Monday, February 11, 2008

The Old Way Trodden by the Victim

As Hellion stated, this theory is pretty scary. It rips the thin veil of civility off humanity and exposes a violent mechanism at work. Here's my way of remembering Mimetic Theory: People are always desire'n things. They form groups so their desire gaining is multiplied. Sole purposes of groups are to deny resources to other groups. Get it? The church role in this would be to be a group that doesn't act like a group... that acts counter to what a group is supposed to do. Groups like The Jaycees, Habitat For Humanity, OxFam, etc etc. all fight that.

So the point of Mimetic Theory is to stop violence. this would essentially put ppl like Rush, Bill O'Reilley, and Ann Dumpface Coulter out of their jobs of hating the "others" that make 'Merica bad. Can't villify the LGBT community as marriage was failing without their help, and we'd fail to see the connection between "ruining the institution of marriage" and allowing same-sex marriages. Just like the recession and unemployment being blamed on the "mexicans" who are supposedly taking all the jobs. we'd see it being more of a mix of corporations SENDING jobs away as well as Americans not wanting to do certain jobs...The picking of any victim, or "other" to solve the problem is ultimately arbitrary and the peace is short-lived.

Let's take a look at Job and Jesus through the lens of Mimetic Theory.

In his book Job the Victim of His People, Girard postulates that the story is very simple. Job was ostracized and persecuted by the people around him. He was the scapegoat of the community.

Job was once the idol of his people, a man who was successful, wealthy and powerful. He was emulated and desired. But this provoked rivalry first among his friends and then the people at large. In the end this process was mystified and Job's friends believe that he was the cause of his own misfortunes and seek his salvation. Job maintains his innocence through the whole book. He thinks God is persecuting him and thus refused to acquiesce in the process of victimage. This obsures the story then for what it really is argues Girard. The text obscures the guilt of the people and places the blame on God.

Like Job, Jesus is also made a scapegoat; an innocent who is first the admired hero of his people and then is the abject victim who is sacrificed to resolve social tensions. Like in this previous post, Jesus was subversive. Jesus endangers his society's security to the point where the leaders fear divine wrath. But unlike Job, Jesus refuses the accusations of his persecutors. The Gospels lay bare the scapegoat mechanism directly.

Jesus refuses to place responsibility for violence anywhere except on those who are its perpetrators. Did the Jews kill Christ? No. Did the Romans? It was a Roman style execution specifically for enemies of the state (the Jews would have stoned him). Jesus however, practices what he preached. He forgives his murderers and ends any furthering scapegoating (however the Church later picked up this practice!). Jesus simply enacts the logic of a God who refuses violence.

God is the victim and so cannot act as the persecutors, reciprocating their violence. God's response is completely contrary to human society and history, utterly pacific: return of forgiveness for violence.

some good references to read more on Mimetic Theory can be found at under introductory articles... check it out! also check out Girard's library! it's fantastic and i neeeed to dive into more of it.

moving on to some personal current events, today starts the first day of the spring semester. i'm taking Intro to Education Ministries, Jesus and the Gospels, Intro OT part II, Pastoral Care, and Jewish Commentary with Rabbi Jack! I'm really excited to start! I'm also excited for spring.. it's like -5 here and Sonny's leaving little pee-sickles all over Lancaster. Can't wait until it warms up.


lindonontime said...

Read Greenspans book, age of turbulance for economics lesson and watch connections. Kinda corny but very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey Luke, Did the religious authorities (the Sadducees and Sanhedrin) fear just divine retribution or also retribution from the divine Caesar, Tiberius? I'm not saying that I find the Emperor Tiberius divine, but the Romans promoted the cult of Tiberius as the divine son of god (yikes!) to keep the Pax Romana -- an ideological tool. The priestly order after the failure of Isrealite and Judean self-rule seem to have come to accept outside authority, esp. outside authority that gave the Sanhedrin authority over most all domestic/religous law. Jesus was a double subversive -- to Roman authorities and their priestly collaborators. Please also do not read this as an anti-Semetic rant because Jesus was trying to save Judaism from its internal corruption. From time to time, God has sent prophets and reformers to let us know that authorities have taken God's trust and abused it, such as Nathan to David, Amos to Jeroboam, and Christ to the Sanhedrin and Imperial Rome as the Kingdom of Man pitted against the Kingdom of God. Jesus was throughly radical and thereby challenging believers to question smug religious and imperial authorities. I truly beleive that today Christ challenges beleivers to question smug religious and imperial authorites. Peace and blessings, Jim

Luke said...

thanks for your comment jim! i totally agree and think girard would too about the double-subversive status of jesus. the big thing girard would point out is that in NO WAY can we make jesus into a victim as portrayed in john. jesus knew what he was doing and broke the cycle of violence through his act.