Folks have been telling me for years now that “It’s all in Girard, man.” Finally, I’ve gotten around to reading one of Girard’s books, and whattya know…it’s all in Girard, man.
Of course, there are caveats to be made. In particular, Girard reads Scripture as an anthropologist. He undertakes to argue that the profound change which Jesus’ ministry and death wrought in the world doesn’t necessarily hang on anything supernatural; this is, of course, as they say in Mexico, “el problemo.” He admits that the resurrection was indeed a miracle and supernatural intervention by God, but also tries to argue that from an anthropological viewpoint, the miraculous nature of the Gospels is not necessary in exposing the mimetic cycle that mankind is caught in. The short hand is that Girard’s view of Scripture’s inspiration is weak sauce.
That said, his observations of how fallen man operates, and how the Gospel exposes Satan’s fundamental need for innocent victims, is incredibly salient, shrewd, and like I’ve said already and will continue to say, “It’s all in Girard, man.”
The first, and most important, takeaway is that when a mob makes up its mind on something, you’d find it easier to stop a Kanye rant at an awards show. In other words, when a crowd gets moving in a direction, there’s no reasoning with the mob. The “violent contagion” will spread and grow until a unanimous victim is chosen and scapegoated. Then, and only then, will the mob’s bloodlust subside into calm…until the next cycle begins.
Second takeaway is that it is because of Christ and the spread of the Gospel throughout the world that mankind has come to prize concern for victims. In fact, Girard forcefully argues that it is Christianity that gave the world a concern for victims. Now, however, Satan has corrupted that conscience and we now hunt for the hunters of victims, in order to slake our appetite for human sacrifice. Our concern for victims is poisoned, and society still wants to scapegoat someone for not being concerned enough about this or that victim group.
Third, Girard points out that the hub of human strife is always desire. I want what you have, and because you know I want it you now want to hold onto it more. Thus is born a mimetic rivalry, which inevitably comes to blows. The Apostle James gets at this very thing in his epistle, and Girard certainly builds on that fundamental principle of our envy and desire being a spark which ignites our violence towards our neighbor.
All said, Girard is wonderful. Even though he’s weak sauce on the atonement, the inspiration of Scripture, and the Resurrection, he is a tremendously helpful at pointing out what’s laying there, out in the open, for any with eyes to see: mankind needs Jesus to set us free from all our strife, envy, and vengeance towards our neighbor.