45 Most Powerful Images, Violence, and Rene Girard

A couple days ago I shared a link that was going around on Facebook. It is 45 of the most powerful images from events in 2011 as gathered by buzzfeed.com (check them out, here)

This was my comment when I linked it:

20 of these 45 images depict violence or are a result of violence. This disturbs me. Violence, war, oppression, hatred, vengeance, and power disturb me. May the Prince of Peace use his divine influence in 2012.

My wife then mentioned how the majority of the other 25 picture were also violent images, but ones resulting from violent acts of nature. Only a select few (like the amazing elderly gay couple who just got married, pictured below) depicted something “beautiful” as one of the most powerful images. I suppose this all says something, doesn’t it, about our view of “power?”

Anyways, this morning I was reading about the works of Rene Girard, the brilliant French historian, literary critic and philosopher of social sciences. If you have an hour or two to kill, his work is incredible. Truly a giant in his own. His two main contributions are the mimetic theory (basically that our desire for objects is not based out of our own autonomous desire because of the object itself, but because someone else wants it), and the scapegoat mechanism (in an effort to control the violence that inevitably comes as a result of the mimetic theory, cultures/religions began sacrificing a “scapegoat” in pursuit of peace).

In one such article, I was struck by the following quote:

War no longer works to resolve conflict—indeed, wars no longer have clear beginnings, endings or aims. Moreover, as weapons have escalated, war could destroy us all.

The weapons of war are less and less distinguishable from forces of nature, echoing apocalyptic texts of the New Testament. Before the invention of apocalyptic weapons, we couldn’t see how realistic these texts were. But today we are in a situation where we can see that, and we should be extremely impressed by that.

Man is creating “more and more violence in a world that is practically without God, if you look at the way nations behave with each other and the way people behave with each other,” he said. “History, you might say, is a test for mankind. But we know very well that mankind is failing that test. In some ways, the Gospels and scriptures are predicting that failure since it ends with eschatological themes, which are literally the end of the world.”

His conclusion: “We must face our neighbors and declare unconditional peace. Even if we are provoked, challenged, we must give up violence once and for all.” (emphasis mine)

It appears my hopes are similar to Girard’s, which are similar to those of the Lord we both profess: Jesus.

Phyllis Siegel, 76, left, and Connie Kopelov, 84, both of New York, embrace after becoming the first same-sex couple to get married at the Manhattan City Clerk's office

One thought on “45 Most Powerful Images, Violence, and Rene Girard

  1. Thank you for a fine post. I’m a part of a group that has been gathering annually to consider how Girard’s discoveries enlighten and reshape our theology and discipleship. The group is called Theology and Peace, and our 2012 meeting will be in Baltimore, June 5-7. I hope you will visit our web site and join us. .

    James Alison has been one of our speakers. In light of the photo you posted from New York, you might be interested in these words from a talk he gave in 2006:

    “…If you want to know what I mean by a category mistake, take a look at a picture of poor Private England and her dog on a leash and the pile of humiliated male prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Then look at a picture, taken almost the same week, of two women walking down the steps of Boston City Hall waving a marriage certificate. Ask yourself: to which of these two images does the biblical category of “Sodom” rightly apply?” (from Is It Ethical To Be Catholic? http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng27.html)

    Tom Nicoll

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