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Rene Girard & The Covington Catholic Boys

If you want to understand what happened to the Covington Catholic boys at the Lincoln Memorial — and why things like this will continue to happen — you should read the late cultural critic and theorist Rene Girard.

I’m not the first one to say this. Bishop Robert Barron has long been a reader of Girard, and the other day interpreted the event at the Lincoln Memorial in terms of Girard’s theory about the scapegoating mechanism.  [1] Barron wrote, explaining this theory:

Roughly speaking, it unfolds as follows. When tensions arise in a group (as they inevitably do), people commence to cast about for a scapegoat, for someone or some group to blame. Deeply attractive, even addictive, the scapegoating move rapidly attracts a crowd, which in short order becomes a mob. In their common hatred of the victim, the blamers feel an ersatz sense of togetherness. Filled with the excitement born of self-righteousness, the mob then endeavors to isolate and finally eliminate the scapegoat, convinced that this will restore order to their roiled society. At the risk of succumbing to the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy, nowhere is the Girardian more evident than in the Germany of the 1930s. Hitler ingeniously exploited the scapegoating mechanism to bring his country together—obviously in a profoundly wicked way.

In his 2001 book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning [2], Girard, who was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, explains his anthropological interpretation of the Bible — the Hebrew Bible, and the Gospels — and why they have the power to reveal and defeat the cycle of murderous violence that is deeply embedded in human nature.

(If you’re the kind of whataboutist whose knee is jerking to say “but Christians commit violence too!”, let me gently suggest that you read something about Girard’s thought. You could start with this recent big piece in the New York Review Of Books [3], which begins with this: “Not only are his ideas about mimetic desire and human violence as far-reaching as Marx’s theories of political economy or Freud’s claims about the Oedipus complex, but the explosion of social media, the resurgence of populism, and the increasing virulence of reciprocal violence all suggest that the contemporary world is becoming more and more recognizably ‘Girardian’ in its behavior.” If you can’t get through the paywall, try this very brief introduction to Girard’s thought [4], then explore elsewhere on the Internet. There’s a wealth of resources.)

In I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Girard writes about how the “concern for victims” is what sets Judaism and Christianity apart from all other archaic religions. This concern for victims has now been virtually universalized, even — paradoxically — as Christianity has begun to decline, at least in the West. You could say — but Girard doesn’t, at least not here — that Communism is a godless absolutizing of the concern for victims. What sets it apart from Nazism is that Nazism was a massive attempt to refute concern for victims as a basis for society. Following Nietzsche, Nazism condemned Christianity as “slave morality” (Nietzsche’s phrase) because it taught people to have compassion for the weak and the unfit. Communism was a pseudo-religion that tried to put a victim class on top, in a utopian push to right historic wrongs, and ended up creating hell on earth.

In a fascinating chapter on Nietzsche, Girard credits the philosopher with understanding the anthropological meaning of Christianity, but faults him for rejecting it. Girard:

He opposes, so he believes, the crowd mentality, but he does not recognize his Dionysian stance as the supreme expression of the mob in its most brutal and its most stupid tendencies.

Christianity does not yield to ulterior motives of resentment in its concern to rehabilitate victims. It is not seduced by a contaminated charity of resentment. What it does is to rectify the illusion of myths; it exposes the lie of the “satanic accusation.”

Since Nietzsche is blind to mimetic rivalry [a key Girardian concept; this is what causes violence] and its contagion, he doesn’t see that the Gospel stance toward victims does not come from prejudice in favor of the weak against the strong but is heroic resistance to violent contagion. Indeed, the Gospels embody the discernment of a small minority that dares to oppose the monstrous mimetic contagion of a Dionysian lynching.

Now, here is where Girard becomes especially interesting, and relevant to our moment. He says that today, “we hear repeated in every way that we no longer have an absolute,” but in fact the concern for victims “is our absolute.” That is, it is the basis for our morality: “it is the concern for victims that determines what is most important.” This is the case because all other sources of absolute value have been lost. More:

The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition. … We are living through a caricatural “ultra-Christianity” that tries to escape from the Judeo-Christian orbit by “radicalizing” the concern for victims in an anti-Christian manner. … The intellectuals and other cultural elites have promoted Christianity to the role of number one scapegoat.

Girard says we are at the advent of what he calls “the other totalitarianism,” saying that it is

the most cunning and malicious of the two, the one with the greatest future, by all evidence. At present it does not oppose Judeo-Christian aspirations but claims them as its own and questions the concern for victims on the part of Christians (not without a certain semblance of reason at the level of concrete action, given the deficiencies of historical Christianity). The other totalitarianism does not openly oppose Christianity but outflanks it on its left wing.

This is the force of what in the Christian tradition is called Antichrist. You don’t have to believe in a literal Antichrist figure to grasp what Girard is saying here. Girard points out that in the symbolic language of the New Testament, Antichrist opposes Christ by imitating him and seeking to be better than him. More:

The Antichrist boasts of bringing to human beings the peace and tolerance that Christianity promised but has failed to deliver. Actually what the radicalization of contemporary victimology produces is a return to all sorts of pagan practices: abortion euthanasia, sexual undifferentiation, Roman circus games galore but without real victims, etc.

