrational animals, [which] would also come to be mapped at another ‘space of Otherness’.”35

In The Christian Imagination, Jennings then shows how the colonial moment enabled this nonhomegenity between rational and non-rational beings to be mapped onto newly colonized worlds and peoples. Colonial consciousness displaced the identity of native peoples from the land to which their identities were tied (a move implicitly rejected by Barth’s comments on the globe36), and Christianity assimilated “this pattern of displacement,” such that “not just slave bodies, but displaced bodies … come to represent a natural state.”37 This technology of displacement allowed (and still allows) Christian colonialism to translate the being of colonized peoples into the grammar of a sovereign ideal—assimilated them into the body of the people as excluded—such that selfhood across the globe came to be patterned according the fracture between rational/irrational (human/inhuman) that this ideal imposes upon the populace as a condition of its realization.

This ideal is given content through the presumed supremacy of whiteness, such that “whiteness is co-creator with God.”38 The formative potential opened up by displacement and translation is thus made concrete through the attachment of reason (and so proper humanity) to the being of the rational white European Christian as God’s civilizing servant. As Carter has argued, through the theology of thinkers such as Kant:

Christianity as rational religion and Christ as the “personified idea of the good principle” are the guarantee that whiteness, understood not merely and banally as pigment but as a structural–aesthetic order and as a sociopolitical arrangement, can and will be instantiated in the people who continue Christ’s work, the work of Western civilization.39

This articulation of divinely sanctioned whiteness as “mapping and politically organizing the internal world of Europe”40 then becomes the sociogenic principle of Western civilization—this is what shapes white Europe’s (and through this white America’s) experience of what it is to be human. And as the underside of its transposition of the structure of divine glory, the shadow of this articulation is the effectuation of what Alexander Weheliye calls racializing assemblages,41 through which the being of black, native, Jewish, and other ‘irrational/defective’ persons is inscribed into a calculus of racial being; a derivative, degrading simulacrum of colonizing whiteness’ sovereign ideal, reified to serve as that ideal’s stabilizing opposite. Through this calculus, these persons are constituted both as a condition of whiteness’ postulated sovereignty and as an excess standing in the way of its full realization—for “the racialization process has occurred for the darker races in such a way that their racial existence is an impediment to their human existence, where “human” here stands for the universal.”42 And so as non-white persons are included in the body politic according to a secularization of glory which inscribes the biopolitical fracture into the body of ‘the people’ according to modern concepts of race, their existence comes to make sense only insofar as they either legitimize white supremacy by their subordinate presence or facilitate its fulfillment of through their disappearance.43 This is the logic of the colony, the camp, the plantation, and the prison, each of which has been used to concretize this logic.44 This is (one of) the grammars of white supremacy.

To recapitulate: there is a sovereign impulse under providence, the interpretative paradigm of which is Saul. The sovereign in Enlightened modernity has, through a process of democratization, become the ideal that expresses the being of the people as sovereign, and so the grammar according to which persons are individualized. Insofar as sovereignty depends upon a distinction of glory, however, then the being of this people must be structured through the transposition of divine transcendence into the creaturely sphere—a transposition which creates a fracture between sovereign power and expendable, accidental, non-proper life. The grammar according to which the populace is formed and organized thus individualizes its members as more or less a part of the ‘people,’ as more or less a part of human being. Enabled by the displacing and translating processes of colonization and given content by the sovereign ideal of the rational, white European Christian, this grammar comes to be articulated and enfleshed through a postulated distinction between the minds and bodies of white peoples and the minds and bodies of those who are not white. This distinction provides a framework for Western concepts of race, concepts that collectively constitute one of the fundamental sociogenic principles through which we experience ourselves and others as human on a scale ranging from white to Other, essential to expendable. And so in dominant strands of Western subjectivity, whiteness constitutes sovereign power and the essential being of the people as totality, whilst non-whiteness is constituted as a subjugated excess whose fate is to serve, before disappearing for the good of the whole. This is, I believe, a compelling picture of the structure of white supremacist ideology, both in its shocking and its ‘amiable’ brutality.45

