We are a part of this grand scheme of lies and the power that goes with such lies. Girard continues:
The Devil/Satan is alien to all truth.
The foundation of the first culture was the moment when this lie began to envelop humanity in the sense not simply of some false information but of a "system of representation" that still permeates our thinking long after primitive institutions are gone.
People are forever rooted and rerooted in the foundational violence.
To say that our human will is to do the desires of our father, the devil, is another way of saying that we cannot really cut loose from the primordial lie, from the effects of the primordial murder.
We cannot acknowledge our dependence on primordial violence, Satan is not merely the father of lies - but - the father of liars.
Rather than doing a 'Flip Wilson' "the devil made me do it," - we do it - we take part in this lie from the beginning. It is a lie that sustains us and keeps us (we could say) on the right path. Think about that. Staying on the right path - following the way of the world as it is set out in front of us is to be the sons and daughters of the father of liars. That is that case because we somehow keep things as they have been since those stories that reach back farther than we can imagine. In some ways, as I think about old stories I even wonder about Luther's "here I Stand.' Is that all a part of the foundational violence. Did that movement bring about peace or war? Did that movement liberate and set free or bring about new ways to subject people to the rule of others within a system that is supported by lies and violence? Do we hold up one story over and against another story - even to the point of violence and blame and persecution? This father of lies and the liars that are born into the unfolding systems of the world will use all the resources in the world to keep things dependent on violence of any kind. The followers of Jesus count on the Holy Spirit - as that Spirit works between us and among us - to be pulled (not on our own and not with our consent) into the peaceable Reign that is utterly contrary to all the lies. This is the Spirit of Truthfulness that never allows for us to forget what was nor does it let us 'get away' with murder (of any degree).
Connection: I don't think anyone likes to be called a liar or be caught in the middle of a lie. Even the youngest among us know that lying - is wrong. It is wrong because it breaks things apart - relationships - community - fun - love - joy. And yet, that is who we are and how we live. It is not easy to hear and we really want to just put a lid on such talk. But when we do or when we try to do that, rather than brew truthfulness, we limit the truth to be what is acceptable to us - in other words, we lie. So we say again, Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
As you walk with us, O God, we need the power of the Spirit to take us and help us face the wonder of our humanity when it becomes a part of your image - a part of the Christ - a part of the shalom that puts an end to all violence. Come, Spirit - take us forward through this day. Amen.
Today we will continue with Girard's look at 'blood shed since the foundation of the World.'
Girard starts with a thesis: The Gospels view Satan as the principle reality of human culture since the foundation of the world.
He notes that this thesis needs a text that explicitly links Satan to the collective murder - the foundation of the world - the invention of human culture. John has that text (8:44):
You are the father of the devil, and your will is to do your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Spoken to those religious leaders who could not hear Jesus's word of love. They could not hear it because they were a part of the whole structure of evil that is the world of the great liar and the one who so easily turns us into liars - that is - Sons and Daughters of the Father of Liars. The word of love is the power that make the violence of the world have no power. Yes, violence does kill and destroy and ruin lives, but is is not a greater power than this love Jesus was. It is this love that has transformed the followers of Jesus in many ways and throughout time. And yet - as we can see - violence and the lying power of Satan still rules. The Jesus of John's gospel still presses on to be another vision for life and to follow that vision even when the powers of the day (religious and secular) are able to dispose of him as they would any other person or power that did not follow the violence of the world. What we see is the that which is available after the end of violence has done all it can do. We see that love - outside the tomb - beyond the power of death - ready to empower others to live within the embrace of this love and as ones who are just that kind of embracing power of love for others.
Connection: It is not easy to see lying ways win the day. It is not easy to stop falling into their traps and become a part of it all. Prayerful vigilance is necessary - a life in which we continue to teach one another this other, more perfect way.
As you walk with us, O God, lead us through the violence that tempts us so that we may be a part of the love you have promised will be ours. Amen.
From the beginning will be the answer to the question about Satan and the power that shapes the world. Here Girard begins a point.
