Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 33: John the Baptist, part 1
from Guide to Kingdom Living

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

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 33: John the Baptist, part 1

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

John the Baptist introduced the first key element in overcoming sacred violence. He exhorted, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2) Unless we repent, we will constantly struggle to convince ourselves that our mimetic hostilities are justified and we will call our vengeance “justice.” Furthermore, if we recognized our own sins, we would be prepared to forgive others and, in so doing, relieve the cycle of mimetic violence.

Jesus did not need baptism as forgiveness of sins, but he was baptized in obedience to God. John initially balked at baptizing Jesus, but Jesus answered, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15) The Bible then relates that Jesus perceived God embracing him: “And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This I my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Mt. 3:16-17)

An important aspect of John the Baptist’s ministry was his exclamation, upon seeing Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) John the Baptist did not say “sins,” but rather the singular “sin.” What is the “sin of the world?” According to a Girardian, anthropological reading of the Bible, the sin of the world is the scapegoating mechanism, which has victimized the innocent since the foundation of human civilization. Girardian anthropology ties all violence to the scapegoating mechanism, and the Bible describes violence as the reason that God flooded the earth: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Gen 6:11) Noah, whose relatively righteousness spared him and his family, was still flawed; for example, he cursed Ham, who had seen him drunk. It is not surprising that the descendents of Noah would exhibit violence, since the scapegoating mechanism has always been the glue that holds human communities together. But, God had promised not to deliver another flood, so God would need a different strategy for taking away the sin of the world.

In what way was Jesus the Lamb of God? We will turn to this question next week.

Go on to: Part 34: John the Baptist, part 2
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