We can now see how Barth has captured the logic of this ideology. In explicating why a creaturely totality cannot take the place of God, he claims that individual creatures can only be deemed less than such a totality. This leads to a distinction of individuals in relation to that whole, with some being deemed more constitutive of its being and so essential for its good, others as expendable. The totality here is the body of the people structured according to the sovereign ideal of whiteness, and the distinction is the biopolitical fracture between those who manifest this ideal in their personhood and the non-white, ‘non-rational’ persons who are deemed an excess “existing only to be sacrificed at the last for the life and progress of the whole and the favored few.” The double movement of subordination described by Barth is thus the same one articulated by Agamben, made possible through the democractization of the Leviathan, and the concrete working of which is described by Wynter, Jennings, and Carter; it is, in both cases, the “logic and law of an imminent hierarchy of power and value.” 46

Lines of Critique Through Barth

Now, my claim here is limited; Barth was not attempting to give an account of white supremacy, and the fact he describes this logic does not tie him to the picture I have traced. I am not attempting to philosophize Barth further than he was willing to philosophize himself. But if it is accepted that the conceptual movement he describes is the same one that is operative in white supremacist ideology, then [we can see this movement as one of inherent theological significance (one similar, I must say, to the significances charted by Jennings and Carter, which I have not even scratched the surface of). And] this opens up possibilities for locating this ideology within Barth’s account of God’s providential rule, such that we can raise theological critiques through this account.

I am going to end by briefly tracing three such critiques. First; I have set this account of white supremacist ideology in the context of Saul’s election as King of Israel, reading Saul through Barth as a paradigm for human sovereignty. Now, I haven’t fully developed this theme in this presentation—but if the above holds, then it should be possible to read the drama of white supremacist ideology within Barth’s exegesis of Saul, David, and Christ. There seems to be promise in the fact that such a reading of modern European history could read it through Saul’s possession by an evil spirit, through Nathan’s words to David “you are the man,” and through Samuel’s warning in 1 Sam 8:10-18. There seems to be promise in a reading of human sovereignty under God’s providence within which the monarchy of David, Saul, and the Leviathan itself “does not manifest God’s grace apart from his judgement … but manifests the judgement and wrath of God against all man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness in the midst of grace.”47 (Incidentally, and in a similar vein, reading Ecclesiastes as a first person narrative of sovereignty in this context may also throw up untapped resources.)

Second, I’ve claimed that one of the crucial steps of white supremacy is a secularization of the structure of divine transcendence into creaturely spheres. Now, as noted earlier, Barth’s account of humanity is not grounded in reflection on humanity in and of itself—it is a properly theological anthropology, within which we are what we are because of who God reveals Godself to be in Jesus Christ. A false anthropology can be challenged by a true theology, then, and a false account of human sovereignty can be challenged through a proper articulation of the fact that it is God alone whose glory stands in transcendent distinction to creaturely being. It should thus be possible to level each facet of Barth’s account of the Divine Ruling against the ideology of white supremacy as a means of conceptually suturing the biopolitical fracture given concrete form through the garb of racism (the potential for this strategy can be seen in Kathryn Tanner’s articulation of divine transcendence in her Politics of God).

A third (and for now final) critique ties together the first two: it follows from Barth’s account of the Jewish people as a sign of God’s rule. If I had longer, I would devote an entire second presentation to this theme, which strikes me as both fascinating and dangerous. On the side of danger, it must be said that Barth’s descriptions of Israel and the Jewish people leave a sour taste in the mind, however nuanced their reading must be. There are sections of this passage which, even if they make a kind of sense, give good reason for discomfort or distaste. And I sometimes wonder if he looked back to his account of Israel as the ‘passing form’ of the community of rejected and elect to find that, in that particular section of 2:2, he too may have subordinated a particular community to the concept of a creaturely whole.

