Abstract: The relation between the concept of religion and its Christian determinations has surely become increasingly visible. In the study of religion, Christianity (vera religio, western Christendom) has served as a paradigmatic occasion, a prime focus, of constant research and investigation. Its history and transformations have rightly been studied in a plethora of ways and approaches. Throughout, the question of Christianity – if there is one – lingers as a question of religion. Everything is therefore as though the interrogation of the concept of religion does not unsettle our understanding of Christianity as a religion. A strange essentialism. For what if Christianity were not a religion? Not exclusively so? What if, for two thousand years, it had been more than a religion? Or something else altogether? What if it became a religion (in the restricted, modern sense) only latterly? Having learned what we can from and about the concept of religion – its novelty, its questionable disappearance, its containment – should we not reconsider what we mean by Christianity?
By: Sonja Luehrmann (Simon Fraser University)
I read most of this book in one of the contexts to which it speaks most deeply: during international air travel across North America, wondering how border guards and security officers might react if they were to inspect my bag and find a book whose title signalled a critical interrogation of Christianity combined with the idea of (shedding) blood. Over the winter of 2014/15, media commentary on terror attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris kept the question of the connection between religion and bloodshed on everyone’s mind, but it was Islam whose propensity for violence and potential for peace was under interrogation. As Gil Anidjar’s previous books remind us (2003; 2007), this intense dissection of Islam for violent properties is part of a long history of suspicion by western (post)Christians against significant religious others, from the blood libel – the myth that Jews slaughtered Christian children and used their blood in sinister rituals – to traditions of mocking the prophet Muhammad as a carnal and power-hungry impostor. In Blood, Anidjar turns the question around and examines Christianity for features that might explain such seemingly disparate violent histories as the Spanish inquisition, colonialism, the global spread of capitalism, and the war on terror.