Sep 23, 2015

The Jester Tells a Bad Joke

Along one edge of a spectrum, there are those rare leaders with an almost foolishly direct faith that things can and will get better. As decent human beings, they provoke the Master—Equality! Rights! No more plutocracy!—in ways that fundamentally clash with a rigged game. On the other side, there are cynics and knaves who say exactly what they are paid to say. They stage debates so that we might play drinking games while we psychoanalyze whether any of them believe a word they say. In the middle of the spectrum, there are moderates who all too often descend into the same cynical strategy.  And somewhere in that mix you get the rarest figure of the jester, whose goals you can’t quite figure.

As a jester, you open your campaign by labeling a crucial demographic (not to mention real human beings) as rapists, and then you attack women and your party’s primary propaganda network.  You can do this because you had no expectation of winning, only an expectation of attention. But you become godlike to those trained to hear what their itching ears desire to hear, and then your campaign manager starts saying “You keep being YOU!” Say whatever you like if vanity and cruelty are virtues.

And then a holy man with his own set of issues crosses the seas to make a few observations with childlike clarity about things we already know: (to paraphrase Deleuze) the economy breaths, the climate heats, the people don’t eat, and capitalism does something more vulgar to us all. A message simple and obvious to anyone with eyes to see, which is to say, not all that obvious.

Once again, as Rabbi Heschel told us, “Hypocrisy rather than heresy is the cause of spiritual decay.” 

[above: some cartoon that will really thow them!]

The mockery of internet memes tells us how hilarious it is that the Right detests the holy man’s message, which is merely a truncated version of what their messiah said. Haven’t they read the Gospels?! we ask, as if the words of messiahs ever swayed dogmatically religious types. Of course, anyone with eyes open already knows the populists prefer jesters and charlatans and won't give a damn about a message for the poor and disempowered. But never mind—have you seen this clip showing how their propaganda channel was hypocritical yesterday?!

A joke about hypocrisy, as Freud suggested, “says what it has to say, not always in few words, but in too few words.” We laugh at a joke when we are already "in" on the information omitted, but the same joke fails when told among those who aren’t privy to the information omitted. It depends on which reality we purchased.

The jester's jokes turn perpetually more hostile, leading us to wonder if he is still in on the joke or if instead, like the classic story of Narcissus, he is falling for himself. The jester continues to be more amazed than anyone at his rise. He wasn’t actually trying, but people hear what their itching ears desire to hear. He puts a toe in the waters of cultural genocide when someone says “muslim,” but he retracts when he sees he can’t predict the beast. He will try again. He begins to wonder if he actually might win, but then the choice as ruler would be between the fascism he campaigned on or admitting the language was nothing more than what xenophobia always is: a crass trick for the feeble mind.

In the end, there will be those who say we need to lower our critiques and unify as moderates, which, if political theory teaches us anything, is exactly what allows vanity and cruelty to flourish. 

Tags Pope Francis Donald Trump

Sep 20, 2015

New Documentary

Well this is something horrifying. Give Me Sex Jesus is a documentary out now for free on Vimeo, and it explores the repression and fallout from Evangelical purity culture.  

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this ever since I heard the filmmakers discuss it at my seminary a few years back, and I think it’s such an important topic that I immediately looked up the Kickstarter page. While it’s terrible to think about how many tens of millions of Americans have been fucked up by purity culture, at least the film turned out well!

See the film here.

Tags Documentary Give Me Sex Jesus

Sep 11, 2015

Ivory Tower Effect

A professor once advised our class to write properly academic papers—“you know…dull, dry, boring,” he said—the reason being that critical research should avoid the bloviation and poetic license that all too often characterizes popular formats. It would be difficult to overstate how that advice on paper-writing seems to permeate everything we do as academic scholars. 

I teach a course on Biblical traditions, and it’s humbling to realize how expertise bears absolutely no relation to decent pedagogy. Five years of graduate work in religion and philosophy means I take for granted so many tedious assumptions.  I lectured on the Enuma Elish as base material for the two creation myths in Genesis before pivoting to the Wellhausen hypothesis and German higher criticism. I feared this would be terrible—dull, dry, and boring precisely due to being completely obvious by now—and thankfully several students snapped me back to reality by asking what Genesis is or where to find it.