The phrase concerning "the blood shed since the foundation of the world," shows the enormous scope of the idea I am trying to explore. It would be foolish to suppose that the coupling in the Gospels of the first collective murder and the first human culture suggests only a fortuitous conjunction of the two. The message is clear. From the beginning, human culture was rooted in the murders triggered and manipulated by Satan.
The story of Cane perfectly illustrates this vision. Cane has two titles to fame. The first is Abel's murder and the second is the foundation of the first civilization, or culture. A look at Genesis shows that the two events are one. The first law is promulgated as a result of the murder, and it is the first human law against murder, The word 'Cain' stands not for a single murder but the entire community unified by the first culture.
So 'blood shed from the beginning' is meant to be about truth-telling. From the beginning - from the moment there were people who were not enemies but kin - there was blood. Murder and all of the emotions and actions that go with it. That story marks us. Civilization is shaped around such violence. Culture finds a friend in the threat of murder or death or the pointing of fingers that calls one less than others or even calls one simply worthless or disposable. Culture will move on at the expense of some people. Make an 'example' of 'them' and we will not have to deal with 'them' anymore. And if we can find a way to put an end to 'them' won't we be safer and won't this be a better place to live. Duh - no. It always makes for the same old world. That is, blood shed from the beginning. The cycle is one that we enter too easily - unconscientiously - as though it is a good path. And yet, it never is. No peace comes from the death of another. No justice comes from ridding ourselves of him or her or them.
Connection: We have all heard that little lesson for life: count to ten before reacting/responding to what you just saw or heard. The ten count may be a prayerful time that helps us breath in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we do not blame, shoot, kill, belittle, tear down. That breath may be the time we need to listen again - to the other person and also to our God that bids us to live within the domain of God's peace and reconciliation. Even in a time of emergency - great fear - the ten count may be just what is needed to stop an act of a 'justified murder' called self-defense. We are all told that self-defense is okay - but is it any different from that first murder? What was Cain defending - his self image - his status - his pride? We could speculate all day. Our question might be: what are we saying we are defending against when we tear down others - because you know we don't kill like Cain - do we?
As you walk with us, O God, help us to breathe in the deep peace that comes into our lives by way of the Spirit of truthfulness. Breathe - deeply - and again. Amen.
As we continue to look at Satan, Girard makes sure we make some sense of how Satan is tied to the powers - rulers of this world - etc.
There are two great temptations of modern Christianity - divinizing the social order - divinizing the social disorder and revolution in the name of liberation. He notes: they are two antithetical versions of modernism - a distortion and mutilation of Christianity. Modernism is the almost universal illusion in our world that society is everything and that religion ultimately boils down to political and social questions.
Remember that Girard casts a picture of Satan as the personification of order and disorder. It is - I suppose - why he looks at these two views of modernism to be great temptations. Social order is a way to put all things into a controlling order - and therefore it become a way to subvert the Gospel. On the other hand, the attempt to tip over what is becomes nothing more than the same temptation. In both cases, the power at hand (liberating or controlling) is not able to be alongside the victim because both of these ways of dealing with culture make others the victims and there is always a power that emerges as the power over others. That kind of power cannot ever be the power of the cross. Rather, it will be the same power that some try to control and other try to overthrow. In the end, Satan still rules - Satan is still the Father of Liars. Lying stays the way of the world. So, the wonderful ways of modernism leave us with nothing new - just the same founding murder. This made me think of what many all post-modern. Is it just another game we play to change nothing and let the same old story become us? Could post-modern really mean that we don't have a clue how to follow Jesus except to be something other than a part of the order or disorder of the day? Seems that also leads to more game playing and more ways to cover our behinds rather than step up and walk with the victims of the world.
Connection: Truthfulness and honesty are character traits that are meant to keep our eyes on the one we say we follow. It is not easy to keep our eyes there. Usually we want to keep them on how we can fix the world or others. That - will always be the death of us - and others.
As you walk with us, O God, Let your Spirit guide us. Amen.
Girard like to return to the biblical image of 'Satan expelling Satan.' Today's piece shows a bit of his thought on this image.
Satan of the gospels is a self-organizing system (the principle of order and disorder are one and the same - as soon as disorder reaches a certain threshold in these systems - the forces of disruption turn into a force for reintegration and reordering).
