COV&R-Bulletin No. 14 (March 1998)
Report from the COV&R Meeting in San Francisco, November 22, 1997
Most of Girard's familiar topics and themes were represented in the lecture, which focused on the meaning of the Passion in relation and in contrast to the myths and rituals of the non-biblical religions. One relatively new note was something Girard has been reflecting on more and more in recent years, namely the positive as well as negative aspects of the relation of the Gospels' presentation of Christ to the myths and rituals of the non-biblical religions. Here are three key paragraphs from the paper:
"Far from being meaningless abracadabra, archaic religions are the fundamentally rational and functional behavior and belief which follow from the deluded premise [which involves] the mistaking of some highly effective scapegoating episode for the epiphany of some new divinity whose main purpose was to teach the community how to sacrifice victims and thus prevent the return of disruptive crises such as the ones this divinity itself had terminated through its own sacrifice.
"In mythology scapegoating 'works' and therefore is misinterpreted, whereas in the Gospels scapegoating succeeds with the crowd but ultimately fails with the disciples because of the Resurrection which rescues them from the mimetic contagion and turns them into true witnesses of Jesus' death, marturoi able to write a truthful account of what happened, and, if necessary to die the same death as Jesus' death.
"In mythology, scapegoats are divinized because they are mistaken for culprits and never identified as the innocent and helpless victims they really are. As a result, they save their own communities from their own mimetic dissensions. They are a cause of unity in this world, whereas the Gospels are not."
His thesis in this paper complements what he says in the interview printed in The Girard Reader : "I would say that the Word or Christ is at work in this whole long process toward humanity and representation." Citing Gil Bailie, he says that "...the Word was the light accompanying the 'mythic darkness of the sacred violence that accompanied hominization....Humanity generated its own crude forms of illumination precisely by periodically expelling this light'" (269). Most of the questions the participants asked, which continued for an hour after the paper, revolved around comparing and contrasting the Gospels and mythology, as well as around the relation of Christianity to the living religions of the world.
James G. Williams