Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Stoning and Binding Back

Ah, the joy of it. The esprit de corps. The comradery. Yes, it's time once again to take part in the ritual of stoning Satan, boys and girls!

There are many fine explications of collective violence and its formative role in the founding and maintenance of culture, based on the cultural anthropology of René Girard - friend and mentor Gil Bailie’s and others - and they all point to the way that ritual is part and parcel with religion. Religion - religare - means etymologially, literally, to "bind back." Thus, a ritual of "stoning Satan" reunites "us" by taking "us" back to a moment of unity. And that moment in this case was clearly a moment of the many against the few, or the one. "Unanimity minus one," in Girard's famous phrase.

When this happened against the Word made flesh, Our Lord, something utterly new was born into the world called the Christian faith. The crucifying mob was seen for what it was: a craven, bloodthirsty pack. Using the satanic mechanism of scapegoating a victim, God turned the tables and showed humanity its bloodthirstiness. The Resurrection is the ultimate vindication of God.

However, sadly, humanity, uninformed by this revelation - as in the case of the Scimitar - continues to "bind back" and reconstitute itself by such rituals as "stoning Satan."

One might understand the terrorist atrocity at Mumbai in a whole new light by applying Girard's mimetic theory to it and the young gunmen (read: ad hoc priests of the primitive sacred).

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