The Rejection of Cain: Halbertal Contra Girard on Sacrifice and Violence

Reformedish

On SacrificeOne of the most influential accounts of the nature of religious violence and sacrifice in the 20th Century comes from the (quite sadly) recently deceased giant, Rene Girard. For those unfamiliar with it, he begins with an understanding of humans as essentially mimetic or imitative creatures. We desire what we desire because we see others desiring it. Joey has a toy, so little Johnny wants it. This structure of desire has a number of implications, one of which is a build-up of psychic antagonism fueled by frustrated desire, jealousy, and so forth. This toxicity builds up in societies over time and so it needs a spiritual outlet, so a scapegoat is chosen. The scapegoat must be someone close enough to blame, but not close enough to be too important–the outcast (beggar, leper, racial minority, etc) who is hateable and dispensable. They are taken, “sacrificed”, and violently expulsed so that the…

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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