Violence and Not Learning from the Past (Part 2)

I’m not saying that the mesmerizing power of mimetic (imitative, reciprocal) violence has abated. It obviously hasn’t. What I am saying is that the rising voice of the "victim" is slowly destroying any ability to coronate our violence with the mantle of divinity. But without sacred violence’s ability to curtail mimetic violence we face the reality of apocalyptic violence. We have been undone from within. And it is the fault of the gospel.

In this light it might be instructive to revisit Jesus’ statement: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." I used to wonder about this remark. But again, the fruits of a non-sacrificial reading of the gospel clarify things. Christ is making the simple and profound observation of what happens when the lie of "sacrifice" is exposed. When the mechanism of scapegoating, which is responsible for the founding of our religions and cultures, is destroyed, that is, when "Satan falls from the sky like lightening", we are in the most precarious of places.

No longer does "the peace that this world gives", hold. The spell of "redemptive violence" has been broken. But that’s dangerously good news.

For the first time, we are at a place where we can existentially "see" the gospel holding out our only hope. We are at the place where narrow fundamentalist interpretations of the gospel, that at one time allowed us to feel soul-safe while accepting an essentially fatalistic view of the world, no longer hold. No longer are we able to have heaven in our pocket while staying blind to our complicity in sacred violence.

Anthropologist, Rene Girard, has said in his book, "Violence and the Sacred", "For the first time we are faced with the perfectly straight-forward, even scientifically calculable choice between total destruction and total renunciation of violence."

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. (John 14)

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  1. Some questions and some thoughts.
    I am not advocating violence at all but I do wonder about Jesus’ driving the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip. This seems like violence to me but as well it appears as if he has the right to drive them out. “My fathers house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”. As well the cursing of the fig tree seems to be an act of judgement on something. John 15 indicates that branches that don’t bear fruit are thrown into the fire where they are burned. I’m certainly not advocating “human violence” but is there not a place for some kind of “sacred wrath” against sin? Not from humans but rather from God. I think we get into trouble when we assume God’s place and assume we can do his work.

  2. I could try to come up with an explanation for the temple scene, but I no longer see any point in that kind of exercise. In my mind there is simply no connection between goodness and the kind of violence humans inflict, which most of the time looks to me like little more than revenge or greed or some other equally small motive. As to “scared wrath”, I think we’re still not getting the gospel — if sin is a falling short, a less-than-perfect, weak, estranged, sick state that needs remedying, why on earth would God have sacred wrath? It seems to me there would instead be a lot of weeping in heaven these days.

  3. Good for you Steve for getting the discussion started!! Isn’t that what a blog is for. I think we all agree that human violence is foolish and unwarranted. However, I disagree that a sacrificial reading of the gospel further promotes violence.
    Another thought…
    It seems that we want to vascilate between being victims and victimizers. Since in the previous argument that Steve made the gospel reveals that we are victimizers. However, Connie seems to state that we are in fact victims under the power of sin. Are we victims or victimizers? Or both? I would say agree with Steve that we are victimizers.
    Regarding wrath…perhaps the object of God’s wrath is sin and not his creation. Perhaps his intent is to destroy that which destroys us the most. In fact I think we would all agree that the gospel is about the redemption of creation not about destruction. So why would we repudiate the idea that God wants to do away with that which harms us most?

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