An excellent article leading us down this amazing path of his position.
Sort of an anti- tautology, where it proves the opposite of its self by the saying. A society whose guilt is not absolved by the self sacrifice of another is guilty, and thus it is time for Christ to return as society no longer accepts Christ’s past sacrifice in our stead.
I did love this line:
“of the way would-be finance and technology gurus use Girard to give a veneer of sophistication to otherwise trivial observations about trends.”
haha, great stuff…..and one which applies to me too…….
But in all a frighting article as it points that Judgement is inevitable – all my life I have wished to have full faith, and not just my agnosticism – but the problem is one cannot will ones self to faith. My guess is one must work at it, one must do the routines, go to Church, say your prayers, and be better – and I fail at that greatly, and so I fail at faith….
I spent years in solitude as a young man, no electronics, rarely books, just sitting there, and one thinks, although it is hard to think with no one else to use in developing thoughts – I would spend much time thinking of existence, mortality which would be all about me as I lived in nature, so I knew it well, and the whyness of all this, why existence, why is it? And I never could come up with an answer better than Christianity. I saw a very great deal in my decades traveling, too much really, and I have not thought, or seen, anything better than Christianity…. And Christianity is not the ‘being nice’ that secular modern’s think it is. Christianity is hard, it is a very hard path indeed….Isiah 66:15, the fire and fury… It is a hard world.
Wow – what a confession – I just hope you are not on your death bed. Your contributions to Unherd are educated – you have spirit too!
Perhaps the trick to faith is not to require what is written in the Bible to be literally true. With the human mind, you get to a point, whichever direction you travel, where you simply run out of road. The complexities and contradictions become too great to understand or process. In every direction, eventually we face infinity and the unknowable. If there is a force out there – and I find it hard to believe we can possibly be all there is – then it won’t be the “god” we have basically fashioned in our own image. It will be something beyond our imagining. But Christ gave us the best possible way of approaching all of this. He gave us only two commandments and both were about Love. Love thy neighbour as thyself – which goes beyond the golden rule, because the word used for love at least in the Greek translation of early scriptures is “agape”, which is about giving and sacrificing. Christ’s life is the ultimate illustration of “agape”,not that any of us is capable of coming close to it. It’s way more than “do as you would be done by”. The other commandment is “love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul” – which I understand as a requirement to love the incredible miracle, the infinite power that is life. Give yourself to it. Do the best you possibly can with it. I’ve always thought that heaven and hell were right here on earth. We create one or the other for ourselves, we move between one and the other, based on the choices we make. Christ was trying to teach us how to choose so that life becomes heaven or at least is infused with the holy. I don’t believe literally in an afterlife where I will be me in another dimension. When we die, I believe we are simply reabsorbed into whatever we came from, as each wave sinks back into the sea. You will say, but how is that Christianity? You clearly don’t believe in the Creation story. Not literally. But figuratively, yes, absolutely I do. You don’t believe in the Virgin birth, the miracles, the Resurrection or the after life. Again not literally. But figuratively how can one not? I am happy to stand each Sunday beside people who do believe a more literal interpretation of the faith. I see no contradiction. In fact I love it because it connects me to all the generations who went before me on this journey. I love that I worship in the place where they once stood and asked for forgiveness. In taking communion alongside people whose beliefs are different from my own, I don’t consider myself a hypocrite. I am affirming our common humanity, our dependence on the sacrifices of one another and on the bounty of nature to keep us alive – “take, eat, for this is my body”. It doesn’t matter that my fellow worshippers may approach the teachings in a different way. In coming each week to repent and ask for forgiveness for “the things which we have done which we ought not to have done and for the things we have left undone which we ought to have done”, I am bowing to the inevitable. From the moment we acquired self awareness – metaphorically ate the apple – we became creatures capable of damaging others by pursuing our own self interest. By the end of each week, we will each have failed or fallen short in so many ways. So we take out the trash, regret our wrong doing and vow to start all over again. So it will be for as long as we are here. That is what weekly churchgoing acknowledges. It also reminds us, in a busy world, that we need time and space to allow the transcendent into our lives. We are poor creatures without it. I am a Christian because I believe there is no better philosophy to guide us, no better explanation of who we are, what is wrong with us and why, or what we need to do each day to fight our own imperfections and make the most of this incredible opportunity we have been given. Good luck to you on your journey.
