René Girard begins Part 5 of his CBC interviews with a comment straight out of Jordan Peterson when the latter confronts Sam Harris and other celebrity atheists:
We think we live in a secular society, but this is imaginary. There is no society without religion, because without religion society cannot exist. What we live in today is a form of Christianity that we do not recognize.
The celebrity atheists and others who are trying to build a religion that is not a religion are all trying to recreate that which came from Christianity: The Golden Rule (which other traditions also recognize) and that all men are made in the image of God (which other traditions do not recognize). They want these foundations, without the One who built the foundations.
Girard continues, offering an interesting interpretation of Matthew 10:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.
Why would Jesus create division and discord? Girard offers: order was created and maintained by channeling hatred toward scapegoats. Ritual violence institutionalizes this practice. Jesus challenges this system, announcing the innocence of all sacrificial victims. Jesus removes the possibility of ritual sacrifice as a means of bringing peace.
But this brings the violence to the fore, into the open. Thus, we are left with a choice: either we are going to love each other or we are going to die.
This is how Girard sees the apocalypse. When we no longer sacrifice and also refuse to repent, violence will grow worse. The apocalypse (Daniel, Revelation, Jesus, etc.) is read as fire coming from Heaven – God’s judgement on man. But what it actually foresees is the raging of human violence when it is neither checked by sacrifice or by Christian love. The ultimate violence comes from man’s sin, not from God. Today, the apocalypse is either ignored or blasphemously turned into a tool for Christian support of Middle East war.
It is believed that violence comes from differences – if we just do away with borders, cultures, traditions – the purpose of borders is to keep violence inside and protect from violence from the outside. Without borders, nothing will contain or prevent violence.
Here again Girard’s views mesh with those of Peterson, this time on the necessity of borders.
Girard returns to the self-critical nature of Christianity, the call to always examine one’s heart relative to Christian love:
Christians see themselves as guilty from a Christian point of view, and this much is true. But they are not guilty from the point of view of many other cultures and religious traditions – who find it appropriate to spread their views by the sword or other coercive means.
Christians are blamed by non-Christians who use Christian values to blame Christians. Calls for reparations and equal treatment are possible only through a Christian lens.
A Roman guard would never have entertained such notions from an enslaved minority: who are you to complain, you are not a citizen. Off to the scaffold.
We further blame our ancestors. It is a form of scapegoating our ancestors, hence sacrificing them in order to supposedly bring peace today. We believe that we would have done better. We lack gratitude. We are self-righteous.
We mean to say that we would do better if we were in the place of God. The Enlightenment critiques Christianity, yet wants to keep its ethics.
There follows discussion of Nietzsche and Heidegger: the death of God – we killed him; we can only be saved by god – but not the Christian God. This continues with a discussion of Nazism and today’s political correctness and social justice – we will show Christians how to actually defend victims; a super-ethic, reducing the world to nothing but victimization, oppression and power.
This super-ethic takes up the victims but attempts to do so without Christianity. This is the new totalitarianism – promising to keep what is good of Christianity while getting rid of what is supposedly bad.
He speaks of the idea of indemnification for slavery – despite most Americans being descendants of those who came after the Civil War. We have a competition of victim status. It is this new totalitarianism that advances the revelation we are living – reflecting Girard’s view on the apocalypse. We will either move to ever-increasing violence or Christian love.
A colleague of Girard’s tells a story:
He wants to write a book in defense of Girard’s views, a book necessary because Girard is excluded from mainstream academic thought as “too Christian.” He starts writing, but then decides that he might make matters worse – realizing that his book will also be deemed too Christian.
He raises this point with Girard, who replies: Well then, let’s burn our boats on the beach!
Once again, returning to something from Jordan Peterson: recognizing that there would be a tremendous cost for speaking out as he has, Peterson felt that the cost would be even higher if he didn’t speak out.
Christian love or ever-increasing violence. Or, I guess, we can return to sacrificing innocent victims as scapegoats. Under which scenario do you expect liberty could thrive? Because just chanting the NAP will not end the violence.