Thursday, March 1, 2018

Identity Politics or Pesonal Action

Image copyright: Prager University

Question: Should we consider the king's judgment in Matthew 25 an example of "identity politics"? The Human One [Christ] seems to identify whom we should serve solely by victimary identity: the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, imprisoned, and stranger, i.e., the typical losers in human politics.

My Response:

This is what I call reading scripture through a conflict theory lens. There is a difference between serving the marginalized of the society and forcing others at gunpoint through the state to 'serve' a state/culture-designated marginalized class. Also notice here that Jesus speaks about actual victims with inflictions that go beyond race, gender, religion, nationality, etc--inflictions that are universal to all corners of the world regardless of 'identities.'

Also notice the emphasis on personal action in the actual text in Matthew 25.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Nowhere does Jesus speak about enforcing these actions through the power of the Roman empire or through Herod. He speaks about 'giving something to eat/drink,' 'inviting in,' 'clothing,' and (even more strikingly) 'visiting the prisoner in his/her cell.' All personal actions, i.e. taking full responsibility and being in close proximity to the one you're supposed to help. One could object that here Jesus addresses the 'nations,' but that still does not make it okay to 'help' the marginalized through the use of state coercion. An identity-political reading, as implied by the question above, would indicate that Jesus would punish any person if he were to not support the right policies designed by sacrificial institutions.

On the other hand, a girardian reading of the text would indicate that the otherized scapegoats of society are not to be expelled but instead included into the family of God and treated with dignity. This is also why Jesus' parable of the Samaritan neighbor is masterfully designed to eradicate the identity of the other that existed in Judean culture at that time. Christ presented the Samaritan as a human being closer to God, not because the Samaritan has a racial/ethnic identity that belongs (or deserves to belong) higher up in the ladder, but because the Samaritan has transcended the racial boundary. The Samaritan chooses to 'be his brother's keeper,' not through recognition of identity but through recognition of the universal human identity--a fellow-image bearer of God.

Jesus explicitly stated that his kingdom is not of the world, and that his band of followers are a government unto themselves, who brings peace as God gives it and not as the world gives it. Christ's intention was and is always to impact the world from the bottom up and not top down. This is not about individual pursuit, as some would mistake, but rather, it is the proper way to change the world. The kingdom of God is a contagion of love that builds up from the micro aspect of society through imitation of Christ. Wouldn't one agree that conversion first starts with the individual, with the realization that each and every one of us is at least a potential persecutor? If one claims collective guilt of any kind and of any group, one risks falling into the trap of man-made sacrificial Christianity.

It is obviously desirable to band together and help fellow human beings. What's certainty undesirable, as I've already pointed out, is to band together and force others at gunpoint to 'do good.' Christ does not do that, and neither should we.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jordan Peterson and the Devouring Mother

In one of my recent facebook posts, I pointed out that we as a society are failing our youths and we are failing drastically. When I had posted this sad observation, I expected a serious discussion on how we can help our young neighbors, but instead I got drawn into a petty argument about laws. This modern day insistense that we must have an excess of institutional supervision creates nothing but a rule of the devouring mother, and sadly it has given birth to a lot of angry and directionless boys.

The root of the problem lies deep, like ancient bones underneath enormous layers of earth. That is what many of our laws are; they are sacrificial, drawn out of the scapegoats of our ancestors. When we cling on to laws with demands that a few be sacrificed instead of the whole nation, we get kids like the Columbine and Parkland shooters.

The detached culture which we live in transforms a large portion of the youth within a society into bitter, resentful, and alienated human beings. Is it any wonder that we see murders committed in schools or playgrounds? And we look for quick fixes from institutions, where none exists at all. Even worse! We are willing to turn away from the dark alleys, where state laws have sacrificed a good portion of the population so that those who are not sacrificed can live in safety.

But enough about worldly laws, and onto the main concern. A friend of mine asked me how we can guide our young neighbors out of the cages of misery. I suggested to him that every individual in society must voluntarily help those young people who are close to them. There are many out there who are neglected in a variety of unbelievable ways. Here I will give a vivid illustration on how we can help the youngsters around us. The following is from a book that I'm currently reading.

I saw a four-year old boy allowed to go hungry on a regular basis. His nanny had been injured, and he was being cycled through the neighbours for temporary care. When his mother dropped him off at our house, she indicated that he wouldn’t eat at all, all day. “That’s OK,” she said. It wasn’t OK (in case that’s not obvious). This was the same four-year-old boy who clung to my wife for hours in absolute desperation and total commitment, when she tenaciously, persistently and mercifully managed to feed him an entire lunch-time meal, rewarding him throughout for his cooperation, and refusing to let him fail. He started out with a closed mouth, sitting with all of us at the dining room table, my wife and I, our two kids, and two neighbourhood kids we looked after during the day. She put the spoon in front of him, waiting patiently, persistently, while he moved his head back and forth, refusing it entry, using defensive methods typical of a recalcitrant and none-too-well-attended two-year old.

She didn’t let him fail. She patted him on the head every time he managed a mouthful, telling him sincerely that he was a “good boy” when he did so. She did think he was a good boy. He was a cute, damaged kid. Ten not-too-painful minutes later he finished his meal. We were all watching intently. It was a drama of life and death.