Neo-paganism would like to turn the Ten Commandments and all of Judeo-Christian morality into some alleged intolerable violence, and indeed its primary objective is their complete abolition. Faithful observance of the moral law is perceived s complicity with the forces of persecution that are essentially religious. Since the Christian denominations have become only tardily aware of their failings in charity, their connivance with established political orders in the past and present world that are always “sacrificial,” they are particularly vulnerable to the ongoing blackmail of contemporary neo-paganism.

Neo-paganism locates happiness in the unlimited satisfaction of desires, which means the suppression of all prohibitions. This idea acquires a semblance of credibility in the limited domain of consumer goods, who prodigious multiplication, thanks to technological progress, weakens certain mimetic rivalries. The weakening of mimetic rivalries confers an appearance of plausibility, but only that, on the stance that turns the moral law into an instrument of repression and persecution.

And what happens when, having cut down all the moral laws to build a Brave New World of unlimited satisfaction, the money runs out, and the economy collapses?

In his final chapter, Girard praises the “heroism” of the scattered disciples in the wake of Jesus’s resurrection. They had no power, and in fact, knew that they had participated in “the violent contagion that murdered their master” (e.g., Peter’s denial). What they had was the power of their belief, and their ability to communicate what they had seen and experienced. And this ultimately subverted the dominant paradigm of the ancient world, which believed that scapegoats were real and necessary.

Girard believes that only genuine divine power gave them the strength to do this. He believes that it is impossible to break the spell that drives humanity to scapegoating violence without believe in “a power superior to violent contagion.” In other words, the God of the Bible.

Girard, by the way, was an atheist who came to accept his baptismal religion, Christianity, through his literary and anthropological studies. He came to believe that the Gospels were anthropologically true. His story is absolutely fascinating. In I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning [5] (the title is a quote from Jesus), Girard explains that, in his view,

The Bible is unique in its disclosure of the standpoint of the victims, which means that form the standpoint of the narratives, God takes the side of the victim. Not all narratives do this, but a new perspective emerges in Israel. What the people or crowd want is to justify itself and its past, and they do this by blaming someone for all their troubles. In moments of crisis caused by deep-seated rivalries a person is unjustly accused of some offense or crime. … So from a purely anthropological viewpoint, the Bible unveils the victim mechanism that lies behind polytheism and mythology, but not only behind polytheism and mythology, for its full expression underlies everything we know as human culture. The Bible recognizes this in the story of Cain and Abel. Because Cain murders his brother, God bans him form the soil, making him a wanderer on the earth, and God puts a mark on him, a sign to protect him from suffering what he made Abel suffer. Then Cain builds the first city, and so civilization begins. The story in Genesis 4 tells us, in effect, that the sign of Cain is the sign of civilization. The cross of Christ is the sign of salvation, which is revealed as the overcoming of mimetic desire and violence through the nonviolence of love and forgiveness.

Now, what does this have to do with us, in particular, us orthodox Christians?

Girard wrote these lines around the turn of the century. Since then, the “radicalization of contemporary victimology” has produced even more of exactly the effects he said they would produce. And orthodox Christianity has become even more marginalized and despised, precisely because the post-Christian left needs a scapegoat upon which to blame the sins of the world. It is hard to come up with a more perfect scapegoat for this pseudo-religion of radical victimology than a group of white male pro-life Catholics from the South, wearing MAGA hats.

Understand what I’m saying here: the actual guilt of those boys was completely beside the point in the minds of the mob. It’s not about what those boys did, or didn’t do. It’s about who they are. Their identity as white male Christian supporters of Donald Trump was the only thing that mattered to their accusers.

Similarly, the fact that Nathan Phillips, the elderly Native American, flat-out lied about the boys did not matter, nor did the fact that the Black Israelites, a hysterical hate-mongering sect, had been taunting both the white boys and the Indians with racial and sexual slurs prior to the confrontation. Those instigators were non-white, which, in the eyes of the accusing mob, made them innocent, or at least not guilty.

This is our social reality now. If you are the kind of person who thinks that if only you reject Trump and MAGA hats, you’ll be counted among the Elect, you had better wake up. Today it’s MAGA hats. One of these days, it’s going to be crosses.

Here is an apt symbol of the world that has ended, and the world that is now here. The photo on the right is the new World Trade Center lit up pink on the order of the barbaric New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to celebrate the state legislature having affirmed legal abortion up until the point of birth:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [8]

It’s going to get worse — a lot worse. Christians, and conservatives, need to be prepared for it. This is why I wrote The Benedict Option [9], and now it’s becoming ever more difficult to deny its diagnosis. Girard is right: the abolition of what we believe in is the long-term goal. This is what #ExposeChristianSchools is about: scapegoating, straight up, with the aim of marginalizing and ultimately eliminating any public manifestation of orthodox Christianity.

One immense challenge to Christians is to find a way to fight this scapegoating, and to endure it when it can’t be fought, without returning hatred for hatred. I can imagine that it would be easy for those Covington boys to be tempted by far-right white nationalism, especially given the disgraceful spectacle of some of their own woke Catholic bishops throwing them under the bus. (This is what Girard meant when he talked about churches today being “vulnerable to the ongoing blackmail of contemporary neo-paganism.”) But that would be morally wrong, and even a betrayal of the Gospel. When we lose sight of the fact that we ourselves can be part of the mob, and start to see ourselves as innocent by virtue of our identity (racial, sexual, religious, etc.), then we fall into the same scapegoating mechanism that has captured those who hate us.