If there was no actual resurrection of Christ, and all the historical evidence proving such is false, then Christianity was a complete and utter hoax. I rather not believe that it was so.
It is never too late to come to Jesus and live victoriously in Heaven.
The evidence is the convicted thief next to Christ on the cross. He was saved moments before he died because he believed that the man on the middle cross was indeed the Savior. Luke 23:43.
All the Gospels mention the two other criminals that were crucified alongside Jesus, but only Luke mentions the fact about the one who believed in the end was promised paradise.
What an excellent article, laid out nicely and with points in careful succession. Thanks!
A stunning article. I can’t comment beyond saying this, because to do so meaningfully would require deep reflection. I think I need to read Girard’s work directly.
Top piece. One point about Girard’s view of the apocalypse: far from seeing it as some sort of exciting disaster movie full of explosions and special effects, he saw it as being protracted, boring, mediocre and ‘non-creative’ where, using one example, things like the arts are no longer as productive as they once were.
From the same 2009 interview: “…the end times will be very long and monotonous – so mediocre and uneventful from a religious and spiritual standpoint that the danger of dying spiritually, even for the best of us, will be very great. This is a harsh lesson but one ultimately of hope rather than despair.”
We should take on board that he was saying this as he faced his own demise. He would not be the first to project the apocalypse of his own death on to history. Towards the end of his life a well known American critic turned to ecological criticism and projected imminent apocalyptic collapse….
But that doesn’t mean the Apocalypse is NOT drawing nigh !
Not with a bang, but a wimper.
I thought this was a great article. I don’t think the Christian past is recoverable at this point, however one might want to beat a hasty retreat from secularism’s monstrous cults. If there is a future, then I suppose it is in the end of the world, whatever that means. Was that momentous event of the crucifixion and resurrection a one off event? Or was it part of a series? Coming down the side of one mountain, perhaps another will become visible.
A one off.
When Jesus Christ comes again, it won’t be as a baby in a stable or as crucified Victim – but triumphantly, as Ruler of the Cosmos and Judge of Humanity.
I would tend to disagree with you and, as proof, I would guide you to the old Testament. The very long history covered here is of the many generations of Jews obeying God’s word and not obeying God’s word. When they obeyed God’s word, they prospered. When they disobeyed, they were overcome by enemies and were made slaves in some instances. This took place over 3,000 – 5,000 years. We live 90 years if we are lucky, so we tend to think in terms of our own life span.
Thanks. I hugely enjoy big sweep history, though prefer the sacrifice theory of the late Robert Bellah (See “Religion in Human Evolution”).
He doesn’t rely on appeals to universal features of humanity but, instead, argues sacrifice took on its social meaning with the emergence of god-kings in the Bronze Age. The first state-sanctioned human sacrifices were of pretenders to the throne or upstart allies.
These usurpers challenged the sacred leadership and, therefore, not only threatened their fellows with violence and chaos, but potentially undermined the ordering of the cosmos, symbolised in the divine monarchy. Such agitators would, therefore, need to be ritually executed, not casually dispatched.
It can make sense in the Christian context too as Jesus had the label “King of the Jews” written over his head on the cross. The twist is that he is not in fact the usurper but the ultimate restorer of cosmic order, being the cosmic order or Logos incarnate, and so symbolically brings the need for the ritual to an end.
Along with not having to appeal to human universals, the realisation of this vision in history also appeals because it doesn’t rest on fantasies of escalating violence to bring about the end and make the gospel clear, but instead on practices of love, following the self-sacrificial path Jesus displayed.
