Original Research

Seeking the good (peace) of the republic: The violence against and of difference in defining the public space

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 32, No 2 | a505 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v32i2.505 | © 2011 Johann-Albrecht Meylahn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2011 | Published: 07 June 2011

About the author(s)

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn, University of Pretoria, South Africa


This article will reflect on the role of legitimate and authorised violence in state-making. This violence in the name of the good defines the state (Benjamin’s law-making violence) by the exclusion of others (Benjamin 1996). Law-making violence together with the violence that coerces or binds [religare] the public into a common understanding of the good (Benjamin’s law-maintaining violence) is at the exclusion of other interpretations of the good (Benjamin 1996). As the law-making and law-maintaining violence of the state is always at the expense of the excluded other, the excluded other will produce a counter violence of difference seeking a legitimate place within the common space of the republic (Benjamin’s divine violence). What is the church’s role in such a context of violence? Is the church’s role to help clarify and clearly define the good that will bind [religare] the citizens into a stronger and more prosperous and peaceful state – onward Christian soldiers marching as to war? Or is there another calling, to be disciples of Christ – with the Cross of Jesus going on before – and enter the space of violence beyond the knowledge of good and evil as peacemakers? These questions will be examined by bringing into dialogue Žižek’s (1997) interpretation of Christianity with Derrida’s (2002) interpretation of hospitality, specifically in the violent South African context.


Public Theology; Democracy; Différance; Violence; South Africa


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