Monday, February 16, 2015

Jesus, the Myth Buster

I'm just now reading a 1996 article by Rene Girard, Are the Gospels Mythical by way of The Raven Foundation. I am ever so slowly trying to get through The Girard Reader, an enlightening but weighty book.

In the aforementioned article, Girard sheds light on the difference between myths (even those which seem, at first glance, to be quite similar to some of the biblical stories of Jesus) and the Gospels.

Myths and the All  Too Real Cycle of Violence

In mythology, the victim is seen as having deserved death (or whatever his fate may be).  It is clear in those stories that the hero/victim's fatal flaw is what brought about his death. As Girard points out, Oedipus really did kill his father and marry his mother.

The victimization results in a partial peace because people band together and feel temporary relief after first having engaged in mimetic rivalry against each other.  Eventually, one person is left as the victim.  The crowd mentality causes the victimization and brings temporary relief until mimetic rivalry and contagious violence breaks out again.

We see this again and again even today.  Groups of people have historically been cast as the scapegoats. This scapegoating leads to needless violence.  We saw it in World War II and we are seeing it against the same groups today.

The Gospels--Turning Rivalry, Victimization and Violence on its Head

The Gospels, however, are very different.  Any similarities between them and various messiah/hero myths (and there are many) only serve to highlight the great differences.

Unlike the hero/victims of mythology, Jesus was innocent. He did nothing to deserve the level of violence that was perpetuated against him.  Satan thought that by whipping people up into a frenzy of near-unanimous victimization against Jesus, that a temporary peace would result, and the neatly tied up victim-blaming ending, as well as the inevitably resulting violence, would continue.

Jesus, however, refused to engage in mimetic rivalry with or victimization of anyone.  He was clear in declaring the innocence of people traditionally victimized and scapegoated in His society (those who were ill or disabled).  This is in stark contrast to myths, whose deserving victims often have disabilities of one sort or another, which is one reason they become scapegoats for their societies. Jesus speaks clearly against blaming those who have disabilities for their conditions. This extends even to the prostitute and the woman caught in adultery.

He also refused to victimize even those who were responsible for His death, forgiving them publicly from the cross. By doing this, he turns the traditional myth on its head:  the victim is innocent, and the guilty are forgiven.

Jesus refused to hide what was really happening.  In the prophesy of His death, he rebukes Peter, telling him that he is a skandalon, which is Greek for stumbling block. Jesus refused to enter into any sort of worldly competition with Peter, who was giving into Satan's plan, as Jesus makes clear in His rebuke.

The Revelation of the Paraclete

Girard points out something else, that The Raven article says is a life-changing revelation.  The disciples, especially Peter, follow the crowd prior to the Resurrection in its mimetic contagion.  They flee, and Peter denies the Savior he has spent the last three years following.

After the Resurrection, as Jesus has promised, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, comes to them and they become the Dissenting Minority (in contrast to the unanimous victimization we see in myths).  The Holy Spirit, Jesus tells them, is the Lawyer for the Defense. That is what the word Paraclete means.

Now, the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity.  The Holy Trinity is three Persons in one God.  It is not three gods.  One God.  This means, then, that GOD IS OUR DEFENDER.  God is not a heavenly Judge who will "send" us to Hell.  God, through the person of the Holy Spirit, is our lawyer for the defense.

Who, then, is the Accuser? Satan. Satan is the Accuser.

As Saint John Paul II was fond of saying, "Be not afraid." Do not be afraid of God who loves you so much that HE came and died because He refused to accuse humanity, who had sent Him to the cross. Jesus came and showed us how to be the dissenting minority in the world.  "Judge not, lest you shall be judged."

I really think that this message has been all but lost among Christians today.  So many are leaving the Church because they are being judged by those who should be welcoming them with open arms and full hearts.

Let's follow Jesus' example--God's own example to us--and pray fervently for the grace NOT to judge others, not to follow the mimetic contagion towards the oh-so-tempting victimization of others. It will only bring temporary peace as we feel part of the very crowd who will only turn against us in time.

We must not judge.

We must forgive.

We must love.            

No comments:

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

my poetry on the web

Karumi Garden

Karumi Garden
my haiku