I don’t know how we’re going to do this. But I know we had better get busy figuring it out. What is happening now in our civilization is not primarily political, and it won’t be solved through better politics. Read Girard. This is something happening at the most fundamental level of social psychology and cultural anthropology, and it has been building for a very long time. This is what Girard calls the “other totalitarianism.” If you’re a Christian believer, your faith tradition should have prepared you to read these particular signs of the times. Let the reader understand.

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139 Comments To "Rene Girard & The Covington Catholic Boys"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 28, 2019 @ 3:06 pm

” Short for the assault on immigrants who have become the scapegoats for millions of conservative Americans.

There is a huge difference between the millions of law-abiding legal immigrants, and many qualified, legal applicants being pushed to the back of the line by those gate crashers overwhelming the system, who show they have no respect for the laws of the land they are flouting.

I suppose in a self-created bubble, people with accusatory opinions like these don’t know that there are millions of immigrants and naturalized citizens whodon’t support illegal immigration. When I worked in California, I was surprised to find citizen and legal immigrant Hispanic workers at companies who regarded illegals as scabs competing for their jobs at lower rates of pay than are needed for lawful survival in America. The great agricultural workers’ advocate and organizer, Cesar Chavez, was totally against unlawful immigration, used to undermine the United Farmworkers and other unions. Agricultural employees have no rights at all – just the way Big Ag likes it.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 28, 2019 @ 3:10 pm

Lamm2:

My earlier take on scapegoating was earlier in the comments, began with this paragraph:

“Let us not forget another truth, as well. That when elites rule in a society that begins to fail, to the extent that discontent and rebellion begins to brew, they will always try to create scapegoats to deflect risks to themselves, to blame others. Those chosen can be foreign external enemies, internal dissidents and critics, or a combination of both.”

#3 Comment By JonF On January 28, 2019 @ 3:10 pm

Rod, your vignette about Snopes is very absolutist, to a lurid extent. You seem to be saying since they got one thing wrong, then they are wrong about everything always. That logic could tear anything down. The more simpleminded sort of atheist regularly uses it, e.g., the Church got astronomy in the 1600s wrong therefore it’s wrong about everything.

#4 Comment By Matt in VA On January 28, 2019 @ 3:11 pm

Ampersand III says:
January 28, 2019 at 2:26 pm

I love classical art and architecture…but if I have to choose between that and having expanded personal freedom, a government safety net, a “mind your own business” culture that leaves me alone, and oh-so-dreaded convenience…well, it isn’t much of a choice. I’m not going to give all that up because someone else says they feel spiritually empty. Most people are materialistic, I tend to think they’d agree with me. If you appeal to my self-interest or use reason, we can have a conversation. I’m open to new and radical ideas. But I’m not going to upend my life, or my world, just because you have a fundamentally unprovable problem. “We need to undo modernity because something something spiritual emptiness” is a platform for a really tiny political party.

Ampersand… In other comments you have said you are an MGTOW. You are literally an example, by your own admission, of the absolute smash-up of the relations between the sexes and the absolute fabric of society itself that we are seeing in the West — and yet you’re like, “everything’s fine, man.” I mean, I keep bringing up Nietzsche, because Christian conservatives don’t get how important he is, they think they already beat him in the 20th century, and you jump into the comments section to BE a Last Man in case Mr. Dreher and others don’t believe me. No doubt this is objectifying and dehumanizing, or whatever, for me to say this, but you could practically be a sock puppet account for me.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 28, 2019 @ 3:36 pm

Lamm2, the “No True Scotsman” trope is supposed to disprove the argument that if one were truly following Jesus, one wouldn’t continuously participate in evil, when it is said to be obvious that there are any number of evil Christians. That is, by analogy to Scottish-born people who are said not to be true Scotsmen because their behavior defiles the noble name of Scotland. In other words, they can’t truly be Scots, because their behavior disqualifies it.

The argument fails because all Scots, regardless of character and behavior, are truly born in Scotland, making them true Scotsman.

Unless Christianity is considered a form of automatic citizenship, or inherited automatically from birth from parents, a common fallacy, revealed by the belief that a country is Christian, rather than individuals, this argument, from logic, cannot be so.

Christianity is a choice. You become a Christian by submitting your life to Christ, to becoming more like Him. As Solzenitsyn put it, with the object of the maturing of the human soul. As pointed out in scripture in the words of Jesus, the product of such a life modeled after the good, produces the fruit of good works. When it is not so, it is evident that there has been no such transformation.

You cannot validly be a Christian, while doing the work of the Devil, even if you claim to be one.

Some even claim Christians manned the Nazi death camps… NO.

#6 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On January 28, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

Matt in VA says:
I don’t want to speak for Mr. Dreher, but the concern is that the entire civilization is dying.

[…]

Our architecture, our music, our literature, our art, our films have all declined. Regular, indeed uneducated people, used to have a better knowledge of texts that have stood the test of time, primarily the Bible; now whatever s*** has the biggest marketing budget is the substitute for those previous forms of shared cultural touchstones. Allan Bloom wrote about how his uneducated parents had read or been exposed to very little but they had a real familiarity with the Pentateuch, and that one holy text was richer than the volumes and volumes many academics have spent their lives consuming. Even illiterate peasants who are given the stories of the Bible by word of mouth are given something deeper than what a lot of people get in our mass literacy societies.