How can Satan expel Satan emphasizes the connection between order and disorder as the same thing. Both the disorder and order of human culture are from the same source which is not directly divine, and this, is unique to the Gospels.
So - Satan represents a source of transcendence. This transcendence is false in the sense that it is not really supernatural but is real in the sense that the power of political and social institutions rooted in pagan religion is quite real.
THE GOSPELS CALL IT: The powers of this world - celestial powers - thrones - dominations - principalities - rulers of this world - angels - and - Satan.
They are always united in their decision to crucify Jesus.
We can see that as the world is in the midst of order or disorder, things are basically the same. There is no healing of the world - there is no liberation of the oppressed - there is no uplifting of the poor - there is no peace - there is no honor and respect for all people. Instead, the order or the disorder gives us war and its many faces and its many demons. No wonder the Gospels have so many ways to refer to the power of Satan. The false rule that says we must sacrifice someone or something in order to bring things back into some kind of order is a rule based on a lie that comes from the Father of Lies. Just listen to the conversations and work that is going on in Washington these days - it is the same old way of keeping the world divided and making it more and more important to keep things as is. How does that differ from some more obviously brutal regimes that seek to bring order but really nothing new comes under the sun.
Connection: This is a time of the year when we read some wonder-filled pieces of Scripture. The words of the prophets are amazing. They point to a new 'order' - but it will be one that comes about through a new character. That character that stands up to the principalities and power and the Father of Lies is the character of unbounded love, truthfulness, and light. The followers of Jesus see those character traits in Jesus - born to Mary and raised by Mary and Joseph within the realm of all that is ordinary about us. That character is one that will be rejected and yet it is raised up so that all will see the power that disassembles the order of Satan and the disorder that becomes a tool of Satan's demand for a life that knows not the peaceable Reign of God we see in Jesus and we are called to enter by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As you walk with us, O God, help us to see the grand Liar among us and grant us the wisdom to listen to the Paraclete that will pull us into the life of the New Being available through God's Christ, Jesus. Amen.
It is by the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) that we become the followers of Jesus the Christian community in contrast to the world around us.
The Paraclete (lawyer for the defense/defender of the victim) enables our understanding of the difference between the mimetic communion of the persecutors and the Christian Communion.
Rene Girard notes: In the modern world this understanding is either absent (and that is why the modern world has never discovered the true difference between Christianity and the other religions), or it is present in forms that disguise its Christian origin.
It is must too easy to follow along within systems that are based on scapegoats - victims - sacrifices that attempt to keep order in the world. It happens in the smallest of group when we put someone in our cross-hairs in order to put them down as we think we are raising ourselves up or simply keeping things in good order. We are given eye -you could say- that help us to see when it happens and how we are being pulled into it and (thank God) a way to move differently. That way is the cross. The Paraclete always being the defender of the victim leads us to the cross - leads us to the way in which the order of the day - the order of all time - is disrupted and a new life - a new being comes forth and begins to take life. That life is to be Christian Communion - the Church - the followers of Jesus, who know the way that brings all people to the table even though it is not the acceptable way to be a communion in a world bent on exclusion.
Connection: I know that many folks may get tired of me saying that I am basically a coward. And yet, I know me. It is too easy to run away - too easy to turn away - too easy to let the victims of the world go for it on their own. And yet, I really do trust that this Paraclete - this Holy Spirit - resists my daily devotion to the ways of fear and doubt. The Holy Spirit brings a fresh breeze to my every breath - so that sometimes - just sometimes - I will stay put and be for and with the victims even as it means I take a hit. That is rare - but I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is the only way I move to this way of the cross. We must remember that the sting of death has no power over us. Unfortunately, there is still the sting - but we have been empowered to move through it to the point of saying 'death where is your sting!'
As you walk with us, O God, tickle our hearts with the way of life that carries us into a life that is so often rejected - even by those who consider themselves pious. Amen.
The Christian Community has support and a source of empowerment that leads it forward against the lies that create victims. Girard take us there today
The Christian communion is based on the rejection of the false accusation. John ascribes this understanding to the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete - is the "lawyer for the defense" and "the defender of the victim." Jesus is the first person who decisively disrupts the mimetic consensus against the most innocent of all victims - himself. Therefore, he is the 1st Paraclete - the Holy Spirit is the 2nd and will continue Jesus' work.
