The Body of Foucault
What the church misses when it disenchants itself from the works of Michel Foucault is its own body. The body for Foucault is the site of enslavement, while the body of Christ for the church is the site of redemption. How can these two bodies be interestingly processed together? Is the church a site of redemption, or a site of enforcement? I suggest it can be both, but has primarily been a place for micromanaging behaviors.
For Foucault, the microphysics of power are displayed on and through the body as the singularity of the socius. Our human selves are constructed and reconstructed through the interplay of powerful relations among the constituent parts of the social body. Bodies here are malleable and adaptable and power is reinforced through policing the boundaries of accepted discourse.
The church body operates in much the same way. Through speech-acts designed to profess doctrinal purity, churches, whether it be the episcopate or the laity, enforce rigid behavior by clearly defining who is in and who is out of the church. This reminds me of the friend/foe distinction in Carl Schmitt's famous "The Concept of the Political," a work of political theology which delineates how politics separates the earthly sheep from the goats. What the church does is police beliefs and behavior, not from a top-down mode of power, but instead through face-to-face interactions among the body of Christ. This body operates much like Bentham's panopticon, a policing machine meant to keep all prisoners perpetually on-guard against possible infractions.
And isn't the guard of the panopticon, the supposed all-seeing eye, much like the God we once reverenced? The God who can see you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake, a perpetual surveillance-machine recording our most intimate desires and actions, including our deepest thoughts about the world, is a police-state's fantasy. Imagine the horrors of a cosmic police-state. And yet, this is a God much held in high esteem by most Christians today, the patriarchal spy satellite.
The confluence between Foucault's notions of microphysics and the church is one whereby the church community therefore becomes the surveillance-God's enforcing arm. This is a biopolitics of the economy of salvation, as Agamben notes in "The Kingdom and the Glory." The church is God's enforcement mechanism meant to reveal our inner rebellion.
What is to be done and what does radical theology have to say about all of this? With the advent of God's kenosis, the panopticon becomes obsolete. This is the good news. The church ought to become the site for release from surveillance, one where liberation is preached and spread. Yet, the dilemma remains. We still become the enforcers of the good news that the king is dead. does the king remain through the church's message of salvation? Is the news of God's death reinforced through the proclamation of the evangel's message?