Friday, April 22, 2011

Mark Johnston on Rene Girard: Reflections for Good Friday

Last year I posted a review and extended quote from Mark Johnston's supurb book, Saving God: Religion After Idolatry. Since this book is packed with insight, I can't think of anything better for the occasion than another extended quote. But I'm going with a two-for-one deal here, as the following quote is an explication of Johnston on the work of Rene Girard, whose thinking has become important for many thinking about the human condition and Christianity's response to that condition. Thus Johnston about Girard's take:
To thus assimilate the significance of Christ’s suffering and death would mean that we can never look at victims, even the victims of so-called legitimate violence, including the juridical violence of the state, in the same way. After the Cross, the face of God incarnate looks back at us from the image of the victim. Victimization, sacrifice, and religious violence have been forever unmasked as illegitimate strategies by which our murderous envy of each other is temporarily discharged, and yet preserved as an ongoing psychological orientation.

Johnston goes on:

Christ offers something more, a new kind of mimesis: “give no thought to the morrow,” that is, abandon the empty life of acquisitive desire, and “love one another as I have loved you”—and so take on the radical risk of being devoured by the others, as Christ was.
This is the salvation that Christ offers: the naked disclosure of our natural collective hatred and lust for violence, than freedom from the idea of legitimate violence, and finally a new resolution of the internecine mimetic tension, not by way of another temporary sacrificial discharge, but through the availability of a wholly new form of mimesis, the imitation of Christ’s won self-sacrificing love.

For Johnston's riff off of Girard, take a look the quote I posted last year, or better yet, read the book.