As the church alive by the Holy Spirit, we are pulled into the adventure of disrupting that mimetic consensus against all victims. That is our work - the same as Jesus and aided by the power of the Holy Spirit. We - as followers of Jesus - have a place alongside the victims of the world. It is one in which we stay at their side no matter what the cost - even when we are accused of being of the same stuff as the ones who are being turned into victims. Immediately I remember stories of the many Christians who risked everything in order to be on the side of the Jews during the horrible persecutions (scapegoating) that took place in Europe under the Nazis. It is also every time we are lead to stand on the side of any people who are treated as though they are expendable for the welfare of the rest. This may be an old drum that is beating with me, but I still find that the church is still willing to step back from the persecution of some people around us. It is like we make a few exceptions to the way of Jesus. And yet, there are no exceptions - we are ones who stand with all victims even as we become victims with them. We are not to mimic the qualities of the persecutors - we mimic the Christ, Jesus. This is even when it must take place at some expense to us.
Connection: Even though the ELCA has voted to stand with GLBT people within the Church, it appears that it is still acceptable to point fingers and exclude and raise up the voices of crowds of people who must have someone to condemn and call wrong and evil. It is still easy for churches to point fingers at welcoming congregation as though those congregations are "as bad as the ones that must be excluded." Therefore, welcoming congregations are still few and far between because the power of lies and finger-pointing and blame and the need to establish an order that keeps the world as it is - carries more weight and is more attractive than open arms of welcome. The welcome, is and always will be an act of non-violent resistance and a stumbling block to those who want to draw lines and have victims that can be labeled as ones who we are free to persecute and cut off.
As you walk with us, O God, open our hearts again and again - even as we are wounded as we learn to walk with you and find it difficult to live in a way contrary to what so many say must be the way among us. Amen.
The Christian Community plays a vital role in putting the Father of Lies under the light of truthfulness.
As the crowds unanimously follow along as participants of the violence of the Passion, the disciples begin to break away. Girard notes: The Christian Community is rooted in a passionate rejection and critique of what the other communion (Pilate & Herod - Luke 23:12) uncritically espouses - the guilt of the victim. He goes on to say: Satan's power (in the gospels) is the ability to make false accusations so well that they become the unassailable truth - Satan is The Accuser.
We see this everywhere. The finger pointing out the one or the ones who are to become the accused - the ones who have cause trouble or dismay or embarrassment or confusion or the mere threat of chaos. This power of evil and thrives on a lie that is used to cement power among those who establish the victim who will bear the weight of the accusers. It will be the Community of the followers of Jesus who did and must continue to reject such actions - such lies - such a life. And yet, it is not easy. It is more beneficial within our culture to stay on the side of those who accuse. To be able to cast doubt onto others or make the other appear to be out of sync with the rest of us or simply to have others to blame for what is wrong among us, is a pull that is strangely difficult to face and shut down. It is very easy to be swept up into the movements and words and actions of Herod's and Pilate's and others who perpetuate the notion of the guilt of the victim. The victim is an easy target and when we go along with those powers, we convince ourselves that we are safe. The community of Christ is never to exist as a 'safe' place that keeps evil alive. The safe place of the church is the one that provide a home for the victims of such lies.
Connection: So are we that safe place for the victims? Or is the Church another one of the groups of people who mimic the need for victims who will take the hit for the rest of us. I wonder more and more about the place of the Church that appears to simply go along with the order that is more than not, part of the order that creates and sustains the lies that kill and abuse and crucify. This is not an easy thing to even consider. Maybe it is what we need to remember each time we take part in the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness or the Baptismal Remembrance. WE are the ones who too easily fall in line with the ways of the Father of Lies. But, as we will hear tomorrow, we are not left up to our own power.
As you walk with us, O God, help us to turn and face the truth in the midst of the lies that always attempt to pull us away from your loving embrace of the whole world. Grant us your power of renewal and repentance. Amen.
