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M Wms


Thank you for this reflection.

I ask this question sincerely, not in the least snidely (tone is hard to decipher online!): You say: "as mimetic theory teaches us, we know that the role of organized religion is to contain violence, which is not the same thing as bringing the peace that Jesus gives to us" and yet you mention that you are part of a Baptist faith community.

How do you reconcile these things?

I can't seem to go to worship any longer or be anything but a fringe participant in my semi-former faith community because of exactly what you say here, that institutional religion is designed to contain violence; and, I'd add, from my observation and experience, it often (maybe always?) does so by mandating and maintaining circles of exclusion and inclusion. I don't want to scapegoat 'church' and yet I don't see how I can be part of it, either, because of the way it operates and its intention in so operating.

I'd love your thoughts, and others', too.


Thank you for that story which has shaken me out of my current 'cold, rainy afternoon of the soul'. :-)

If you are getting 10,000 hits a month, you are certainly ministering to people.


Dear MWms: I'm thinking seriously about your question; it's a very important one. I know that I have answered it for myself by staying in the church, but I'm not prescribing that for everyone. Please humor me while I take the time to sort this out; although I have thought a lot about it over the years, it's been a while since I've needed to articulate it. I will get back to you asap with more genuine content, but I wanted you to know that I'd seen your response and am not ignoring you. Thank you!


I don't feel I have any 'easy answers' that will necessarily convince anyone else, but I wonder if the question about 'Why church' could be a separate blog entry, so we could discuss it?


Nancy, I comment here occasionally, read here almost every week. I tend toward the theoretical, which is why I try to keep my responses here short! But this time, I’ll add a little more and hope you’ll forgive me if I seem to go on.

I stumbled across Girard in the 1990’s, when I was working on a feminist philosophy journal. The French feminists, like Kristeva, were dismissing him as reactionary. I was reintroduced to Girard by my spiritual director a few years ago. His is the best exegesis of the Bible I know. But now, I find I’m at an impasse. His theory is locked in patriarchal essentialism: he believes the scapegoating mechanism is not a result of culture but creates culture. But this seems to me like saying that innately, women are not as academically smart as men, while ignoring the fact that our culture doesn’t encourage and reward girls and even penalizes them socially for achieving.

I’m not satisfied that humans are naturally geared toward escalating rivalry. To believe this process is innate and not culturally derived is to ignore a culture in which difference, hierarchy, domination, and violence are its very foundation. It’s like giving a pass to patriarchy, saying we’re naturally geared to creating this “rule of the fathers,” a masculine society in which binary gender roles are the primary marker for determining options and success. Women are the first victims of patriarchy (shown in myths of sky god over earth goddess and in history as gendered laws), so how is it that women have participated in creating this culture from the first victim? And whose desire is being mimicked? Or is Girard saying – like the antiquated anthropological theory goes – that men created culture while women were raising babies?

This culture doesn’t simply encourage competition and hierarchy; it can’t exist without it. So educating us to our scapegoating violence doesn’t solve the problem but just shifts our victims.

Before Jesus we weren’t aware that our murdered victims were being scapegoated, and it seems to me that most of the scapegoating history has been facilitated with physical violence. In modern times, we use economic violence just as effectively. We don’t see our violence because we cloak the scapegoat as deserving of economic failure (“murder”) for how lazy he is, how weak, how dumb -- despite unequal laws, treaties, resources, training, etc. Wasn’t the murdered scapegoat made “deserving” of his victimhood in the same way? So, we scapegoat the murderers and don’t see that we participate in a system that starves and sickens the world.

The very interesting thing to me is that, despite our modern obsession with nonviolence, wasn’t Jesus’s emphasis really about the abuse of the poor? In any case, Girard and this blog have made Jesus a little more real for me. I appreciate the thoughts.

Your post about Anna was disturbing. Losing a mother is about the worst thing I can imagine. Her forethought was a gift. I admire pastors like you and the others here who find themselves at the most critical moments of people’s lives. It must be both a reward and the worst part of the work.

If you’re interested in how I reached my impasse with Girard, you can read the last few posts I made about his theory on my blog, Flesh & Spirit:
"Things Hidden Since the Foundation of Patriarchy" and "Violence Gone Underground" at http://teresawymore.wordpress.com/2007/09/03/things-hidden-since-the-foundation-of-patriarchy/


Nice site keep it up!


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