Pretty much all of your cultural complaints come down to one cause: choice. Given the choice between more of something good and less of something great most people will always choose more of something good. Given the choice between something great that takes great effort and has high probability of failure or something mediocre that is easy and has a high probability of success, 99 out of 100 will choose mediocrity. This has always been so, Nietzche’s Last Man has always represented most of humanity. This is an evolutionary adaptation for survival pre-civilization. What kept people in the past from choosing mediocrity was that they couldn’t. There was no option to just watch porn instead of forming real relationships etc. Now we are bombarded with thousands of quick easy mediocrities that we choose over greatness. In this sense your cleansing warlordism might be a solution – but probably not a worthwhile one.

I think this feeling — for me, anyway — is the ultimate final reason I feel like I am on the Right and not the Left. There is a part, a small part, of the Right that understands, that feels this, though I think it’s practically nonexistent in the USA, which never had a Throne and Altar right wing. Whereas the Left — even though the Left is full of people who love art and literature and history — pretends to itself that nonsense about the moral arc of the universe and all that. And I just do not believe it. I do not believe that things are always getting better and better.

I don’t really encounter these moral arc of the universe bending toward good liberal types very much, I feel like it might be more of upper crust East coast thing than West coast. I’m much more likely to hear liberals complain about plastic consumer crap and decadence than conservatives. We all have our own bubbles though. Liberals do think things have improved a lot for minorities with civil rights and the sexual revolution, but most don’t think that was inevitable or that it can’t be suddenly reversed.

As to Nietzche’s Last Man problem, what are the possible solutions? Liberals and conservatives each have their own views on the cause of *What is wrong with the world today*. Conservatives have: too much government, not a free enough market, corruption of societies values, loss of a cohesive sense of culture, too many immigrants, and the elites are purposely destroying us for their own gain. Liberals have: Crony capitalism, institutional racism, too free of a market, straight up racism, consumer culture, separation of workers from the means of production, and the elites are purposely destroying us for their own gain. I’m sure I missed some on both, but the dominant view of conservatives (not a free enough market) is just too close to my view of the source of the problem for me.

Also, minor correction: When I said in th previous post that I have trouble with mimetic rivalry I mistyped. It is all desire being mimetic desire that I don’t buy.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 28, 2019 @ 3:51 pm

“Fran, you’ve obviously never read Franklin’s account of how his mother’s family was saved by devout Roman Catholics — or a lot of other things Franklin has written.”

Apologies, for what I don’t know about him.

I would say that not enough is known about me to categorically write me off, either. I do know there are commenters who simply loathe evangelicals, so they may know enough to do so.

However, I don’t agree that paganism is superior to following Christ and I made that big change myself.

I suspect that he wouldn’t equate their doing good intrinsic to Christianity, however, but to something inherent in them outside that. I could be wrong.

Now the recent statement made was really an aphorism, a distillation: Many think there are bad Christians, some think some are good, while others think all are bad.

I do apologize, even if it is never accepted, for using several people writing comments here as as offhand examples, if this is not in fact their position.

#8 Comment By VikingLS On January 28, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

“@ Fr. Bill Taylor – nice to know what kind of person you are. I’m sure you don’t object when anti-Catholic morons dismiss anyone in priestly garb as being pervs, pedophiles, and liars, right?”

I’ve met plenty of liberal Catholic clergy. They always seem to presume that liberal anti-Catholics aren’t talking about THEM. (Conservative ant–Catholics are however, and at that point they suddenly want solidarity. Can’t be having with those nasty evangelicals.)

We had a number of priests like Taylor during the Russian Revolution that tried to side with the Bolsheviks. They sort of disappeared after the revolution.

#9 Comment By Ted On January 28, 2019 @ 4:06 pm

Elijah says: “@ Fr. Bill Taylor – nice to know what kind of person you are. I’m sure you don’t object when anti-Catholic morons dismiss anyone in priestly garb as being pervs, pedophiles, and liars, right?”

Elijah, I say this in real sorrow, but what are the odds the “anti-Catholic morons” are correct (your three epithets cover a lot of ground)? Even odds? Three to five? That’s why this call for Dolan to excommunicate Cuomo is so farcical. There is nothing any Catholic priest or (especially) bishop can say in the public square after last summer’s events that warrants the smallest bit of attention from anybody, least of all Catholics whom they have betrayed.

Let’s go up the food chain. How many members of the U.S. cardinalate, well, let’s avoid the word “know”, had information they credited regarding Uncle Ted’s Sodom-sur-Mer down in Sea Girt? It was 100%. You know it was. And not one of them lifted a finger when that disgusting old creep was sent to chum up Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

I know I’m a bore about this, but (confining ourselves to the hierarchy) these men are shameless moral cretins, and if Andrew Sullivan’s numbers are correct, and I think they are, they have a lot of back up. What if ONE of them, ONE, had made a public statement down in Dallas simply stating Uncle Ted’s lack of suitability for his media relations role? Would there have been scandal? Sure. To match this? No way.

#10 Comment By JWJ On January 28, 2019 @ 4:08 pm

To ratmdc:

Of course the NY law allows abortion up to birth. And you link to Snopes??? They are as biased and untrustworthy as the NY Times or CNN.

What the previous law said was no killing of babies after 24 weeks EXCEPT to save the mother’s LIFE. I all caps that for a reason. To save the mother’s life.