Though we are approaching Christmas, the Passion and the movement of the crowd is more the focus here today - again from Rene Girard.
The Passion's violent unanimity results from a massive transference of scandals - a snowballing that becomes inescapable. When this happens the guilt of the victim becomes an absolute certainty to the participants and the expulsion and destruction of that victim is experienced by each one as a destruction of his or her own scandal - a personal liberation.
When this happens peace immediately returns and the mob is no more. In the Passion - when Pilate submits to the crowd - agitation subsides. Unanimous violence produces peace that is rooted in Mimetic consensus.
In the cross, it is not unanimous - the disciples eventually break away from it.
In so many ways I think it is good that the disciples are shown to be - at best - cowards and common folk who cannot understand Jesus way as the Christ of God. The appear to be slow - inept. And yet, it will be these folks who will see the truth that comes forth from the Passion. They do not continue to go along with the crowd - they break away and begin to see and hear and experience the way of Jesus after the resurrection. The victim becomes the way rather than the way of the crowd that must make victim of others. Therefore, the Church becomes a power on the side with victims - with the left out - with the dirty ones - with the powerless. It does not rally them all to take over the powerful and the rich and the owners of societies precious ways. Rather, the followers of Jesus will be the presence of non-violent living that will always cause the 'powers' to get ruffled and want to put an end to anything that is not going along with the patterns of culturally accepted ways of keeping the order of things in place (I suppose we could read - keeping Satan in charge.). The violence of the world is not to be the way of the followers of Jesus. And yet, it is hard to see that we are indeed a part of the cultural patterns of violence.
Connection: I just drove by a church that had a message on their sign board: Keep Christ in Christmas. It goes along with a trend among many Christians who try to make it look as though they are being persecuted - victims in a secular culture. And yet, the message I hear is one that tries to rally folks (the crowd) against anyone who is no thinking like these "Christians." The language used to set up a group of -often - unnamed, threatening people to blame for what is seen as an attack on Christmas has all the signs of the violence that has been around from the beginning of time. A violence - remember - into which Jesus did not and would not step. These 'Christians' may not be the violent 'crusaders' of the past, but their violence leaks out and infects the culture and the church with nothing more than the ways of the Father of Lies.
As you walk with us, O God, save us from hiding behind a name. Make the followers of your Son, Jesus, a people who walk in his image even as we are tempted to merely speak his name in order to have our world as we would make it for ourselves. Amen.
More on scandal and evil and Satan in the context of Jesus knowing exactly what was going on along the way. I have included parts of this previously.
Before the Passion - Jesus warns his disciples that he is about to become a scandal to them. They will all scatter (passive accomplices of the persecutors). Jesus knows that scandals are mimetic from the start and they become more so as they are exacerbated. They become more and more impersonal, anonymous, undifferentiated, and therefore interchangeable. In Gospels the operation of scandals are the same thing as demonic and satanic possession - characterized by a process of transference. Girard uses Peter again. When Jesus speaks of his suffering at the hands of others - Peter is scandalized. Peter's ideal is the same as ours - worldly success. Peter tries to turn his own desire into a model that Jesus should imitate. This is how Satan operates. All who join a belligerent crowd act more or less like Peter.
It is the last sentence here that hits home. Have you ever been part of a 'belligerent' crowd - by simply going along with what is being said or done - by simply being quiet and not speaking on behalf of another way? I know I do. Usually I don't give it too much thought at the moment. I simply go along. It is after - during a time of reflection - that I can have feelings as deep as shame. In some ways, doing or saying nothing is how the violence of the world has continued from the beginning of time. Jesus will be the one who acts contrary to that endless circle of oppression, despair, fear, threat, and deadly silence. Jesus is to be the one we mimic. That is the saving way of life that is real and is set before us. It is part of the promise that God defeats all that evil through the cross. The way of Jesus - the way of resisting our need to keep safe or uphold the ways things are done at the expense of people - was and will be a scandal. It is the way that the powers of the world will point out as being revolutionary. And yet, Jesus is revolutionary - but a non-violent one that exposes the various ways we can embody violence and calling us to turn around and follow his lead.
