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The Trickster: A Political Theology for Our Time

Jack David Eller

Vol. 5, No. 1

Summer 2023

Pages: 44‒67

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2023.vol5.no1.03

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Abstract

Political Theology

Political Theology, Liminality, Post-modern, Post-truth, Trickster

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Political theology has traditionally been dominated by Christian concepts, specifically the concept of a law-giving and order-preserving god. Other political theologies are possible, however, and this essay considers one—the trickster—a culture hero and comic buffoon who delightedly and shamelessly violates and subverts order to inaugurate a new reality of his own making, if not of his own will. The first half of the essay introduces the trickster as a cross-cultural agent of creative destruction, a messenger and civilization-bringer, and a clever fool. The second half explores how the last two centuries of Western social and intellectual history have shifted the ground from under a god of order toward a spirit of flux, transience, paradox, and liminality. The essay concludes that the contemporary post-modern state of permanent liminality is better symbolized and grasped through the mythical lens of the trickster than the biblical god, including and especially contemporary global right-wing populism, whose leading figures reflect the wicked energy and appeal of the trickster impulse.

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