Now the law says you can kill babies after 24 weeks to protect a women’s HEALTH. Which the courts have defined to mean for any REASON at all. I defy you to find any court that has put any kind of restriction on what is meant by a women’s “health”. Especially in a state that is so dominated by the leftist religion as NY is.

So in practical terms there is no restriction to killing babies up to birth in NY. To say otherwise is to be a fool or a liar.

#11 Comment By Raskolnik On January 28, 2019 @ 4:22 pm

@Siarlys

Rwanda — the distinction between “Hutu” and “Tutsi” as hereditary castes was made by the Belgian occupiers.

Lol. Meanwhile, [10] you can statistically map the very real average (AVERAGE) genetic differences between Hutus and Tutsis. But please do tell us more about how DNA is socially constructed.

One must also consider the writings of Isaiah, Micah, Amos, before accepting the hypothesis that Judaism remained only a “sacrificial” religion until the non-sacrificial Jews were “all” siphoned off by Christianity.

Once again, you’re using the fact that statistical trends are broad and admit of many outliers to deny the indisputable fundamental point at stake. I didn’t say that Judaism circa 1AD was exclusively sacrificial, rather that there were competing “Judaisms” (in much the same way there were competing “Christianities” until around the Council of Nicaea). And it’s just a matter of historical fact that the Messianic Jews most focused on an apocalyptic message of universal deliverance became Christians and eventually folded in with the Gentile Christian population. The Sanhedrin considered Christ to be a blasphemer, not because he claimed to be the Messiah per se, but because they believed the Messiah would be a military leader and Jesus was uninterested in a military project. The Jewish Meschiach is typically understood to this day as a military leader who will, among his other activities but as a precondition of being recognized as such, restore the political Kingdom of Israel.

You can find universalizing threads in Hinduism, but that doesn’t mean that Hinduism is an explicitly universal project the way that Buddhism (which emerged out of a proto-“Hindu” matrix) is. Same thing with Hebrew religion and Christianity.

@Eliana

I appreciate your prayers but am somewhat unclear as to your point. The Psalms are holy to Muslims as well. Does that mean there is no difference between Muslims and Christians?

#12 Comment By Rob G On January 28, 2019 @ 4:40 pm

“The New York law is much more reasonable than many have been making it out to be. But, I think….”

You have a giant blind spot vis-a-vis abortion, as most “pro-choice Christians” do. So forgive this traditional Christian if he doesn’t care much what you think on this subject. You have decided that your own lights trump those of the entire Christian tradition up until roughly five minutes ago, historically speaking.

#13 Comment By Rob G On January 28, 2019 @ 4:45 pm

“But note the MAGA hat on top of the rich kid. Red for blood. Short for the assault on immigrants who have become the scapegoats for millions of conservative Americans. And see that all too familiar smirk on the kid’s face, with the little mob shouting in the background. An icon of malevolence….”

I think that Father needs to go a little easier on the communion wine.

#14 Comment By Rob G On January 28, 2019 @ 4:52 pm

“Fr. Bill Taylor – nice to know what kind of person you are. I’m sure you don’t object when anti-Catholic morons dismiss anyone in priestly garb as being pervs, pedophiles, and liars, right?”

Ka-POW!!!!!

#15 Comment By Mandrake On January 28, 2019 @ 5:42 pm

Ref: Fr. Bill Taylor says:
January 28, 2019 at 1:09 pm

I guess Fr. Bill Taylor was sick that day in seminary when they taught that calumny is sinful.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 28, 2019 @ 5:53 pm

You have a giant blind spot vis-a-vis abortion, as most “pro-choice Christians” do.

Rob G, that is exactly the kind of retort I get from “woke” white folks who are shocked by my heretical Bolshevik views. IF you could detail what this “giant blind spot” consists of, then I could discuss it meaningfully with you. We know each other better than to stoop to such blithering idiocy.

I have said for many years that the reason its difficult to hold a civil conversation about abortion is that on th eone hand, is the premise “This is a human person entitled to full legal protection from the moment of conception,” and on the other are variations on the premise, “No, it isn’t.” But we just have to start from there.

Now the law says you can kill babies after 24 weeks to protect a women’s HEALTH. Which the courts have defined to mean for any REASON at all.

The mother’s health CAN BE a legitimate reason to terminate a pregnancy. It is ALSO true that the standard can be manipulated. IT would be cruel to either forbid ANY abortion to protect the mother’s health, or to allow ANY abortion prior to deliver if the magic words “health of the mother” were first ritually intoned.

Meanwhile, in the real world, you can statistically map the very real average (AVERAGE) genetic differences between Hutus and Tutsis.

Raskolnik, you are your own worst enemy. The article you linked to clearly refutes your claim. Either you are reading it with the selective blinders of your own acquired prejudices, or, you figured most of us would be too lazy to actually follow the link.

Yes, Tutsi were pastoral and Hutu were agricultural, and as in many cultures, the pastoralists were the wealthy dominant class. But, there was a lot of fluidity between farmers who acquired cattle, pastoralists who lost cattle, etc. At the time of the great issuance of Identity, people who happened to have more than ten cattle were Registered as Tutsi. You must have missed the overlapping circles featured in the article, which also draws a comparison to the genetic isolation of French nobility from the commoners over several centuries — nobody claims that these are actually two distinct RACES.

