Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
From All-Creatures
Christian Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
http://www.christianveg.com

Part 94: “It Is Finished”

In the Gospel According to John, Jesus’ last words were “It is finished.” (John 19:30) According to mimetic theory and the scapegoating mechanism, what is finished is the logos (logic) of violence. What replaces it, as we will see, depends on us.

John’s Gospel begins with the Word (Greek Logos) of God, which is the Logos of love. This Logos created the universe and was made flesh in the personage of Jesus Christ. However, humankind was not satisfied to live harmoniously and contentedly in God’s perfect Garden of Eden. Our human nature is mimetic, so the serpent enticed Eve, and then Eve enticed Adam, to be rivals of God by eating the forbidden fruit. Mimetic desire eventually led to violence, which befell Abel. Countering God’s Logos of love is humankind’s Logos of violence.

The Logos of violence, according to mimetic theory and the scapegoating mechanism, is as old as human civilization. The murdered scapegoat is what brings human communities together. Rituals evolved in all primal cultures, recalling the camaraderie that collective violence brings. Most commonly, the seemingly miraculous peace and cohesiveness generated by scapegoating violence encourages the development of myths that convert the scapegoating victim into a god, to whom further sacrifices must be made. All of this may sound speculative, but compelling evidence that scapegoating violence lies at the foundation of human culture is the anthropological observation that all primal cultures either engage in blood sacrifice or have rituals that harken back to such sacrifices.

As previous essays have discussed, Jesus’ life and teachings undermined sacrificial, “sacred” violence. Since he was truly innocent, his sham trial and public execution illustrated the scandal of scapegoating violence. Indeed, those who had witnessed the collective murder went home beating their breasts. (Luke 23:48) The Logos of violence had lost its divine power, though history has shown that scapegoating violence has persisted. What was finished, as a consequence of the Judeo-Christian revelation, was the ability of scapegoating to generate and maintain community. Try as we sometimes might, we can’t help but see things from the victim’s perspective. We hear their cries, recognize their suffering, and realize that they can’t be blamed for their suffering.

This reminds me of the parable of the good shepherd, who endangered the entire flock in order to save the one lost sheep. It was more practical to sacrifice the one sheep than to risk the welfare of the entire flock. Similarly, from a practical standpoint, Caiaphus was correct that “it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” (John 11:50) If we don’t follow Caiaphus’ advice and scapegoat, how can we restore peace in communities divided by mimetic rivalries? The answer is not to try to reject mimetic desire – we are mimetic creatures by nature. The answer is to have God as our model. But God is far away from human experience, which is why we needed the Son to show us how to live according to God’s desires.

Christianity, then, is an incredibly subversive and even dangerous faith. It challenges us to live according to the Logos of love rather than the more socially stabilizing Logos of violence. If scapegoating violence loses much of its power to unite communities, people are left with two choices. One response, which we have tragically seen many times, is to try to compensate with scapegoating on a far grander scale. For example, as an extreme, the Nazis scapegoated and tried to exterminate large groups of people, including Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. The other choice is to put one’s faith in God and to live compassionately and nonviolently. I will explore this choice further in next essays.

Go on to Part 95: The Parakletos – Defender of the Accused, part 1
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Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence

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