This was a very interesting read and rather insightful. Personally, I had earlier come to think of Wokeism as Enlightenment (in particular the British variety) losing its influence. But as time went on seeing the way Wokeism is unfolding, I’ve begun to wonder whether what we’re witnessing is an unravelling of Protestantism after all: mutating into a secular form in Wokeism.
Mind you, there is nothing to beat Abraham’s cunning, when he realized that God wanted him to sacrifice a goat instead of his son Isaac.
I love Girard’s notion of the scapegoat but recently I have been more impressed by Nazi Carl Schmitt’s notion that the political is the friend enemy distinction. And the thing about enemies is that it may be necessary to kill them.
Curtis Yarvin makes it “real simple.” He says that “there is no politics without an enemy.”
One good way to reduce the carnage among enemies is to make our “scapegoats” the losing teams in professional sports. It probably isn’t necessary to kill the losers, but just fire the coach.
Shortly before he died Johnny Cash said, ‘God has forgiven me, so I guess it’s about time I did too.’
On a personal level I think our biggest challenge is forgiving ourselves and others.
Mimetic envy = keep up with the Joneses? Hardly a new concept but his ideas must go deeper and be more complex to have gained so much traction.
And if tech titans had a religion as a role model, for most, surely it would be Catholicism, rather than Protestantism?
Those at the pinnacle lead a gilded, safe, isolated life, with loyal, unquestioning followers, insulated within their global organisations from those outside in their local environment (the 99.9%). They may want to be seen as secular, but the relationship, desired or not, to their own organisation is, very often, messianiac.
Is this all just another convenient as well as grand excuse for some Silicon Valley dude-of-the-trendy-circles visiting the family circle at Christmas and Easter to not feel guilty about possibly feeling stingy or mean whenever he (or she) backs smoothly away (as usual, it may be presumed) from the traditional family gathering at church (to which said Valley dude has to all intents and purposes been invited)?
Imagine a tech whizz kid grandchild of the Queen of, say, England. And then imagine the traditional visit of the royals to the Christmas Day service (which makes the news every year).
“Hi Gary. It was a bright, crisp morning as the Queen and extended family walked the little lane into the church. There were a few well-wishers up early to greet them. They were also greeted at the door to the church by the officiating vicar. The only member not here today, although ensconced as we are led to believe in the study back at the castle, is her brightest grandchild, …, whom we are told is on a mission for God.”
I agree, this is an excellent article. Thank you!
Hey, look, we’ve rediscovered original sin!
Doubtless you’ll be very glad to know that i think this focus on the apocalyptic aspects of RG’s work is hardly as important as the fact that his work laid the fundamental basis for finally overcoming metaphysics, otherwise known as the ahistorical subsistence of propositional language, whilst denying the ostensives, imperatives and interrogatives that feed constantly into it and which really serve to continually generate our “reality”. Denying that for every “idea/concept”, in other words, there must have been a specific event that gave rise to it. Girard thought the very scapegoat itself sufficed to explain the origin of the significant/sacred (these of course being inseparable in the beginning), but it took his student Gans to move beyond this assumption and recognize that a scene-of-representation – ie a system of signs/language – had to be well established before the designation of a *scapegoat’ could ever be possible… Thus does the anthropology of Gans, as opposed to that of Girard, provide a far more constructive basis for thinking the human.
I would point out that as an Orthodox Christian, I am completely of the view was are living in the End-Times. We Orthodox have always identified the “one who restrains” who must be “set aside” before the Man of Sin (the Antichrist) to be revealed with the Emperor.
In a space of three years from 1917 to 1920 every possible claimant to the throne of the Caesars was no more: the Tsar, the Kaiser, the Hapsburg Emperor, the Ottoman Sultan (who when it suited them styled themselves as Muslim Roman Emperors — remember they kept Constantinople as the name of the capital, it was the secularizing New Turks who changed the name to Istanbul).
All this religio-academic philosophy, *and* combining it with a top, long footballin’ career, as both player and manager, all in one lifetime! Most impressive! A true French polymath! Out of curiosity, did he have anything profound to say on the subject of seagulls following boats by any chance?