#17 Comment By Nancy Pearcey On January 28, 2019 @ 6:18 pm

Rod, You might like my own discussion of the Marxist appropriation of the biblical concept of victimhood in this article.

[11]

“Sociologist Bradley Campbell, coauthor of “The Rise of Victimhood Culture,” explains that campuses have succumbed to a movement that divides people into victims versus oppressors. Because Christians have historically been a dominant force in Western society, they are labeled “oppressors” (even when they are a minority, as they are on the Berkeley campus). As a result, they are cast as villains — no matter if they demonstrate love and compassion.

By contrast, “victims” are, by definition, virtuous and must be handled with kid gloves lest they be offended. As Campbell explains, “One of the shibboleths of victimhood culture is that it’s okay to offend the oppressors but not the oppressed.” It’s perfectly acceptable to show “wrath toward oppressors.”

Victimhood culture is genuinely new. No other known society has claimed moral authority on the basis of victim status. Where did it come from?

Its roots are in cultural Marxism, the imposition of Marxist categories on all of culture.

In classic Marxism, the driving force in history is economic — the struggle between capitalists (oppressors) and the proletariat (oppressed). Cultural Marxism foists the same martyr mentality on race, sex, ethnicity, sexuality, gender — the list keeps growing. True believers are urged to develop class consciousness (become aware of yourself as a suffering victim), then rise up against the oppressors.

Marxism has been called a Christian heresy because of its religious overtones: Its counterpart to the Garden of Eden is the state of primitive communism. Its version of the fall into sin — the source of evil and oppression — is the creation of private property. And the “redeemer” is the proletariat, who will rise up against the capitalist oppressors and usher in a Marxist paradise: the classless society. Historian Robert Wesson writes, “The savior proletariat [will], by its suffering, redeem mankind, and bring the Kingdom of Heaven on ­earth.”

Were it not a parody of Christianity, victimhood culture would never have gotten off the ground. Of all the world’s major religions, only Christianity attests to a God who suffers on behalf of people, who becomes a victim of violence as a means of redemption. The Christian ethic has always called for compassion for the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast.

By misappropriating these classic Christian themes for their own political agenda, ironically, today’s “victims” are now creating new forms of oppression.”

#18 Comment By Lamm2 On January 28, 2019 @ 7:20 pm

@Fran Macadam – Thank you for your thoughtful replies to help me better understand. I’m from a different tradition so there are some differences in our understandings that don’t need elaboration. May God bless and keep all of us in these perilous times.

#19 Comment By Ampersand III On January 28, 2019 @ 7:26 pm

‘Ampersand… In other comments you have said you are an MGTOW. You are literally an example, by your own admission, of the absolute smash-up of the relations between the sexes and the absolute fabric of society itself that we are seeing in the West — and yet you’re like, “everything’s fine, man.”’

I’m a liberal MGTOW, and you’re a conservative gay man. I support women having more choices, even though it limits my own power, and you can live openly without being strung up, but you aren’t a fan of our current era. Perhaps we’re both going against our interests.

I know that my tribe is supposed to laugh off the idea of individual responsibility–and I normally do, to some degree–but, when it comes to my life, nah. I’m maybe 20% the product of the aforementioned smash-up of the relations between the sexes (wow, that sounds like a movie description from Cinemax), and 80% asocial, monogamy-challenged guy who isn’t interested in relationships. I’ve been an extreme introvert ever since I was a little kid. I honestly think you could drop me in any place or era, and my lack of interest in people would remain constant. Put me in a Spiritually Full culture, and, well, I’m guessing I’d be miserable, as the pressure to get married and have kids–things I don’t want to do–would be everywhere, and limit my life.

#20 Comment By Khalid mir On January 28, 2019 @ 7:27 pm

@ Matt,

“Our architecture, our music, our literature, our art, our films have all declined. ”

I’m very sympathetic to that view but I think it’s a bit too broad brushed. Since the beginning of the modern west there has been an awareness that civilisation is contingent, fragile – Hans jonas’s point in the phenomenon of life. As Kelvin says in tarkovsky’s solaris..there’s no going back to the cosmos. So, the idea of decine and renaissance is perhaps an old one. Secondly, this idea of a falling away, of absences and the lack of forms isn’t always or necessarily a wholly negative one. As Rowan Williams says, there are “ dry spells”. I’m not just talking about the via negativa. But the idea that the religious spirit finds its focus elsewhere – in ordinary life ( work, family, friendship). I don’t know, but I think a Protestant could say more about that.

Well, I don’t know if literature has necessarily declined. Fiction still has a lot to say ( Cheever, Robinson, bellow, Alfred Hayes..etc…at the moment I’m reading Laurus so I’m not convinced by the idea of decline). As does poetry ..Transtromer, or w.s. Merwin, for example.

Music. Yes, there won’t be another Bach but there was a Casals playing him! What exactly do you want? Religiously inspired music or music that reflects the human condition? Well, there’s still music that says something to us – not to just our present moment. Nick cave’s skeleton tree, for example.

Underling many of your very thoughtful posts I detect – i may be completely wrong- a kind of nostalgia for some former greatness. Not such a bad thing in times that are devoid of any idealism. But I love this line by Merton: you have to find yourself in the times you live in ( more or less).

Good talking with you ( as always).

#21 Comment By RATMDC On January 28, 2019 @ 8:12 pm

JWJ: “Now the law says you can kill babies after 24 weeks to protect a women’s HEALTH. Which the courts have defined to mean for any REASON at all. I defy you to find any court that has put any kind of restriction on what is meant by a women’s “health”.”

