March 4, 2015 Editor

A Great Irony of History: The Anthropological Significance of the Cross, and Peace

WN: I wrote this and presented it at the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) June 19, 2008. Paul Nuechterlein whom I cited often, as it turns out, was present at the workshop… He has done a wonderful Lectionary of Readings from a Girardian perspective.

An excerpt:

In this presentation, I propose a very simple thesis: Violence is The Ultimate Lie, and the Ultimate Contradiction of Truth. The Cross is The Ultimate Truth, and The Ultimate Contradiction of Violence.

One writer explains:
In short, according to [René] Girard, the work of the Gospel through the ages has ultimately enabled an anthropology of human origins as rooted in what we are confronted by in the cross, namely, the collective murder of a victim (Nuechterlein, 2002, p. 4 ).

Legitimate (state) violence is foundational of human culture, claims Girard:
…Girard’s proposal is that the logic of accusation and sacrifice has remained at the center of what constitutes human culture (ibid, p. 17).

What most legitimizes this human violence is religion, through a “mythologizing” process that hides the horror of the violence, and renders it acceptable to human culture. One commentator, Paul Nuechterlein, observes:
If myth veils the nature of human violence behind a cloud of religious mystification, how is it that humankind has ever begun to get out from underneath the cloud? Through lucid thinkers like [Jacques] Derrida and [René] Girard? No, according to Girard: only an extended encounter with the true God over time could begin to blow us free from that cloud. And he contends that such an encounter is testified to most consistently through the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, especially through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (ibid, p. 17).

The Cross, in other words is the ultimate unveiler of the lie of sanctioned, sacred, sacrificial violence.

Please click on: COV&R, A Great Irony of History

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.