Connection: We do not have to be part of the crowd that persists with the ways of Satan's rule. We do not have to be liars who fall in line with the Prince of Lies. We are told we are indeed able - by the power of the Holy Spirit - to be truthful - to be a light in the world. That is what Jesus leaves us - this Spirit. It is always going to be enough - just as it was for Jesus.
As you walk with us, O God, remind us again and again that your Spirit walks with us and most often is bidding us to follow the pull of that inspiring life that was Jesus. This is what we ask again and this is our hope. Amen.
Girard writes: If Satan could indeed cast out Satan, it means that Satan himself and not God would be the policeman who keeps his own disorder in check. This necessarily means that, at some point in the crisis that scandals generate, they must turn, somehow, into a force for order. This idea sounds impossible and even crazy but a careful examination of the various uses of 'scandalon' reveals that it is both possible and true.
This goes back to something from last week when Satan was described as one who personifies order and disorder. If Satan is to stay in control (if evil is to continue - if scapegoating and mimetic rivalry is to shape the day) there must be some sort of order that will let this kind of existence continue and thrive. Therefore, war - though it is bad and evil and destructive and no one really wants war - when we end a war it is always with a sense of peace that keeps a new war as an option. For the sake of order, the warring madness/brokenness must be held back for now. But it will be the shape of what is to come. Evil brings about evil by ridding the day of evil only to make room for more and more evil.
I thought of the Germans after WWI. The consequences of losing the war meant that the alliance had to put controls/order on the German people. This 'order' was seen as evil to many Germans. It created at peace but it was an order that led to more disorder and the rise of the Third Reich who would throw these evil ones out and in order to create a new 'order' - evil grew all the more.
Connection: So we live within a day in which various people or actions are being considered 'evil.' To act against that 'evil' -however it might be defined- there is an attempt to create an order that will stop the perceived evil and disorder. And yet, so often this 'order' is in fact a power that creates enemies,scapegoats and even when the thought that order would bring peace, it brings a culture of separation and suspicion and, eventually, war of some kind. Evil it seems prevails even when we work so hard to create an orderly world.
As you walk with us, O God, help us to see how easily we turn to walk another way and disregard the Reign of love and peace that we are to call our home in you alone . Amen.
Sometimes when reading Girard i get caught up in the language. So let me - for my benefit - try to define terms again. Mimesis - is desire - seeking to obtain the object that the 'model' desires - imitation. There is also mimetic rivalry that is explained as this: if a model is a person in our immediate life setting (parent, authority figure, peer) then s/he is potentially a rival - so a rival and a model are basically the same - but we are not able to always see this. Now on to Satan again.
In order to designate the exasperation of mimetic rivalry, the Gospels have a marvelous word that, at times, seems almost synonymous with Satan, scandalon - it means the obstacle against which one keeps stumbling.
The scandalon designates a very common inability to walk away from mimetic rivalry which turns it into an addiction. The scandalon is anything that attracts us in proportion to the suffering or irritation that it causes us. It is even the aching tooth that we cannot stop testing with our tongue, even though it hurts more and more. The scandalon is all kinds of destructive addiction, drugs, sex, power, and above all morbid competitiveness, professional, sexual, political, intellectual, and spiritual, especially spiritual.
Just think of the story of Pete - once again - who appears to be concerned about Jesus' discussion about Jerusalem and what will happen there when he arrives. This is Peter's dear friend and, no doubt, Peter is probably one of Jesus friends. And yet, Peter throws into the mix of their journey the rational for not going forward - the excuse to move in a way contrary from the way Jesus is called to go. It is an attractive alternative - certainly a safer one for now. This could very well be the pull. Jesus is drawn to the way of our God and Jesus also has this other way - a way that Jesus will tag as Satan - a stumbling block - attractive yet repulsive. Jesus sees it and hears it and does not get sucked into the mimetic rivalry at hand. He is self-defined by the promises of God and does not fall into trap that keeps us all so bound up in the ways of Satan - the scandalon.
