Wednesday, April 01, 2009

“To want to reassure is always to contribute to the worst.” René Girard

Off With On War by The Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, D.D.

Achever Clausewitz (“Finishing Clausewitz”) by René Girard (Paris: Carnets Nord, 2007) is a powerful re-thinking of the Bible’s apocalyptic literature developing from an insightful analysis of Carl von Clausewitz’s unfinished classic On War (Vom Friege), studied in every military officer school in the world. At present it exists only in its original French, but a translation should be forthcoming soon. It deserves a wide readership. Theologians, military strategists, anthropologists, any thoughtful person who cares about humanity’s future, in fact, will profit from engaging Girard.

Girard turns to the Revelation of John, the apocalyptic passages in the Epistles, as well as the “little apocalypse” of Mark 13 and its parallels. Christ said he did not come to bring peace. It is, says Girard, the “old world he came to destroy.” And this by kicking out from underneath our legs the crutch of the scapegoat. Sacrificial violence now becomes ineffective, because God in Christ has submitted to it and broken its power to deceive by creating numinous but idolatrous peace through sacrifice. Our age is only the witness and locus of the intensification of violence, free-floating because it is no longer able to make peace at all. Now that technology is reducing dramatically the “friction” that restrained total war, and politics has lost its control over the means of war, as terrorism becomes the warfare of choice for all concerned, absolute war as realistic planetary catastrophe looms. The destruction of the environment is the mimetic double of this escalation to war’s ultimate extreme. What the apocalyptic literature predicts is that the preaching of the Gospel by the Church will fail to convert enough to stop the process. “To say that chaos is near is not incompatible with hope, quite the contrary. But this hope must measure itself by the standard of a stark alternative: either total destruction or the coming of the Kingdom.” (229)

We must remember as Girard says, "The apocalypse does not announce the end of the world, it creates hope. We suddenly see reality and rediscover a world where things have meaning."

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