No man is a prophet in his own land because no land wants to hear the truth about its own violence. It will always try to hide it in order to have peace, but the best way to have peace is to make war. This is why Christ suffered the fate of prophets. He came close to humans by throwing their violence into a panic, by showing it naked to all. In a way, he was doomed to failure. The Holy Spirit, however, is continuing his work. It s the Holy Spirit that teaches us that historical Christianity has failed and that the apocalyptic texts will now speak to us more than they ever have before.
-Rene Girard, Battling to the End, p.103
Yet more stumbling blocks for Christians taking Girard seriously. Too bad. It’s easy to read this sort of thing and make a funny face. “Historical Christianity has failed?” What are you smoking?
The language can be confusing at times. He is only talking about one specific aspect of Jesus’ impact on the world. This discussion has nothing to do with the nature of Christ, or with the atonement, or any of that. Jesus didn’t “fail” in any possible sense. What has “failed” is that Jesus’ exposition of violence was not enough to convince us to lay down our swords. Like the words of any true prophet, we refused to listen to them. The Holy Spirit stays on perpetuating the truth though. It is like a tiny bit of yeast working it’s way through the loaf of history.
My big question, both before and after reading this book, and listening to several interviews with Girard, his how to reconcile this with post-millenialism.
I have a lot of post-millenialism friends. In fact, I see much of Girard’s work as propping up post-millenialism. The yeast keeps working it’s way through the loaf until the Kingdom come in full. This could easily take another thousand years.
On the other hand:
Idealogical wars, monstrous justifications of violence, have led humanity to the stage beyond war where we are today. The West is going to exhaust itself in its fight against Islamic terrorism, which Western arrogance has undeniably kindled. Clausewitz thought violence would continue to erupt in international conflicts in the nineteenth century. Nations existed to contain the revolutionary contagion. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna was still able to put an end to the War of the Sixth Coalition That [whole] era is over Violence can no longer be checked. From this point of view, we can say that the apocalypse has begun.
I’m not sure what kind of cake Girard is baking. I don’t have any good answers on this yet.
When asked in an interview what we could do to turn this around, he answered “start behaving like Christians”. I suppose my post-millenialist friends would answer, “start by reforming worship”.