I put it this way in my book: “The pernicious tendency of the academy is to pull up the ladder behind us, the ladder that we climbed up and benefited from yet now deny to others. The university discourse isolates itself from common parlance, and in so doing, the human sciences outlive their usefulness by forging their servitude to the master’s technocracy.”  What a cumbersome way to put it! All the irony of trying to sound clever while lamenting obscurity. “It’s an academic book,” I told myself. “The accessible version will come later.” 

If you have a bit of knowledge, I think you have a responsibility to give it away. I have so many friends who do a much better job than I at being a public scholar. I admire that. There are plenty of fields that would have value in themselves. Literature, histories, and mathematics (and perhaps philosophy) are worth securing in an ivory tower if our world descended into an intellectual dark age.  But I don’t view religion that way, because religion is a folk language.  Religion is desire and wish-fulfillment and often delusion; it’s always a way of speaking at something indirectly. It connects across our problems of politics, economics, races, and sexisms. It is an important way of organizing the tribe, and it is skilled at its repression and masochism.

At any rate, this is my way of saying I aim to start writing again here every couple of weeks. As that second, more accessible book continues to take shape alongside an even less accessible dissertation, I don’t foresee a better time to start putting my research into normal language again.

Jun 17, 2015

New Interview

I have a new interview out today with the Freestyle Christianity podcast on my. I had a great time exploring the material in my book God Is Unconscious: Psychoanalysis & Theology. Thanks to Joel Kuhlin and Josef Gustafsson for inviting me on the show!

And in other news from this week, I finished the first draft for my next book. The working title is The Cynic & the Fool, and it aims to bring my research to a more popularly accessible (and much less academic) level. It won’t be out for some time, but I’m really looking forward to getting this material out there!

Listen to the intereview.

Tags Tad DeLay audio interview God Is Unconscious Jacques Lacan Slavoj Zizek psychoanalysis critical theory theology

Apr 23, 2015

Interview with the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast

I sat down with Peter Rollins and Barry Taylor to talk about my book God Is Unconscious: Psychoanalysis & Theology. The interview is available now!

We are giving away 3 copies of the book. If you click over to Homebrewed Christianity and share the episode, one of those could be yours.

Tags tad delay peter rollins barry taylor god is unconscious psychoanalysis theology homebrewed christianity interview audio review

Apr 13, 2015

Speaking Event

I will be giving my first invited lecture on my work this week at Denver University.  The conference is free and open to the public. Details here.

Tags Tad DeLay Denver University Jacques Lacan God Is Unconscious

Mar 30, 2015

A Review of God Is Unconscious

This is the first review I’ve seen of God Is Unconscious (which is also now on Kindle).  There was apparently some pushback, so a follow-up post is here.

“Tad DeLay's wonderfully written book on the interface of theology/religion and psychoanalysis, God is Unconscious: Psychoanalysis & Theology (Wipf and Stock, 2015) is a fascinating recollection and meditation of the discipline's unfolding into the intellectual worlds of the 20th and 21st centuries. I identify the work as a 'book' because I have not decided just what genre the book should be received into; and that could be a good thing. I recall that Michel Foucault once said his major works were more like novels than philosophy. I'll therefore stick with 'book,' though genealogy, novel or rhapsody would work just as well.”

Tags review book god is unconscious psychoanalysis theology tad delay

Mar 16, 2015


You can now order my first book God Is Unconscious: Psychoanalysis & Theology at Amazon. For those interested in reviewing the book, we will have details soon.

A theory of the unconscious is such an odd thing to write about, first because the unconscious itself is not something that exists at all but rather insists. It's a fiction with a potential, not a hidden tier of synaptic connection in the way that most people talk about “subconscious” motives.  It’s a method of speaking indirectly to schematize behavioral repetition and patterns of thought, a way of showing every attempt at meaning or tribalism becomes infused with a false consciousness retroactively justified with limitless creativity all for the purpose of propping up a semblance of security.  

