Girard, Christians, and Violence

An article in Christianity Today’s 50th Anniversary with the promising title "The Church’s Great Malfunctions," written by Miroslav Volf and colleagues from the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, is a refreshing self-critique of modern Christianity. It’s good, and as I said, refreshing, but it doesn’t go far enough.

The essay begins by conceding that too often, "Christian faith neither mends the world nor helps human beings to thrive. On the contrary, it seems to shatter things into pieces, to choke what’s new and beautiful before it has chance to take root, to trample underfoot what’s good and true."

This was refreshing because the 152 page special edition of CT consulted 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about the future of Christian evangelical priorities, and only Volf was this candid. Among all the concern about getting back to scriptural basics, connecting to culture while being counter-cultural, and the repeat warnings about the gay agenda, only Volf’s article, (with the exception of one or two others leaders who drew attention to poverty and AIDS) asks an apt question. That is, why is it that Christians who embrace a peaceable faith have often been so violent?

who_would_jesus_bombHis answer laid out under three rubrics; a thin faith, an irrelevant faith and an unwillingness to walk the narrow path, was however disappointing. It provided nothing new other than an appeal to renew Christian character. It never reached into the underlying cause that this blog, when given opportunity, will go banging on about. And that is the sacrificial reading of scripture and substitutional atonement theory.

Please, Yale Center for Faith and Culture, you say it takes hard intellectual and spiritual work to learn to understand and live faith authentically. Then don’t ignore the implications of Girardian thought, the most exciting theological thinking since Augustine and the most fruitful anthropological thinking since the arrival of anthropology.

All quiet on the Eastern front

Any question on violence in reference to Christianity and the gospel must take Girard into account. Is it because entrenched statements of faith rooted in medieval theology are too layered over by time and tradition to be overcome?

As long as we ignore our sacrificial ways, already exposed by Christ, as long as we continue to unconsciously justify them through our uncritical acceptance of a flawed theory of the atonement we remain imprisoned by them. And so we go on acceding to so-called redemptive violence and wonder why we fit a violent culture.

But by excavating our error, by undergoing the all together non-violent way of God which is the peace of Christ, we may then find that symptoms like thin faith etc., lose their grip.

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  1. Hey Steve
    If someone wanted to read up on this nonsacrifical way that informs your faith what book would you suggest we start with and what others would be essential reading?

    And while you are thinking about that, can you tell me who said
    “Rather than seeing God’s Plan as
    Creation, Fall, Redemption
    we should think of it more like
    Creation, Incarnation, Recreation.”

    Blessings to you.

  2. Hi Steve:
    I have been thinking about a nonsacrificial way of understanding the cross and I have something that I would like your opinion on.

    I have a feeling that you are not fan of the movie The Passion of the Christ. Am I correct?

    You did see it though, didn’t you?

    One thing that I learned or an insight that I seemed to have been given in the endless scourging and the bloody pulping of Cavezil’s body was that the crucifixion was not only a reconciliation of God to man (forgiveness for our sins) but of man to God (people need to forgive God for creating or at least allowing suffering of this sort to happen to people, even relatively good people).

    I have long been wrestling with the connundrum of ‘why is there suffering at all’. No one has a very good answer as far as I can see.
    The Satan angel is deeper and truer than I had thought but it still requires God to allow the free reign of evil in the world and so does not exonerate him from the awful things that happen down here.
    I had the sense that Jesus’ extreme suffering was a little like what happens on the schoolyard sometimes (at least it did when I was a boy).
    Did you ever hurt a friend in a game or in a moment of carelessness and then offer to let the hurt party punch you in the arm as hard as they can to sort of make up for it? I know this smacks of retributive violence and will be an easy thing to be repulsed by but somehow it seemed to me that the reconciliation is two sided and God (because He decreed that we must suffer to fulfill some mysterious necessity) has allowed us to punch Him as hard as we can on his right arm to restore some sort of balance that allows our relationship to survive the suffering.

    The creation of the Sons of God appears to require suffering and choosing in the face of unmerited suffering to love and serve God and each other.
    If this is the case God may have been redeeming His own sins (that is not the right word but I don’t have a better one to use at the moment. Perhaps I will continue to call it ‘His mysterious neccessity’)by taking as much suffering as His plan apparently requires some of His creation to endure.

    Any thoughts?

    Or is this just too twisted to even try to respond too?

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