Kevin Christensen's Reviews > I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by René Girard
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Jun 08, 12


Having been introduced to Girard's theories of violence and scapegoating in Eugene England's essay on Nephi and Laban, I got this one as a follow up.

Girard sets out a fundamental difference between the Bible and Myth. "All mythical and Biblical dramas represent the same type of collective violence against a single victim. Myth sees the victim as guilty. Oedipus really has killed his father and married his mother. The Bible and Gospels see these same victims as innocent, unjustly murdered by deluded lynchers and persecutors. Jesus is the unjustly sacrificed lamb of God." (page 1)

He explores this notion at length, leading to the penultimate chapter, and his observation what happens now that the game is up, the rise of Christianity having raised awareness of the presence and possibility of innocent victims:

"The most powerful anti-Christian movement is the one that takes over and radicalizes concern for the victims in order to paganize it. The owers and principalities ... reproach Christianity for not defending victims with enough ardor. In Christian history, they see nothing but persecutions, acts of oppression, inquisitions." (page 180)

From Kuhn, I learned how paradigms are established by means of standard examples that embodies a particular problem field, method, and background assumption. So the selectivity and measurement by such selections is always telling, if you know enough to recognize it for what it is. Claims to "objectivity" always turn out to be a smokescreen, a plea for immunity from criticism. Rather, measures of accuracy, testibility, comprehensiveness and coherence, simplicity and aesthetics, fruitfulness, and future promise all should combine in a broadly based measure.

Girard goes on: "In the symbolic language of the New Testament, we would say that in our world, Satan, trying to make a new start and gain new triumphs, borrows the language of victims...
The Antichrist boasts of bringing to human beings the peace and tolerance that Christianity promised by has failed to deliver. Actually, what the radicalizatio of contemporary victimoloty produces in a return to all sorts of pagan practices: abortion, euthanasia, seuxal undifferentiation, Roman circums games galore but without real victims, etc.
Neo-paganism would like to turn the Ten Commandments and all Judeo=Christian morality into intolerable violence... observance of moral law is percieved as complicity with forces of persecution that are essentially religious...
Neo-pagansim locates happiness in the unlimited satisfaction of desires, which means the suppression of all prohibitions. (Girard, 181)

Food for thought, for which it is not at all difficult to find correspondence in popular discourse.
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