The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil, Charles K. Bellinger, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, 157 pages.
This gem is to theology what a Rolls Royce engine is to automobiles. One reviewer says, “It is no small achievement to write a theological book that is both first-rate social science and first-rate philosophy.” It is first-rate theology too! And finally, Bellinger’s theme is excruciatingly pertinent in a post-September 11 world reverberating from perpetual war – perpetual violence – promised by the West.
Besides the Introduction, the book has nine chapters. “In this study, I ask one basic question: Why? Why are human beings violent? (p. 3)” Helpfully, Bellinger lays out the content of each chapter in his Introduction. In that theologian Søren Kierkegaard and anthropologist René Girard are “the two key thinkers considered (p. 10).,” (“two others play important supporting roles: Karl Barth and Eric Voegelin (p. 10).”), the author explains why the first two are chosen. Of Kierkegaard: “Kierkegaard’s thought establishes a solid bridge between social theory and ethics (p. 9).” Of Girard: “His thought can be understood as the most sophisticated development to date of Kierkegaard’s dictum, ‘The crowd is untruth.’ His analysis of the ‘horizontal’ dimension of human existence is extremely thought-provoking and challenging (p. 10).” Of both: “I argue that [Girard’s] understanding of mimetic desire and the scapegoat mechanism can be effectively coordinated with Kierkegaard’s vision of the ‘vertical’ dimension of existence in relationship with God, to produce an explicitly theological theory of the roots of violence (p. 10)”
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