René Girard featured in Stanford Magazine


If you’ve been reading my theological thinking (which isn’t very worthwhile) or listening to my sermons, you’ll know that I make frequent reference to the work of Rene Girard. Girard is a member of the French Acadamie (one of the so-called “Immortals”) and, at present, a professor at Stanford.

Because of his Stanford connection, Girard is featured in an article in the Stanford Alumni magazine. It deals with his thinking on mimetic desire and it’s foundational role in human violence by focusing (as one might expect in a magazine of the academy) on the secular aspects of his work.

But the article does touch on the religious aspects (which have come to characterize the majority of his writing since the early 1960’s):

“He began to see the Bible as ‘anti-myth’—a description of humankind’s long climb up from barbarity. Violence, retaliation and a vengeful God evolve over centuries into themes of forgiveness, repentance and the revelation that the scapegoat is innocent, culminating in the Crucifixion.

‘People are against my theory, because it is at the same time an avant-garde and a Christian theory,’ he says. ‘The avant-garde people are anti-Christian, and many of the Christians are anti-avant-garde. Even the Christians have been very distrustful of me.’

During a meeting last year of an informal philosophical reading group, Girard recounted the Old Testament story of Joseph, son of Jacob, bound and sold into slavery by his ‘mob’ of 10 half-brothers. At first, ‘they all get together and try to kill him. The Bible knows that scapegoating is a mob affair.’ Joseph establishes himself as one of the leaders of Egypt and then tearfully forgives his brothers in a dramatic reconciliation. It is, Girard said, a story ‘much more mature, spiritually, than the beginning of Genesis.’ Moreover, the story has no precedent in archaic literature.

‘Like many biblical stories, it is a counter-mythical story,’ he said, ‘because in myth, the lynchers are always satisfied with their lynching.'”

Read the full article here.

Thanks Susan for bringing me the article to read this morning.

Do read the full article. And watch the video that’s posted on the page as well.

René Girard from Michael Sugrue on Vimeo.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...