But with that said, I believe this passage contains resources for a theological anthropology that functions apart from white supremacist ideology. For as Barth writes “in the actual existence of the Jews, in their strange being as a people which is not a people, we are positively confronted with the fact of God’s electing grace, with the fact of His mercy as the sole and mighty basis of human existence.”48 We are faced, then, with the fact that God’s electing grace dissolves all the factors by which we seek to organize humanity according to race, since the Jewish people who exist by God’s grace do not exist as a race.49 Rather, for Barth, they exist as the people of God apart from all the buttresses of racial ideology with which we try and hide from ourselves that we are but vanity—for if “the Jew is the most human of all men,” and if “their election is a pattern of the election of all peoples,”50 then what indeed “becomes of the rest of us? And what a frantic sin is all other nationalism!”51 If there is indeed “no humanity outside the humanity of Jesus Christ,”52 then, there is thus no racial humanity for white supremacy to feast upon (here, perhaps amazingly, Barth can be brought into conversation with Frantz Fanon53). If it is “the one Jew Jesus Christ who … is the one Elect as the new Head of the whole human race,”54 then we “have to learn that in order to be elect ourselves, for good or evil we must either be Jews or belong to this Jew.”55 That is to say, we must be human as subjects of Jesus Christ, the Divine King in whom the national and racial identities written into and inscribed by white supremacy are dissolved by covenantal identity, yet in whom also the fact of creaturely particularity and diversity is maintained and affirmed. Barth’s account of ecclesial existence tied to Jewish existence may, therefore, provide a framework for a grammar of Christian selfhood that functions beyond the auspices of—and so serves as a challenge to—the grammars of white supremacy.

Two Important Responses

I was very humbled by the discussion which followed this presentation. Though quite a bit of ground was discussed, including whether or not there is any analogue between divine sovereignty and any human structure of sovereignty at all (I think not; or at least, if it is, then it is a perfect example of the importance of Barth’s commitment to analogia fidei over analogia entis, within which the basic structure of the analogy presupposes an absolute difference between the analogates prior to their determination in analogy). The two critical responses that struck me as most crucial however, are as follows.

First, it may be dangerous to try and read the genealogy of white supremacy out of Israel’s history as this may become just another way of locating everything that is wrong with humanity originally in the Jewish people. This certainly seems to be one of the ways that ‘the sins of Israel’ has been employed, and it is especially relevant within the context of supercessionist theologies which assume that this sin has now been left behind. It is important, then, to ensure that this genealogy is rooted in Israel’s history on the basis of significance, not origin. That is to say, the sovereign impulse does not originate in Israel’s history (indeed, it is explicitly said to originate elsewhere in the history itself)—rather, we can only understand it properly through the significance it has within this history. This doesn’t circumvent all risk of grounding anti-Semitism, of course. But it is important to do nonetheless.

The line of the second critical response went as follows; the idea that that ‘covenantal’ identity can serve as a viable alternative to the identities formed within and by white supremacy presumes that this covenantal identity does not repeat the conceptual move I attempted to describe. Might it not be the case, however, that covenantal identity too imposes the biopolitical fracture? Indeed, might it not be the case that it is in fact just an older historical form of that fracture?

This is especially relevant to Barth, for whom covenantal identity has to be bound up in the doctrine of election—and if there is any doctrine that seems to necessarily divide creation into the selected good and dysselected, then it is that of election. And I must admit that I’m not sure what the answer is. Although I think that the particular articulation of Barth’s doctrine of election in fact renders this move impossible, I am not certain. Through our continued discussion of Volume 3:3, I came to believe that Barth’s account of Nothingness becomes very important here, insofar as God elects is the creature out of Nothingness, rather than making a distinction between creaturely being itself. But there is quite a bit of work to be done on this, and I need to revisit Volume 2:2 when I have the proper time!

If you have read this far, I am extremely grateful—-and I would love to hear your thoughts.