In the moment at hand, it is not at all easy - maybe even close to impossible - to catch ourselves in the act of following along with Peter. It is so inviting -seems so sensible - fits into how others think and act. And yet, we are called into another way of imitation - that of the life within the Reign of Go - the way of Jesus. Yet even in those moments, we are experts in making excuses and justifying our ways so that we continue in the way of the violence and brokenness of the world rather than the life of the non-violence of God's Reign.
As you walk with us, O God, bring into our lives other saints who will be for us our eyes and ears that will remind us of your way even as we are ready to step off into the pathway in which we seem to know it all. For we know it all - sometimes - to our detriment and the detriment of others. Keep us in the way of your peace. Amen.
I wrote that we would look at how Jesus and Satan imitate God. Again this comes from Rene Girard.
Not unlike Jesus, Satan Says, "imitate me" and he himself is an imitator. His ultimate model is God the Father, the same model that Jesus has. Girard goes on to say that there is a difference between the mimetic desire of Jesus and that of Satan. Satan imitates God in a spirit of rivalry. Jesus imitates God in a spirit of childlike and innocent obedience. This is the way Jesus calls us to imitate him. Since there is no acquisitive desire in God - the ways of imitation that Jesus goes and invites us to enter is one that cannot generate rivalry.
Mimetic rivalry is triggered when two competing desires ceaselessly reinforce each other. At such a time, violence is likely to erupt. Just think of two children who want the same toy. Or one child who has a toy and the other child wants to be in the shoes of that child. Or think of two children looking on and each wants the toy that the third child has. This all sounds like the beginning of war, conflict, the games of blame and the beginning of a separation - a break. Girard goes on to say that mimetic rivalry is not satanic to begin with, it is not sinful per se, it is only a permanent occasion of sin. That 'condition' is always at hand. It is so easy to slip into this rivalry and let it be the path we enter. Within the rite of Confession when I was growing up in the Roman Catholic church, we would say an "Act of Contrition." It ended with I firmly resolve with the help of they grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. That occasion is always now. Jesus calls us to imitate him - the one who did not enter into the violence of mimetic rivalry.
Connection: It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we stand up against the near occasion of sin - and follow the the peaceable Reign of God that we see in Jesus. For at our door - whipping around us - infecting all that we say and hear - is that desire to be in the shoes of the other person - even if it means destroying that one to get there. It all sounds like Cain and Abel - and it is.
As you walk with us, O God, let your Spirit lead us from violence and hold onto the image of your loving Reign that does not fall for the lies that bring us into the realm of violence and a desire that kills us all. Amen.
For another example of mimetic violence in Scripture Girard turns briefly to the story of Jonah.
Jonah is one who does not want to die but, as we know, is swallowed by a whale. Girard goes on to say: The whale, however, would not swallow Jonah if he had not been cast into the sea by the unanimous crew of the ship on which he has embarked. This expulsion is a collective casting out similar to the Passion. The whale is an image of the violent crowd.
Does God put together this violence against Job? No. The violence grows within the crew. Something or someone is making the storm take over us. In the ways of mimetic violence that has (once again) been around from the founding murder (Cain and Abel) something must be done. Elimination of the other - the one who we can cast as the reason for our bad luck or bad situation - so that the 'seas will calm.' I find it interesting to see that even Jonah buys this ancient turn toward mimetic violence. As we look at this in comparison to the Passion, we must see that after Jesus execution and burial - where are the crowds? They disburse - the victim has been eliminated and - at least for a while - life can go back to the way it was - until another victim is needed. Collective violence will never stop within the patterns of our lives. This imitating brutality and violence and need for a victim upon whom the world (or our group) can cast stones so as to think we are the good and right ones, is ever-present. It quite impossible to see it happening until it has happen and we have put away another one of 'them' for what we see as the welfare of 'us.'
Next week we will look at Satan and Jesus as imitating God - it will be an interesting twist and insight by Girard.
Connection: I find it is important to have a voice that keeps speaking up in the middle of the flood to condemn. I know that I too easily go with the flood. I need time to think back to the call to imitate Christ and not the disease of the culture or the group or the mob. This all has so many applications to the Church and so many applications to the politics of the day.
As you walk with us, O God, let your Spirit be our guide and our strength so that our lives will hesitate to think of your Reign even as we are beginning to follow the reigning power of the day. Amen.