Monday, October 15, 2007

The West's Great (and Only) Hope

René Girard's mimetic theory, one might say, begins with the accusatory gesture. "The accuser" is, quite literally, in New Testament Greek, "satan". Accusations and threats of violent vengeance are, if one is willing to look at them through the prism of the anthropology of the Cross, all coin of the realm of Satan; what Girard has called "the primitive Sacred."

So, it should come as no surprise that accusations and threats of violence are in perfunctory use, ad nauseam, by Jihadists. For example, "If the perpetrators do not apologise to Afghans and to all the Muslims of the world, and if they are not brought to justice and punished for what they have done, we will stand against you, you will see an uprising," as Robert Spencer reports at Jihad Watch. Recall that the accusatory gesture and accompanying threats are mechanisms that pull disparate people (read: people who might otherwise be at one another's throats) together against a common enemy. This is the "least common denominator" approach to social cohesion as employed by the primitive Sacred.

The trouble with it is, it is fragile. Witness this: "Over the past year, prominent Internet chat forums which underpin the terrorist communications network known as "Obelisk" have increasingly become the stage for bitter infighting between Al-Qaida and other competing Islamic extremist groups…"

The power of the primitive Sacred, Girard contends, is diminishing in the world due to the power of the Gospel at work in history. This is both good news and bad news. Because it is losing its grip, those who employ it usually do not seek an alternative, but ratchet up its usage increasing the number of victims, or prestige of its victims. That is the bad news.

The good news is two-fold: (1) eventually the heart tires of slavery to the realm of the Satanic, empathizing with its (or MY) victims, who no longer appear anything other than just as human as I. And (2), by the grace of God we stumble across the Alternative: a community brought together NOT by the accusatory gesture and threats of violence against a common enemy. Rather, a community who worship, find meaning in, and try to emulate the Victim of all victimizers, the Lamb Slain Since the Foundation of the World, Jesus Christ the Lord.

This is the Great Hope of the sin-sick West. The enemies -- postmodern nihilism and Islam -- only know the Satanic realm of the primitive Sacred. They will maybe, just maybe, devour themselves in-fighting because of the waning power of the Satanic. And that may just give the West long enough to come to itself, repent, remember and return to the Word made flesh [Jn 1, 14] and his Church. Maybe. Just maybe.

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