Saturday, April 3, 2010

Girard and the Bible

Once upon a time....a long, long time ago...before I got sick...and before we headed off on vacation, I started a series of posts about Girard's theory of mimesis, our inborn propensity to mimic the desires of others, the resulting mimetic rivalry that eventually leads to scapegoating and the Bible's progressive revelation of the whole sordid mess...

The purpose of this series of posts is not to point out that because of mimesis we're pretty much screwed (although Girard does think that left unchecked there is that possibility) but rather to focus on the solution found within the pages of scripture. I came across an article...who knows when, that I had saved on my computer. It is called

Prayer Unbinding Desire, The Meditation Teaching and Practice of John Main by Stuart Sandberg

For Girard the Bible provides a unique source for revealing the victimage systems that are ordinarily hidden in religion and culture. He discusses Abraham not sacrificing Isaac, the story of Joseph and his brothers, Solomon’s wisdom in determining the mother of the baby, the Psalms in which the victim finds a voice, the Suffering Servant in Second Isaiah, Job and most clearly in what the Gospels and the New Testament reveal: the reversal of the ordinary justification of violence against the victim. While the God of sacrificial religion, who imitates human violence in vengeance and punishment, also appears in the Bible, Girard describes it as a “text in travail.”

One of the definitions of travail is the "effort and pain of childbirth." I'm not sure exactly what Girard means by text in travail...but it occurs to me that the progressive revelation of the scriptures is a lot like childbirth. Scripture seems to be in the throes of a birthing process from Genesis to Revelation.

The revelation that God is not on the side of the crowd that crucifies Jesus but is the one who is crucified only comes to consciousness in the Bible as in human history with the same difficulty that it comes to consciousness in us.

The article also states that:

Based on his study of literature, anthropology, and the Bible, Girard exposes a universal structure in which a subject imitates the desire of a model or mediator and becomes a rival with him for the desired object. The more models of desire become shifting rivals, obstacles and objects of desire themselves, they create the attraction and repulsion that has come to be known as a double bind. Awareness of this mechanism is not enough to stop it, or to raise one’s level of consciousness, but it might lead to asking what will.

And what will stop this mechanism?

Near the end of Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Girard recommends Jesus and the Gospels as an alternative model for “the prisoners of violent imitation”.

In the Gospels, 87 times Jesus bids us, "Follow me" and Paul urges us to imitate him as he imitates Christ Jesus. The idea being that we will imitate someone, it is inborn in us, but if we imitate Jesus we find no "push back" from rivalry, no competition. There is no resentment or hostility in Jesus so he does not generate rivalry in those who imitate him. It is what Girard refers to as “good mimesis.”

Obviously, there is more to it than "imitating" Jesus. It is putting on the mind of Christ....putting on the new man. Scripture says that we HAVE the mind of Christ and that our old man WAS crucified. The old man who grows corrupt with deceitful lusts (aka in the Greek.... desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust) is dead.

I will close this post with a snippet from The Girard Reader

"Mimetic desire is also the desire for God.”

More to follow....

1 comment:

Logan said...

Great post! Look forward to reading more...