May 9, 2007

The work of Rene Girard was reviewed. The basics of Girard’s theory are as follows. Humans are susceptible to violence and that violence threatens to fracture society. Ancient civilizations solved this problem by focusing their fears and violent tendencies upon marginalized, powerless, and voiceless groups: Scapegoats. Even today social groups still maintain cohesiveness by targeting weaker persons for abuse, stigma, or violence. A simple example is how cliques of schoolchildren pick on the “weird” kid at school. A more serious example is the Nazi Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide. Scapegoating violence is at the core of the human condition. It is something that we need to be saved from.

How are we to be saved from the violence? Answer: By exposing the violence as violence. The reason this is so hard to do is that God is routinely co-opted and used as religious justification for the violence. In this formulation God stands with the Crowd against the Scapegoat.

But in the Old and New Testaments this old formulation is unmasked. Violence is exposed as violence when God stands in solidarity with the victim/scapegoat. Thus, our violence stops when we, like Paul, stand with Jesus (“the one we are persecuting”). We are saved from violence when we realize that we are not justified to “throw the first stone.”



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