I too was at the recent lecture here at Cornell by William Connolly, of whose writing I have long been an admirer. Connolly's talk of cowboy capitalism's imbrication with right-wing evangelicalism and the need for an alliance of secular-religious left bodies ought to be required reading for those seeking social change. For those on the religious left working in secular settings like Cornell's, his book, Why I am Not a Secularist is also invaluable.
Connolly is worried about cynicism on the left, and seeks allies among theologians like Catherine Keller and complexity scientists like Stuart Kauffman, who like him, are seeking to cultivate what he calls 'little spaces of enchantment'. At the lecture, one questioner suggested, in a somewhat bemused tone, that at times Connolly, an avowed atheist, sounded almost mystical! Indeed, and for those of us schooled in the thought of Foucault, Derrida, Cixous, Peguy, as well as in Eckhart, the Beguine mystics and others, such a 'mystical atheism' resonates rather deeply and provocatively in our search for a politically robust, pluralistic form of religious mysticism. Connolly is a remarkable interlocutor and a very important ally!
In this way, I find Connolly to have tapped into the 'spirit of resistance movements' which Steve wrote about a few posts ago. His own deep engagement with Augustine has made him very leery of the majoritarian strand of Christian thought, with its politics of hell and 'deployment of hell to organize life'.
But in Keller, among others, he has found a different politics of hell, one willing to enter its fires in solidarity with non-identical others, not to seek their conversion, but to join in solidarity. To cite again the passage from Frank Pasquale which Steve noted in his earlier post, this alternative theo-politics joins the resistance by means of "simple insistence on doing acts because they seem right or just or sacred, without regard to consequences,[it] is part of the beauty, mystery – and, yes, frustration generated by a religious point of view."
This 'without regard to consequences' is what a number of 13th century medieval mystics fighting the politics of their church's political 'deployment of damnation' called the resignatio ad infernum, or a willingness to be damned in order to resist their own age's life-destroying 'resonance-machines'. And hell, we should not forget, is the most pluralistic place of all--all are most welcome there and in some of the early writings of the tradition (ones Augustine loathed, incidentally), hell, once the saints entered its precincts, became the site of some rather remarkable resistance movements against none other than God himself! What we might call a mystical a-theism of love.
(As an aside, much of Connolly's remarkable talk can be found in blog form on his website.)