/ theol / cover / bulletin / xtexte / bulletin08-6.html

COV&R Logo

Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 8 (March 1995)

Georg Baudler, Töten oder Lieben: Gewalt und Ge waltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum. München: Kösel-Verlag, 1994. 432pp.

Like his first two books -- "Erlösung vom Stiergott" (1989) and "Gott und Frau" (1991) -- Georg Baudler's latest book again deals with violence, religion and Christianity. Baudler begins his first chapter (17-101) with an analysis of the usage of the term "sacrifice" in the Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and he maintains that this term cannot be separated from the context of violence. Hence in the following discussion on various theories of sacrifice he associates himself with R. Girard and W. Burkert. Yet towards the end of the chapter Baudler dissociates himself from both these authors: he tries to prove that there is, in addition to the "sacred murder", a further and older "original scene": this is the attachment of a mother to her child, and the funeral where the dead are accepted as persons. As in his former books Georg Baudler regards man's start of big-game hunting as the root of human violence which dates back 1.7 million years. But originally, i.e. due to his evolutionary structure, man is non-violent. This is proved by the original scene of the relationship between a mother and her child. Unfortunately this scene had almost been completely concealed by the sacrificial religions in the course of human history.

Following K. Jasper's idea of the "Achsenzeit", the second chapter (103-164) concentrates on the religious and philosophical changes in China (Confucius, Laotse), India (Buddha), Persia (Zarathustra), and Greece (Plato). These changes have in common the criticism of sacrifice, striving for non-violence and love of one's enemy. But these steps of progress in the history of mankind had been widely distorted by setbacks into traditional sacrificial religiousness.

In the third chapter (165-242) Baudler describes how Jahwe became the advocate of the persecuted and the God of victims in the Old Testament. Here, in the Old Testament, it was religious experience that led to the concept of nonviolence whereas in the "Achsenzeit" it was reflection. The reason for the concern for the persecuted in the early history of Israel lies in the nomadic background of the belief in Jahwe. Yet there are also a lot of texts in the Old Testament which show Jahwe as a God of war and revenge. The dramatic contrast between violent and peaceful religiousness is characteristic in the Old Testament.

The fourth chapter (243-334) turns to the New Testament, and immediately concentrates on the death of Jesus. The idea of a non-violent God as it was established in the "Achsenzeit" and in the Old Testament reveals its complete meaning. But the sacrificial tradition was still alive. This can be seen when Jesus threatened with hell and his death is explained as a sacrifice by Paul and in Hebrews. These are both strongly criticized by Baudler.

The fifth and last chapter (335-422) deals with the relapse of Christianity into violence since the Constantinian Era. The turn to violence was possible, because the New Testament and the early Fathers use warlike pictures. Baudler finishes his book with some thoughts about the peculiarities of the Christian cult. His criticism of any form of fixed ritual is particularly conspicuous (414ff), and so is his rejection of any form of devotion ("Hingabe") as sacrificial.

This summary itself shows that the dispute with Girard is a central matter of this book -- especially with the inclusion of feminism and the pluralistic theology of religion. The Catholic theologian, Eugen Biser, has discussed it comprehensively and favorably in Theologische Revue (No. 5, 90 [1994] 355-364, 367-68 ). Above all, he criticizes Baudler's adhesion to Girard. Biser dismisses Girard's idea as an "absurd thesis" and combines it with a sharp attack on R. Schwager and his disciples (367). In his reply Baudler emphasizes his distance to Girard (ibid., 365) and this is quite true: he has taken on many elements from Girard's theory, but all in all he is an exponent of another anthropology. The thesis about the founding murder as origin of culture and religion is not acceptable to him. He emphasizes that it leads to a fatal paralysis which exposes Man to violence (80) and ignores his freedom (90). This crucial difference includes all the others. It is therefore pointless here to cite in detail the moments where Baudler insufficiently reports the position of Girard; for reference see pages 62, 68, 74, 98, 151f, 292. The essential problem with Baudler's criticism of Girard is that he receives him within the scope of his own premises. In doing so he changes the position of Girard just by reporting them. It is the same with his understanding of founding murder, scapegoat mechanism and sacrifice, where Baudler seems to take on literally the analyses of Girard. But Baudler founds these in "male murdering exhibitionism" ("Tötungsimponiergehabe") -- an unusual word even in German. The understanding of founding murder is thereby fundamentally modified by being subordinated as secondary to the original non- violence of Man. Thus it is presumed that the socialization of Man is basically unproblematic.

Baudler understands his book as an empirical-pheno menological study (172f, 254). But on the evidence of numerous one-sided and violent historical interpretations -- not only in chapter 2 -- for this book in reality is a deductive construction -- of history. Baudler's anthropology is not its result but its criterion and its premise. His historical analyses serve to project them upon history. A critique of this book must, therefore, concentrate on its anthropological and theological position. Here I just want to refer to its handling of the theory of evolution. The anthropological essence is regarded as the phylogenetic earlier one. In that position there is a total incomprehension of the possibilities of an empirical theory and the relationship between freedom and evolution. An epistemological reflection on the anthropological relevance of the theory of evolution is missing. The thesis, the transition to big-game hunting as the Fall of Man is not a modern form of original sin as one at first likes to think. On the contrary, it is intended to found the hope for Man's final goodness and thus it abolishes original sin.

Furthermore, a strange tension can be noticed: on the one hand Baudler emphasizes the overpowering role of violence in societies and religions. He deals with the New Testament and the early Christianity much more harshly than Girard or Schwager -- apparently due to his rejection of devotion. On the other hand he considers violence as something which is external to Man; he refers to the "debris" and "rubbish" of violence (93f, 101, 171f, 180, 261, 421), from the "violence costume" in which Man is dressed (292ff, 324, 333). Between non-violent nature and the violent history of Man there exists an unbalanced contrast. Violence of Man becomes an industrial accident of evolution. It is not reflected why Man is endangered by violence. In Girard's work this is based on mimesis, to which Baudler also indicates a few times (60f, 73f, 81f, 271). But to him mimesis is not of anthropological significance. Girard's criticism of romantic individualism is completely ignored.

The center of Baudler's anthropology and theology, respectively, remains incomprehensible to me even after intensive preoccupation with both his earlier works. I suspect he is fixated on an individualistic understanding of self-realization, the belief that Man is good in himself. It is revealing that sin, mimesis and rivalry are identified in one passage where it is said that Man remains "not in himself and his world" (271).

The book also shows that the reception of Girard in Germany until now has been one-sided; it concentrates on the meaning of Jesus's cross and there is the danger of losing sight of the mimetic theory.

Bernhard Dieckmann