“Look,” she said, holding up his bowl. “You finished all of it.” This boy, who was standing in the corner, voluntarily and unhappily, when I first saw him; who wouldn’t interact with the other kids, who frowned chronically, who wouldn’t respond to me when I tickled and prodded him, trying to get him to play—this boy broke immediately into a wide, radiant smile. It brought joy to everyone at the table. Twenty years later, writing it down today, it still brings me to tears. Afterward, he followed my wife around like a puppy for the rest of the day, refusing to let her out of his sight. When she sat down, he jumped in her lap, cuddling in, opening himself back up to the world, searching desperately for the love he had been continually denied. Later in the day, but far too soon, his mother reappeared. She came down the stairs into the room we all occupied. “Oh, SuperMom,” she uttered, resentfully, seeing her son curled up in my wife’s lap. Then she departed, black, murderous heart unchanged, doomed child in hand. She was a psychologist. The things you can see, with even a single open eye. It’s no wonder that people want to stay blind.
--Jordan Peterson, '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos'

It is this closeness that transforms and saves lives. It involves the 'soiling of one's own hands,' as my friend Andrea Romano says. Dostoevsky depicts this beautifully in 'Crime and Punishment' through the character of Sonya who helps and redeems a murderer with nothing but love, humility, and genuine concern.

I do not speak of a coming utopia. A utopia is not the same as the kingdom of God, for the ushering in of a utopia needs violent revolution and sacrifices of scapegoats. To say that we need more scapegoats until we are ready for Christ is to say that we're one execution away from utopia. Those who says that we are one scapegoat away from the kingdom of God are the real dreamers of utopia.

I speak of action and full participation. I speak of taking up responsibility. This way is harder. This way is the imitation of Christ. I'm speaking of the carrying of crosses and bearing the burden of suffering; this is hardly utopian. This Christ-like love which was illustrated in Dr. Peterson's book, not the love (at gunpoint) of the world, is what we need, and we need it urgently, before the cycle of vengeance comes full circle yet again. We can either behave like the black-hearted mother in Dr. Peterson's story, or we can become like Dostoevsky's Sonya. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The violent birth of Dionysus

Many sceptics dismiss the Gospel accounts as mere fiction due to their similarities to prior mythology. There is a popular belief in circulation today that Christ himself was an imagined archtypal hero in the same vein as Zeus or Archilles. According to the adherents of this belief, the Christian God is Zeus retold, minus the virtue of strength and will to power. This was certainly similar to the view held by Nietzsche. According to René Girard, this line of reasoning shamelessly misses the point and, therefore, fails to see the real uniqueness of the gospel stories, a uniqueness wherein lies the salvation of mankind.

Take for instance the similarities of the divine birth narratives. In the ancient mythological stories, there are many instances of the gods copulating with mortal women in order to give birth to hybrid divine heroes. The birth of Dionysus comes to mind. Zeus, the chiefest of all gods, becomes the father of Dionysus through a mortal woman by the name of Semele. Similarly, the gospels also speak of a divine being, the Holy Spirit, conceiving Jesus inside the mortal Mary. Here the sceptic will go, "Aha! Do you see the origin of your 'divinely inspired' nativity story now?" In saying this, the sceptic misses the point. There is a world of a difference between the two in one key aspect: the issue of force, namely violence. Girard explains this in his book, 'Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World':

"Stories of this kind always involve more than a hint of violence. Zeus bears down on Semele, the mother of Dionysus, like a beast of prey upon its victim, and in effect strikes her with lightning. The birth of the gods is always a kind of rape...These monstrous couplings between men, gods and beasts are in close correspondence with the phenomenon of reciprocal violence and its method of working itself out. The orgasm that appeases the god is a metaphor for collective violence."

Compare this story to the nativity accounts, where Mary's status, unlike Semele's, is elevated by God to that of nobility. In the gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel greets Mary by saying, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" God makes known to Mary that she will bring forth his son, to which Mary replies, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." There is a complete absence of violence and coercion in the virgin birth story. There is no element of force whatsoever. This is no coincidence, neither is it a proclamation of harmlessness as Nietzsche would have it.

For centuries, humanity has drawn a particular image of God that uses coercion combined with sheer might in order to impose divine will on creation. This human depiction of God is okay with, and even demands, ritual sacrifice. Our modern day society, despite the lack of extravagant mythologies, still operates under this same principle. We often think that for justice to prevail there has to be scapegoating, and for good to come about there has to be coercion. Our societies operate under this false precedent that good comes out from using evil against evil. This kind of idea, when put into practice, gives rise to war, rape, abortion, homicide, domestic abuse, and countless other malevolent acts. We can observe this phenomenon acting out vividly when the state, the religious priesthood of our time, sanctions theft against its own citizens and throws non-violent dissenters into cages like wild animals.