No, it’s not any reason whatsoever, but yes, it’s broad. Health consequences are broad. Note that this also up the discretion of the doctor involved, and said doctors decide on a case-by-case basis, *not* always answering “yes”.

For example, see the quotes herein from an abortion provider. You’ll also read about cases that make laws like this important/necessary: [12]

You may not like the New Yorker, but I don’t think they just made up the interview.

“leftist religion”

There is no such thing.

NY also just passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which should help the abortion rate (and ratio) continue its substantial decline. It’s already at an all-time low! Look at the section titled “Public Health Implications”:
[13]

#22 Comment By Raskolnik On January 28, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

@Siarlys

“The Tutsis and Hutus in all likelihood derive from two distinctive biological groups, who have not become divided, but rather have amalgamated somewhat over time.”

S O M E W H A T

Meaning: not entirely. And the distinct biological origins of these groups left a measurable imprint in terms of average differences between their DNA.

Bioleninism does not survive contact with reality.

(See also: “the Tutsi were in all likelihood once a Nilotic speaking population, who switched to the language of the Bantus amongst whom they settled, and from whom they extracted rents. The relationship of the Tutsi and Hutu is not exceptional, and does not require European colonial intervention or meddling.”)

#23 Comment By RATMDC On January 28, 2019 @ 8:21 pm

Addendum: The falling abortion rate and ratio don’t take into account all the abortions women are inducing themselves via misoprostol, or large doses of any number of substances available at drug stores, including Vitamin C. This sort of thing has allegedly increased sharply in states where abortion access has become extremely difficult.

#24 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On January 28, 2019 @ 8:31 pm

Music: Wayne Shorter’s “Emanon”

Film: Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight”

Art: Brice Marden

Literature: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer”

Architecture: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “The High Line” (Especially on a gorgeous spring or summer afternoon)

And this is only this century–I omitted Coltrane; Parker; Mankiewicz; Demy; Resnais; Pinter; Patrick White, Johns, Pollock and many, many others.

#25 Comment By sb On January 29, 2019 @ 12:14 am

muad’dib & Elijah – re: “Where is this genocide occurring? Because I have been following the news (in English & French) and I have yet to see or hear anything about it.”

UN defines genocide (as you linked) as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (my emphasis). Islam in the Koran and other writings demands global conquest and submission or death for all kuffar = non-muslims. ie intent to destroy in part at least, a religious group (non muslims, with Jews then Christians most targeted).

Examples include Nigeria (Fulani muslim herdsmen stealing lands and slaughtering churches and non-muslim villagers), the recent church bombing in southern Philippines (part of a long invasion from Malaysia into Philippines), numerous terrorist bombings and hijrah (immigration) jihad into Western Europe, etc. See Jihad Watch: [14]

I have said here in past that ALL humans are born good, but Islam trains children to become the adult muslims that accept, tolerate and endorse jihad, sharia law, and global genocide of all non-muslims.

And these muslim jihadis are very explicit in telling us why they are killing us – they tell us they want genocide until we all submit to Islam. And here’s the kicker – jihadi terrorists are FOLLOWING the Koran (see 9:5 – ‘slay the idolaters (=us) wherever ye find them’, or 5:51 – ‘take not the Jews and Christians for friends’), whereas Christians who commit genocide are disobeying God & Bible.

Islam is the shock troops the global capitalist elite are using to import and shatter the unity of Western nations. Seoullite is correct that the developed east Asian nations are the last resisters to this – they don’t let the Muslims in, as they have seen the evil that follows.

#26 Comment By Rob G On January 29, 2019 @ 6:37 am

~~IF you could detail what this “giant blind spot” consists of, then I could discuss it meaningfully with you.~~

The entire historic Church, East and West, has universally viewed abortion as a grave evil. Yet you, while claiming to be a Christian, promote it as a civil good. This implies that you think you know better than the Church. That’s what I’d call a blind spot.

#27 Comment By Ted On January 29, 2019 @ 9:49 am

Khalid mir: “What exactly do you want?”

We can start with a world in which my children aren’t handed garbage and told not to gripe because after all there’s a lot of it. You know what he wants. He wants a civilization.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 29, 2019 @ 11:32 am

Raskolnik, you just won’t let go of your petty rationalization. Any manipulation of words is better than admitting that your traumatic personal experiences with the few people of color you’ve known add up to a new scientific paradigm.

First, “biological origins” is in the context of one species, not two different species. It makes a difference. If you paid attention to the entire article instead of cherry picking, you would have recognized that.

Second, there are four major language groups in Africa, and it is no surprise that Nilotic and baNtu who wandered into the same area would have brought different points of cultural emphasis and modest physical differences with them, nor that they would have mixed to some extent. When populations mix, so does their DNA.

Cultural Marxism foists the same martyr mentality on race, sex, ethnicity, sexuality, gender — the list keeps growing.

And thereby, it ceases to be Marxism, because these are issues of non-class origin, although all of them have been used to manipulate subordinate economic classes. This transfer, or “foisting” is generally done by prosperous people with good job prospects or even businesses who want to “feel” proletarian even though they are actually relatively “privileged.”

The white hot racial exclusiveness that characterized “Tutsi” and “Hutu” statuses and relations in the 20th century required European colonial intervention.