Second, as the subtitle suggests, I am crossing not one but two theories of fictions, and instead of privileging one over the other I let them expose one another with the hope of producing more than the sum of their parts. And third, almost by definition, you can’t write about psychoanalysis without saying more than you mean to say about yourself. That’s unusual for an academic work, and it scares me a little, but it makes the project all the more personal to me. I researched this book during a very challenging time, and it's to those friends who were there while I researched, processed, outlined, wrote, edited, and rewrote this project that I owe this book’s completion.

So to just a few of you:

To Kester, you took an interest in my work early on and were the first to tell me over and over “write that book!” Back when it was merely an embryonic idea in my first year of doctoral work, I couldn’t imagine anyone would care what I had to say. You convinced me it was time to store the material in a book and launch it out into the world. You hosted me in London and talked through so many of the early ideas over late nights on your patio.  You care so deeply about your friends, and you have a natural curiosity that I hope I can always emulate.

To Clayton, you went out on a limb and vouched for me back when you barely knew me.  You’ve been a perfect academic mentor, always happy to be a sounding-board, and you’ve given feedback on talks and the early manuscript. Beyond your scholarship which clearly influences mine, I’ve seen how much your students genuinely love you, and that’s the kind of professor I hope to be.  You have a reputation in our circles for enthusiastically supporting everyone you can, and I can vouch for that.

To Pete, in addition to writing the forward, you’ve been a constant source of encouragement with talking about how you conduct your work.  It’s odd to think I started reading you within a week or so of beginning to read philosophy so long ago in my undergrad days, and it was your first book that put me on the path of seeing some nascent potential in applying philosophy to my interests in religion. I suppose I’m saying that this is your fault! We really only happened to become friends around the time I started writing this, and you’ve been there for me to the final product.

To Jack, I don’t know if you’ll even see this, but I have a lot of respect for you and couldn't tell you how much it’s meant to me to talk through my ideas with such a great mind.  I’ll never forget talking late into the evenings at the bar in Cheltenham, and even though we have different opinions on psychoanalysis, you have been nothing but gracious and encouraging wherever we have had time to catch up.  I started my reading in this field of radical theology with your books in my first year of seminary, and what I have produced four years later is indebted to your work.

To a great group of friends in Los Angeles and back home—Steven & Kelli, Keegan, Shane, Luanne, Billie & Rob, several Nates, Tim, Zach, Lucas, Sean, Barry, Tripp, and Bo—you all were there for me during the period where I was processing the material that is now in book form.  You all are among the very few who know me well enough to see exactly where my work—ostensibly about psychoanalysis and theology—is often enough just my attempt to process who I am.

To the Wipf & Stock crew, you all put up with the revisions and questions that only a brand new author can panic about. And thanks to Dave, who said “hey, I know this publisher I can introduce you to.”  And to Jesse, I never imagined I would see so many people online, who know nothing about me or my work, becoming interested based purely on such a great first stab at a design.  You all are great at what you do.

And finally Deven, you’ve been there through wins and setbacks throughout the whole time we’ve been together.  You edited the manuscript and offered so much feedback to the point that you probably deserved your name on the cover given the amount of re-writing we did together.  As a fellow educator who cares deeply about making the world a better place and who works so hard to make it so, you are the first to remind me that nothing we do matters if it doesn’t translate to enrich the common good.  You have supported me and believed in me all the way to the finish, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

There are probably another fifty or so who have helped with questions, promoted my work online, responded to my talks, and encouraged me to run with this odd line of scholarship simply by helping me believe this material matters to people.  You all are the best.

Tags tad delay god is unconscious psychoanalysis theology jacques lacan sigmund freud slavoj zizek book

Feb 27, 2015

Discount offer on my book

While Amazon is temporarily out of stock of my book, my publisher is offering a 40% discount if you order directly from the publisher’s website ($11.40 as opposed to Amazon’s $19) using the promo code “DELAY”. 

I know this does nothing for my friends outside the US, but Amazon should be supplied in all regional markets in the next week or two!

Of course you can still pre-order on Amazon if you wish.

Peter Rollins discusses my book here.

Tags Tad DeLay God Is Unconscious Discount Promo code Peter Rollins