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Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 5 (Oct. 1993)


André Lascaris, Het Soevereine Slachtoffer: Een theologisch essay over geweld en onderdrukking. [The Sovereign Victim: A Theological essay on Violence and Oppression] Ten Have/The Netherlands: Baarn, 1993. 280 pp.

In this book I try to discuss violence and oppression from a theological point of view and to answer the question how we can be set free from violence. René Girard's theory is the anthropological starting point, but the book goes beyond Girard's thesis by introducing the concepts of justice and forgiveness.

The first chapter upholds the thesis that human beings cannot live without some relationship to religion albeit a secularized religion. However, many people leave the traditional Churches because they see them as instruments of oppression. Traumatic experiences such as incest become even more difficult to deal with when the perpetrators were able to justify their deeds by appealing to Our Father in heaven. Violence thus is a theological theme that is of great importance in today's world. The second chapter underlines the omnipresence of violence, examines the origin of violence, the differences of the role of violence in a democratic society compared with a hierarchical one (with special reference to the position of women), and its fundamental meaning for individuals and society, and finally provides the reader with a brief history of the reflection on violence and peace. The third chapter deals with violence in the Old Testament. It covers more ground than J. G. Williams' The Bible, Violence and the Sacred, and deals with the relationship between justice and violence, recommendations of the use of violence, the biblical interpretation of its origin, violence in Israel's story of liberation, and violence in Israel's social utopias. The fourth chapter is on violence in the New Testament; justice and unconditional forgiveness, social and religious scapegoating, non-violence, the community of imitation of Christ, the rejection of law and sacrifice, the relationship in the early Church between men and women, masters and slaves, subjects and rulers. At the end of this chapter the New Testament is confronted with E. Levinas' criticism of it. The fourth chapter deals with three traditionally oppressive theologies: Jesus as sacrifice, the uniqueness of Christ and the hierarchical image of God. The theology of the sacrificial interpretation of Christianity was not developed in the Middle Ages as Girard suggests but in the time of the Reformation when medieval society collapsed. Girard's theory intensifies the discussion around the uniqueness and divinity of Christ. If an ontological hierarchy is always violent, we have to search for new images of God. In the concluding chapter violence is discussed in relationship to justice and unconditional forgiveness. From a theological point of view the latter is seen as the antidote to violence. This has consequences for individuals, the Churches and society.

In spite of the difficult theme, the book is written in such a clear and transparent way that it can be read by both theologians and non-theologians. The author and editor welcome offers to get the text translated into English, French, German and Spanish.