Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 41: The Sermon on the Mount
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 41: The Sermon on the Mount

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

The Beatitudes are part of the Sermon on the Mount. I would like to touch on some other components of this Sermon that are relevant to mimetic theory and the scapegoating mechanism.

Regarding Jesus’ prohibition against regarding women with lust, mimetic theory posits that desire underlies mimetic rivalry. Rivalries for sexual partners are particularly prone to engender communal discord, for two reasons. Biological sexual desire is a strong feeling among most people, and our self-esteem is often highly dependent on performance in the competition for “desirable” sexual partners. Of course, this does not pertain solely to sexual desires; Jesus even said that one should pluck out one’s eye or cut off one’s hand rather than let the desires of the body cause one to sin. While Christians generally agree that we should not take these instructions literally, it dramatizes the serious consequences of desire.

Jesus then permitted divorce on the grounds of unchastity; otherwise divorce results in adultery. This was a radical teaching, because at that time only men had the right to divorce, and the grounds for divorce could be trivial. Consequently, this teaching helped protect women from victimization. In addition, from a mimetic theory standpoint, fidelity to one’s spouse helps avoid divisive sexual rivalries.

Jesus told his followers to always be honest, not just when they swear. Jesus went so far as to discourage making oaths, because to do so suggests that one may be dishonest when not taking an oath. The role of honesty in promoting healthy relationships should be obvious. Indeed, when we are loving and compassionate, we have no reason to hide the truth about ourselves.

The teachings of the Sermon on the Mount promote truth, light, and love. John wrote, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) and “God is love” (1 John 4:16). There is no falsehood or violence (darkness) in love. This, then, helps us realize how the peacemakers are blessed. They reflect God’s love.

Historically, peacemakers have often been victims of violence. Why is this? Mimetic scapegoating theory holds that the mob seeks a scapegoat. Those who demonstrate the victim's innocence are prophets, because (according to Girardian theory) prophets reveal God’s desire for peace and justice by exposing innocence of the scapegoating mechanism's victims. However, the perennial human desire to scapegoat in order to maintain temporary peace and social order puts the same prophets at risk of being scapegoated. This is why prophets have been killed since the foundation of the world. Indeed, Jesus allowed himself to be a victim of extreme violence at the hands of Roman authorities. In order to make sense of Jesus’ ministry, we will soon examine the Passion and the Resurrection.

Go on to: Part 42 Interlude: Reflections on this Series by the Author
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