Optimism is clearly a condition of the Radical Orthodoxy imagination. This confidence is evident in the exegesis of theological tradition, the apologetics of Christendom, and especially in the efficacy of the Eucharist and liturgical formation. The claims regarding the Eucharist proffer a particularly high view of the ontological significance of Eucharist for the church. For instance, William Cavanaugh suggests it is ‘the Eucharist which makes the Body of Christ’. Graham Ward pushes transubstantiation to the point that the Eucharist is the form of God’s liberative action in the world. He argues: ‘for it is not that Jesus, at this point, stops being a physical presence. It is more that his physical presence can extend itself to incorporate other bodies, like bread, and make them extensions of his own. A certain metonymic substitution is enacted, re-situating Jesus’ male physique within the neuter materiality of bread (to arton). The ‘body’ now is both sexed and not sexed’. At a glance it seems that radical orthodoxy has indeed something radical to say about gender, sexuality, and bodies. And yet, in my view, it is precisely here that radical orthodoxy falters in its reading of the Eucharist and liturgy.
Proponents of radical orthodoxy nearly always assume a posture of pure theology, as if their claims stand outside the realm of ideology. Correspondingly, the patterns of worship are established as the divine antipode to the world ‘out there’; as counter-philosophy, as counter-narrative, and as counter- liturgy. That traditional patterns of worship have been experienced as highly problematic and oppressive for women (as with many marginalised people groups) is nearly always inconsequential to the confidence placed in the liturgical narrative of radical orthodoxy. Ironically, despite radical orthodoxy’s critique of modernity’s atomizing of the subject, the actual bodies participating in the Eucharist seem immaterial (it may even be that the ontological importance of the Eucharist is purely rhetorical).
Consider James K.A. Smith’s cultural liturgies series. In Desiring the Kingdom Smith seeks to analyse prevalent cultural liturgies (the primary example being participation in the shopping mall) and show how these liturgies have deformed humanity. Smith argues that because ‘worship’ is a fundamental mode of engaging the world, dominant economic liturgies – outside of the church – have captured the Christian’s imagination and distorted the individual’s formation. He claims: ‘But I want to adamantly contend that describing the mall as a religious site is not merely a metaphor or analogy….we can at once appreciate that the mall is a religious institution because it is liturgical institution, and that it is a pedagogical institution because it is a formative institution’. Christians fail, as do Christian institutions, when they fail to articulate adequate systems of resistance, often because they have misdiagnosed the threat of these quasi-liturgies. Thus Christian worship becomes the right pedagogy (of desire), as Smith argues that the church offers a counter-liturgy, one that can shape and form the right kind of citizen of God’s kingdom.
In part two of Desiring the Kingdom Smith shows just how the patterns of Christian worship provide a strategy of resistance against dominant cultural liturgies. As an apologetic for the social imaginary embedded in Christian worship, this section of the book exemplifies the optimism of radical orthodoxy, and even more, the assumption of ideological neutrality. Certainly Smith offers a variety of cautions for would be practitioners and communities. However, the movements of the worship event are described and defined in relation to their formative efficacy with virtually no reference to the questions raised by feminists and those working from the margins. For instance, Smith describes the Eucharist as a ‘normative meal: by showing us a foretaste of how things ought to be, the practice of the Lords’ Supper carries norms in it, and these norms constitute both a basis of critique of the present order, as well as hints as to how the church order itself as a polis that is itself a foretaste of the coming community’. Contrast this to a statement by Natalie K. Watson regarding the reception of bread and wine: ‘even if we (women) kneel before God, the physical posture we are asked to assume can be reminiscent of having to make ourselves small before others’. 
Rather surprisingly, Smith never seems to ask the obvious question: ‘what if Christian liturgies de-form people’? What if the patterns of worship experienced in the church do not simply provide a counter-liturgy, but rather act as mirror in which culture and church both mirror the ideologically de-formations of the present age? Smith’s habit of contrast between cultural and Christian liturgy is one way to examine this.
Consider the worship space and liturgical patterns of the gym in regards the inclusion of women. In recent decades fitness centres across the globe have made the transition from an almost exclusively male domain to spaces of inclusion. The ritual performance of gym attendance has likewise transitioned to include women in the liturgical patterns familiar to those who ‘work out’: the acquisition and enrobing of ‘gym’ clothing and paraphernalia, the rhythms of seasonal calendars and key events, the budding allegiances with gym gurus or ‘trainers’, the movements from warming up to stretching out, and being sent back into the world on guard lest your commitment to the gym backslides through a failure to discipline the body. Each of these themes has obvious points of resonance with Christian liturgy. And what’s more, in both the gym and the church, the transition to ‘inclusion’ (of women, but also of bodies outside the ‘norm’) has become gendered in an unprecedented manner. Though the gym once excluded women, it has moved towards inclusion with incredible enthusiasm. In welcoming women, the gym – and the broader fitness community – have aggressively participated in the social construction of women. Now there are women’s classes, women’s work out clothes, specialist for women personal trainers, women’s protein powders, and an entire liturgical order for women to participate in the gym. Likewise with the church. Now, we are lucky enough to have women’s bibles, women’s worship music, women’s vestments, women’s preaching ‘styles’, and ultimately, an entire liturgical order for women to participate in the church. All of which – in both spaces – fashions the middle class and white ‘yummy mummy’ as the ‘included’ women exemplar. In the gym, as with the church, the inclusion of women into liturgical practices employs a rigidity of gender that betrays deeper ideological commitments. That is, ideological commitments to sexuality class, race, ability etc.
If James Smith is right in suggesting that Christians fail when they fail to articulate adequate systems of resistance (because they have misdiagnosed the threat of liturgy), then it seems a far greater scrutiny must be placed on the liturgical patterns of the church. Theological accounts of liturgy (and especially in regards Radical Orthodoxy; the Eucharist) must push beyond immovable optimism and interrogate the ideologies that deform us from within the church. This is not to suggest the Christian tradition simply lacks potential to resolve contemporary philosophical questions, but it is to deny the confident claims of Christian rhetoric that ignores real bodies and real oppression.
 Over and against ghastly nihilistic modern philosophy which allegedly and inevitably fails in the post-modern context!
 William T. Cavanaugh, “The City: Beyond Secular Parodies,” in Radical Orthodoxy: A Theology, ed. Catherine Pickstock John Milbank, and Graham Ward (New York: Routledge, 1998), 182.
 Graham Ward, “Bodies: The Displaced Body of Jesus,” in Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology,, ed. Catherine Pickstock John Milbank, and Graham Ward (New York: Routledge, 1998), 168.
 For a recent publication that explores a number of themes around liturgy, see Presiding Like a Women, ed. Nicola Slee and Stephen Burns (London: SPCK, 2009).
 James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: worship, worldview, and culture formation. (Grand rapids: Baker Academic, 2009).
 James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 126.
 ibid, 200.
 Natalie K. Watson, “Receiving like a woman,” in Presiding Like a Women, ed. Nicola Slee and Stephen Burns (London: SPCK, 2010), 141. Pararnetheiss added.