Sex, Money & Theology

What is theology? I know, had that been the ”sexy” headline this may become the least read piece I’ve ever written. However, I believe that there is much to be said on this topic. One way of thinking about theology is to align with a tweet from theologian David Capener: Contemporary theology seems to be about answering questions no one is asking. I believe this has a painful lot to offer. Theologian Ola Sigurdson offers the definition that theology is about a critical reflection on whatever religion the theology pertains to (i.e. Christian theology being a critical reflection upon Christianity etc). The word theology itself means a word about god. Mattias Martinson is, to my knowledge, the only Swedish academic Theology Professors who  have openly declared himself an atheist propones a post-christian theology. So … a word about … what, then?

In the discipline of systematic theology, the following theological concepts are dealt with:

  • Prolegomena – the study of methods and presuppositions before one does systematic theology
  • Bibliology – the study of the Bible
  • Theology Proper – the study of the doctrine of God
  • Christology – the study of Jesus
  • Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit
  • Anthropology – the study of humanity
  • Soteriology – the study of Salvation
  • Ecclesiology – the study of the Church
  • Eschatology – the study of last things or end times
  • Angelology – the study of the angelic beings.

(source: https://www.theopedia.com/systematic-theology)

A post-christian study of theology would, given that these are the sub-disciplines you are expected to work within, be either poor or confusing … or both. Another Swedish theologian, Peter Hagman, has talked about different concepts/things/ideas in contemporary society that we approach as ‘the new’ gods. One such thing being money. A subject that Professor of Religion and Philosophy Philip Goodchild has written The Theology of MoneyAlthough Goodchild being a religious scholar, he is extremely well-read in economics, making it a worth while and eye-opening read. Lastly, Swedish philosophers Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist propones that their newly founded religion Syntheism is about Creating God in the Internet AgeRather than god being an already existing (and often thought of as omni-potent) being, God is something we create together, larger than the sums of the parts.

So, to answer the question what is theology we can see that different approaches yield very different results. If we resort to inputing any concept we like into the matrix of systematic theology, it may be a stretch to make some things the object of theology. Let’s try with sex and money:

SEX:

  • Prolegomena – the study of methods and presuppositions before one does systematic theology
  • Bibliology – the study of the sexual canonical scriptures or other media
  • Theology Proper – the study of the doctrine of sex
  • Christology – the study of self sex
  • Pneumatology – the study of sex with others
  • Anthropology – the study of humanity
  • Soteriology – the study of Salvation
  • Ecclesiology – the study of sexuality enacted with others
  • Eschatology – the study of sexual utopias
  • Angelology – the study of porn stars or other helping hands

MONEY:

  • Prolegomena – the study of methods and presuppositions before one does systematic theology
  • Bibliology – the study of the canonical scriptures on economy
  • Theology Proper – the study of the doctrine of money
  • Christology – the study of the invisible hand of the market
  • Pneumatology – the study of dispersing and distributing money
  • Anthropology – the study of humanity
  • Soteriology – the study of Salvation (via or from money)
  • Ecclesiology – the study of banks and investments
  • Eschatology – the study of the end game of money
  • Angelology – the study of investment bankers, stock brokers, and law makers

As we can see, it’s far from a perfect fit. Perhaps this is yielding, perhaps it is not. To my knowledge, no one has undertaking the systematic theology of sex or money yet. However, the object of theology can be viewed as ‘what matters most’, or something like structuring features of our existence. As such, however, we don’t have to be monotheists; we can believe equally in sex, god, and money, for instance. This is important. We have a tendency towards thinking that refusal of one is imperative to serve the other(s) – the whole ”you can’t serve two masters, both God and Mammon” type of thinking. (Sorry for dissing you, Jesus.) If we believe in this edict by Jesus as a call to just choose one, then perhaps dealing with several master-narratives, several ways of structuring our lives and creating multiple sites of meaning is post-christian theology. Such a theology could well be systematic, or deleuzian and more rhizomatic in its character.

Now to my central point.

In the master narrative of capitalism, the concept of money has severly distorted our views of human life. Money operates with a logic that is unlike human life. The seductive principle of money is that you can accumulate power by suspending choice. However, as such human existence stands in direct conflict to this. While you suspend choice to gain buying-power (you choose not to buy something today, and have more money to do something with later) your life passes by. You can live your entire life accumulating wealth that you actually never spend. In other words: you spend your life, although you are not spending it on something substantial or worth-while. Instead you wait for a while worth spending in, possibly until your amount of life (which is a mystery amount that no one knows how much they are given) runs out.

Adherence to the master narrative of capitalism can potentially lead to no choices made when you die, with a big pile of money sitting beside your carcass.

It’s therefor my firm belief that if we deal with any kind of theology of money, it should be done in a highly critical way, in order to serve the purpose of freeing us from money, not finding wealth or decision power by accumulation and suspension of choice. I believe that the way money operates has trickled into how we see other things in life. Take Tinder or online dating for instance. Many people continue dating and shy away from committing to one particular person because we feel that it’s best to keep our options open. But that option doesn’t actually accumulate decision-power. Instead it has an immense potential to rob ourselves of genuine human connections along the way. The Swedish capital Stockholm is said to be the most single-dense city in the world. Another way of putting it is to say that Stockholm is the city in the world where people suspend the most choices, and have let capitalist reasoning trickle into the realm of human connectivity. The fear that ‘there may be someone better out there’ lands the city in a limbo where relations are seen as hindering pleasure, weakening oneself, rather than the opposite. I believe that what we should look for in sexual and relational gratification is the choice that makes it worth giving up all other choices.

This should not be equated with a battle cry for preserving the integrity of heterosexual monogamous relationships. It may well be that you find other, more anarchistic models of relation-building far more yielding. But that is also an enactment of one choice, rather than keeping all options open. All I’m really saying here is that money should know its place. Or rather, you should put it in its rightful place, and not let it dominate other forms of connection between yourself and the world. I’m not saying that we must banish money from our lives; I’m saying that capitalism should not be the master narrative which grants meaning to other parts of your life. You don’t have to practice monotheistic devotion to just one ideal. You can serve how many masters you like. I just don’t believe that Mammon should be one of them.

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