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 147. Liberal versus Conservative, part 2

The problem, Rev. Britton Johnson has astutely observed, is that contemporary liberalism has been heavily influenced by certain dubious assumptions of postmodern thought.1 Postmodernists hold that customs and moral rules, and the institutions that derive from these rules, reflect human culture rather than divine plan. Postmodern liberals believe that they can improve social conditions by reforming or eliminating harmful customs, moral rules, or institutions. While postmodern liberals have identified human culture as the source of customs, moral rules, and institutions, they have not, as Girard has done, identified culture as the source of human desires. In contrast to Girardian thinking, postmodern liberals generally hold human desire as inherently innocent and good, but corrupted by social customs, rules, and institutions. Postmodern liberals generally believe that structuring society according to supposedly “good” human nature will result in general well-being, perhaps even a paradise on earth. Their expectation of a future paradise is often grounded in the belief that such a paradise once existed prior to the corrupting influences of evil institutions. However, people acting on the impulses of human nature have created our customs, moral rules, and institutions.

Can changing customs, moral rules, and institutions without addressing the human desires that created them in the first place lead to general well-being? In practice, many “progressive” campaigns, aiming to purge evil institutions, have done great evil themselves. People seeking to “return” the world to an ideal, mythic, age have instigated many killing sprees. The killers have often held that their violence has been an unfortunate but necessary means to the desirable end of returning their society to an earlier, purer state; they do not acknowledge the violence as an end in itself –violence designed to unite their societies at the expense of scapegoats. Examples of programs that used violent means purportedly to pursue “utopian” ends include the French Revolution, Russia’s communist revolution, the Hutu massacre of Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Nazis campaigns.2

Many people seem intuitively to understand that the more egalitarian ideals of liberals might threaten social order and peace, which can help explain why relatively poor people often support conservative politicians, even though conservatives’ policies often seem to favor rich people. Successful conservative candidates generally speak to the conscious and unconscious fears of social anarchy that might accompany the restructuring or dismantlement of institutions.

Mimetic theory sees all violence as grounded in the scapegoating process, but people tend to distinguish between “good violence” and “bad violence.” Conservatives fear “bad violence,” which directly relates to mimetic rivalries. They tend to endorse “good violence” (which they generally call “defense,” “national security,” or “justice”), such as state-sanctioned police activities to uphold “the law.” Sometimes, liberals assert, this “good violence” serves primarily to maintain an oppressive order. This is most obvious in dictatorships, but it can also occur in democracies, such as the pre-Civil Rights Act concerning segregation laws and violence against suffragettes.3 The “fight” by liberals against sanctioned violence can easily become a new form of sanctioned “good violence” that liberals call “justice,” even though it is actually a mirror image of the violence they had opposed.

Some people have used liberal or conservative platforms as vehicles for exploitation. Both Liberals and conservatives claim to work toward just and peaceful societies, but both ideologies can be manipulated to endorse violence and victimization. Jesus encouraged followers to generate community through love rather than by scapegoating and exclusion, and the depth of our Christian faith dictates the degree to which we are willing to trust that this is God’s will.

1. Johnson, Britton W. A Proposal to Use Girardian Anthropology to Analyze and Resolve the Present Challenge to the "Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church". http://internet.cybermesa.com/~britton/PeaceUnityPurityReflection.htm.

2. Ibid.

3. Schrader, Ginny. “Happy Women’s Equality Day!” http://casadelogo.typepad.com/factesque/2004/08/happy_womens_eq.html  8/26/04.

Go on to Part 148. Animal Issues, part 1
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Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence

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