April 9, 2010
Friday in the Octave of Easter
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
I am thinking at Mass this morning, listening to the readings as I do each morning, here is another one of those statements we hear - only to wave it off as we are drenched in the dictatorship of relativism. As Athos pointed out: "Without a working knowledge of mimetic theory, it is nearly impossible to extricate one's thoughts and feelings from the ..." shrill of the maddening crowd which not only is stuck in the swirling vortex of victimization, it is also caught up in the spell of relativism. On virtually every page of a newspaper or soundwave from your favorite talk show scandal is the norm and we don't even recognize it...
From René Girard's Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World:
For us, as for those who first heard the Gospel, the stone rejected by the builders has become the permanent stumbling block. By refusing to listen to what is being said to us, we are creating a fearsome destiny for ourselves. And there is no one, except ourselves, who can be held responsible.From René Girard's I See Satan Fall Like Lightning:
Christ plays this role for all who remain scandalized by the wisdom embodied in the text. His role, though understandable, is paradoxical, since he offers not the slightest hold to any form of rivalry or mimetic interference. There is no acquisitive desire in him. As a consequence, any will that is really turned toward Jesus will not meet with the slightest of obstacles. His yolk is easy and his burden is light. With him, we run no risk of getting caught up in the evil opposition between doubles. (pp. 429-430)
The phrase "Scandal must come" (see Matt. 18:7) has nothing to do with either ancient fatalism or scientific determinism. Taken individually, human beings are not necessarily given over to mimetic rivalries, but by virtue of the great number of individuals they contain, human communities cannot escape them. When the first scandal occurs, it gives birth to others, and the result is mimetic crises, which spread without ceasing and become worse and worse. (I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, pp. 16-18)From René Girard's The Girard Reader:
All those who join a belligerent crowd act more or less (similar ...). They all transfer their private scandals to some public target. Men become so burdened with scandals that they desperately, if unconsciously, seek the public substitutes upon whom to unburden themselves. As they become more numerous, the target's attractiveness as a target increases, and the process becomes irresistible.From Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads:
The notion of scandal bridges the gap between individual and collective violence. The mobility of scandals, their tendency to unite around a common victim, provides a mediation, a communication between the two levels.
The violent unanimity of the Passion results from a massive transference of scandals, a snowballing so powerful that its effects become inescapable. (The Girard Reader, pp. 199-200)
To dispense with sacrificial systems without accepting greater moral and religious responsibility is to follow Cain down a dark road that, ... (p. 139)
According to this Gospel, the only viable alternative to living in witless complicity with the father of lies is to live in conscious conformity with the “heavenly Father” which Jesus’ life made visible. (p. 225)
These references that I have included in this post and the many others that are on our sidebar can help you grasp what is going on in the world today and why so many sayings of Jesus were truly hard. There is a real anthropological reason for the sayings and we are just beginning to have the intellectual tools to apply to them. Don't settle for the shallow and slanderous rhetoric of mainstream media - rather challenge the "system" and pick up one of these books. But whatever you do be about deepening your religious sensibilities finding your way back to church. As John W. Dixon, Jr. proclaimed, "Christians stubbornly clung to their language even when it could be said they really didn’t understand it. (And the sad thing is that, now when we are about to acquire the intellectual means for understanding the terminology, a failure of nerve has set in and many Christians are abandoning the terminology.) Please, let us not be abandoning the only cornerstone for which our salvation rests.