  1. I am not thinking of white supremacy in terms of fringe political movements here, but as a family of prevalent ideologies which affirm that persons supposedly constituting a white race have a proper right to political and social supremacy—whether on the basis of biological or cultural factors, whether de facto or de jure, whether explicitly or implicitly.
  2. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics Volume 3:3 (United States: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), p.157
  3. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.157
  4. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.186
  5. c.f Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.173; that although there is no creature “which His rule does not abase … there is also not one of them which being abased by Him is not exalted.”
  6. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.172
  7. Ibid. It is worth noting, given the argument of this paper, that this holds for all creatures, even those that are held to be essential to the good of this whole.
  8. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.172 It is worth noting, given the argument of this paper, that this holds for all creatures, even those that are held to be essential to the good of this whole.
  9. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.172
  10. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.173
  11. Kathryn Tanner, “Creation and Providence,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p.113
  12. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.368
  13. 1. Samuel 8:20
  14. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.370
  15. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.371
  16. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.383
  17. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.382
  18. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.383
  19. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Penguin, 2003), p.8
  20. Hobbes, Leviathan, p.227
  21. Hobbes, Leviathan, p.228
  22. Hobbes, Leviathan, p.228 It is important to note that this ‘person’ need not be a biological individual; it can be whatever is identified as the ‘artificial man’ made by our art.
  23. Giogio Agamben’s Stasis (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015) contains an excellent discussion on the significance of this frontispiece.
  24. Michel Foucault, Power: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984, ed. James D. Faubion (London: Penguin, 2002), p.331
  25. J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), p.80
  26. Sylvia Wynter, “Towards the Sociogenic Principle: Fanon, Identity, The Puzzle of Conscious Experience, and What it is Like to be ‘Black’,” National Identities and Sociopolitical Changes in Latin America (2001), p.53
  27. There are at least two points in this paragraph dependent on Wittgenstein for both their conceptualization and their expression; first, the idea that “Essence is expressed by grammar.” (Philosophical Investigations, 371) and “The human body is the best picture of the human soul” (Philosophical Investigations: Philosophy of Psychology—A Fragment, 25)
  28. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.172
  29. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.168
  30. Hobbes, Leviathan, p.238 I don’t think it too much of a leap to read ‘Honour’ and ‘Glory’ together here.
  31. Agamben, Giorgio. The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (Homo Sacer II, 2). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. p.2
  32. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2010), 177
  33. Agamben, Homo Sacer, pp.177-8
  34. Agamben, Homo Sacer, p.178
  35. Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument.” CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 3 (2003), p.300
  36. C.f. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.193: “The true image of the cosmos which this King rules … is certainly not that of a globe, on whose surface … any one point may be in principle exchanged for any other.”
  37. Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), p.22
  38. Jennings, The Christian Imagination, p.62
  39. Carter, Race, p.89 C.f also Barth’s critique of Schleiermacher’s belief that ‘civilization’ is the clearest ‘miracle’ of modern times. (The Theology of Schleiermacher, pp. 22-3, 34, 98.)
  40. Carter, Race, p.81
  41. C.f Alexander Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2014). C.f. also, Wynter, Unsettling the Coloniality, p.301
  42. Carter, Race, p.89
  43. If this seems a shade on the dramatic side, it is worth referring to Chapter 1 of Khalil Gilbran Muhammad’s The Condemnation of Blackess: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011) and to Carter’s account of Kant’s presentation of the euthanasia of Judaism, starting at Race, p.118.
  44. On this, c.f. in particular Weheliye, Habeas Viscus, p.37
  45. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.172
  46. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.173
  47. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.370
  48. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.223, my emphasis.
  49. C.f. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.213
  50. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.222
  51. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.225
  52. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:2, p.541
  53. I am thinking in particular here of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, and his explosive claim that “The Negro is not. Any more than the white man.” (p.180)
  54. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.226
  55. Barth, Church Dogmatics 3:3, p.225

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