As for Leninism, Lenin farmed out polemics on the National Question to Stalin, who might well have accepted Tutsi and Hutu as “nations” — an error many Marxists made from a great distance. In fact, left-wing Belgian trade unions made the error of rhetorical support for the Hutu as the “oppressed class” in Rwanda and Burundi. Ignorance is ignorance, no matter who indulges in it.

#29 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On January 29, 2019 @ 11:47 am

Music: “Emanon” by Wayne Shorter

Art: Recent paintings by Brice Marsden

Film: “Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins

Literature: “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

And many other examples from the last half-century or so. Not all of this art will be to all people’s taste, but that does not mean there is a decline.

#30 Comment By Christine Lehman On January 29, 2019 @ 1:22 pm

As the next outrage du jour, “‘Empire’ Actor Justin Smollett Beaten by Homophobic MAGA Supporters,” filters into the news cycle today, I hope we’ll all remember the lessons of the Covington Catholic story. Let’s

1) wish him a speedy recovery, and

2) hold off on proclaiming that all MAGA supporters are (a) homophobic and (b) responsible for whatever happened, till we find out what actually *did* happen.

#31 Comment By Orville On January 29, 2019 @ 2:50 pm

Hi Rod, I love Rene Girard – what he says applies completely in this case.

However, I dislike the whiny conclusion of the article. Conservatives have been scapegoating minorities for years – why is the author only crying now that a majority group might get targeted?

How is it helpful to preach to Catholics “beware of people doing this to you” rather than “beware of doing this to others”?

Perhaps if you rewrote the article, talking about the victims of conspiracy theories I’d have a lot more time for it. [15]

#32 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On January 29, 2019 @ 4:31 pm

Let us not forget that while most of us embrace mindless consumerism and mimetic desires, there will always be some who reject that for good or ill: [16]

Whenever I read Matt in VA’s posts I imagine Nietzsche is yelling them at me with wild eyes and that ridiculous mustache quivering. I highly recommend the experience.

#33 Comment By RATMDC On January 29, 2019 @ 7:02 pm

SB: “Islam is the shock troops the global capitalist elite are using to import and shatter the unity of Western nations.”

This is silly.

Also: “Seoullite is correct that the developed east Asian nations are the last resisters to this – they don’t let the Muslims in, as they have seen the evil that follows.”

There are Indonesians and Bangladeshis, among others, in Japan and other East Asian countries. There are likely to be many more in the near future, market forces being what they are.

#34 Comment By Richard Parker On January 29, 2019 @ 10:02 pm

I’ll ask this question in the most respective way possible for those who support the recent New York law. If a late term fetus is removed from the womb and shows signs of life and viability, what is her fate?

1. Quietly terminated in some fashion?
2. Allowed to apparently suffer in some fashion until nature takes it course?
3. Can a third party step forward to offer to take responsibility to provide medical care?

#35 Comment By Richard Parker On January 29, 2019 @ 10:05 pm

“And this is only this century–I omitted Coltrane; Parker; Mankiewicz; Demy; Resnais; Pinter; Patrick White, Johns, Pollock and many, many others.”

Pollock!?! Pollock!?!

(Blubbers speechlessly to himself)

#36 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On January 30, 2019 @ 11:56 am

Richard Parker writes: “Pollock!?! Pollock!?!”

My husband cannot understand my love for his work either. He thinks that most abstract art is the result of time and boredom (he has even less use for conceptual art). Being an extreme geek, I like both (but then I love show tunes, Andy Warhol, jazz and B-pictures as well, so my aesthetic is not for everyone).

#37 Comment By Andrew McKenna On January 31, 2019 @ 11:23 am

The essay is on the whole accurate in reporting on Girard’s ideas. I demur entirely from its conservative appropriation of them, but am not surprised. There’s a lot of that going around; it’s why I quit the Mimetic Theory FB correspondence (too much insulting language all around). The liberal press DID pile on too fast against Covington, and virally, that kid’s smirk being irresistible bait for leftist indignation, for us scandal addicts. On the other hand, the boys’ MAGA hats are a conscious provocation. The author wants to discredit liberals with Girard. What the author does not see is that left and right are entrapped in a mimetic vortex which becomes more vile, obscene (literally), with each “scandal.” The level of conversation plummets in this race to the bottom, each side blaming the other for it, each side actually being the prisoner, the puppet really, of the other’s intemperate outrage. In sum, what we are witnessing in the press, mainstream and marginal, is the violent reciprocity of mimetic doubles of the kind that Sophocles staged in Oedipus Tyrannus. But here’s a difference: the downward trend was sparked by DJT, for whom outrage is an attention-getting device, reminding me of the conundrum that for celebrities there is no bad news if it contributes to their celebrity. No good can come of it; as Mercutio says in his death throes, “A plague on both your houses!” which is both a curse and an objective statement of the Capulet/Montague rivalry. I find the commentary predictably revolting, and largely incoherent. But here I am ensnared in this contagion of slurs.

#38 Comment By sketchesbyboze On February 3, 2019 @ 2:26 pm

Fabulous post, Rod. I’m not kidding when I say Girard was a prophet, and our pastors need to study him, and our churches need to teach him. At present I know of only one that does.

#39 Comment By Guido On February 5, 2019 @ 10:16 am

Try and read the whole event by reading Luke 23,12-22