In the myth of Dionysus, Semele, under the might of coercion, becomes nothing more than a means to an end. She is glorified in her utter humiliation. This is what pagan sacrificial culture leads to, and what our modern day pseudo-pagan culture continues to enforce. Through the rape of a fragile mortal woman, heroes and deities are born, and order is brought forth. On the other hand, the God of the Bible brings order through non-violence. The mortal and vulnerable is proclaimed to be the image bearer of God. Mary is honored and praised by the angel Gabriel, and later her dignity is defended by God. From the elevation of Mary comes the true hero Jesus.

Jesus is the perfection, redefinition, and embodiment of true heroism. The hero of the Bible does not act out the carnal, coercive nature of fallen man, but, rather, exhibits bravery and determination in perfect combination with gentleness and compassion. There is no weakness in him because the powers and principalities of the world holds no power over him. In him resides the perfect balance of the cosmos. He is able to triumph over evil, not with the parasitical force of Satan, but through the reversal of the Satanic contagion itself.

The gospel revelation encourages us to be imitators of this mighty yet gentle Christ. Through the imitation of Jesus, we are unable to extort goodness from our neighbor. We cannot rape anymore Semeles. We cannot scapegoat those vulnerable than ourselves. We cannot demonize or lynch our enemies. The catharsis from all these ungodly acts are wearing thin. We are instead called to universal chivalry for our fellow human beings. We are left with no choice but to infect the world with the love of Christ through the love of our neighbor.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ramayana and the birth of 'high morality'

The study of ancient literature, particularly the great mythologies, helps us understand the origin of culture and society. Within each heroic and magical tale, and beneath each culture that springs from that tale is the story of a lynch mob and a sacrificed victim.

Take for example, the great poem of Ramayana. This epic poem tells us the story of a banished prince who lives in exhile as a hunter along with his wife. The name of this prince is Ram and his wife Sita. One day, a wicked king named Ravana deceives and kidnaps Sita; he takes her and imprisons her within his fortified kingdom of Lanka. Ram, the archetypal hero, must now undertake a hazardous journey out of his home and into the wild in order to save his wife. He raises an army and invades Lanka. After a fierce battle, he slays Ravana and thus saves his wife.

A Jungian analysis of this story reveals the archetypal hero's journey. Much like St. George, Ram ventures out into the unknown, confronts the dragon, and saves the virgin. But a Girardian examination reveals a deeper truth--a truth that is more real and grittier than that of an extravagant fable with moral truths.

The text of Ramayana alludes to past struggles that may have occurred in circa. 1500 BC between armies from Persia/Central Asia and Dravidian natives. In those days, it was not uncommon for scribes to romanticize the feats of their beloved patron kings. In the light of this knowledge, the Ramayana can be interpreted as a war between two kings, or maybe it is the sacrifice of a defeated king. In traditional artistic depictions, Ravana is usually painted or carved out as a powerful man with dark skin and features similar to that of Dravidians. Also, his kingdom of Lanka is thought to be situated somewhere around or within modern-day Sri Lanka.

Once Ram has defeated Ravana, he establishes a period of 'Ram Rajya'--a culture/state of high morality. This is reminiscent of Cain's feat after he murders his brother. Like Ram, Cain founds the first civilized society. And civilization, culture, society, and even language are all the result of violence, specifically the sacrifice of a single victim, who is later deified because of the catharsis that comes from his demise.

I have personally found Jung's study of the unconscious mind fascinating, but I think Girard was right when he said Jung didn't go deep enough. Had Jung gone deep enough in his study of mythological symbols, not only would he have been able to uncover the lynches, but he would have also recognized the reverse mythology of the gospels that internalizes the sacrificing within the realm of the person.

When Christ saves the adulterous woman from getting stoned to death, he challenges each person to look within themselves, and in the process, he breaks the hypnotic frenzy of the crowd. The individual recognition that each of us has within us an inner persecutor, who is ready to burst out at any moment, is probably the most potent weapon against collectivism. It is this weapon that causes us to transform and start imitating Christ.

Today, we need not adhere to groupthink, and we need not sacrifice a scapegoat to keep our societies functioning. The ancient stories of good vs evil, retold countless times today, were subtle cover-ups for violent scapegoating. The only real battle is within our hearts; any external battle is false and based on a lie. Once we realize that we are each potential persecutors, we create within us the heart of Christ. We develop a heart that naturally comes to love our neighbor, whether they be victims or oppressors. This was Paul's Damascus experience, and it should be ours as well.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Hostile Brothers

The fascinating stories of sibling relationships found within the book of Genesis tells us a lot about the journey of the human species. It tells us about man's relationship with his brother, and how that relationship developed from envy and hostility to forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the story of Cain and Abel, we see the rise of sibling rivalry and the eventual first murder. Out of the two brothers, Abel is the one who pleases God the most. This does not make Cain happy; in fact, he grows bitter and envious towards his brother. Cain's anger and frustration in trying to live up to this model/obstacle version of brotherhood ends with the murder of Abel. This speaks volumes about the artificial brotherhood of the world, one based entirely on stepping over the other and acquiring a desirable object.

This is an interesting start because the story of Cain and Abel bears a striking resemblance to the ancient mythologies of the hostile brothers. The tale of Romulus and Remus is one example of a story similar to that of Cain and Abel. But a distinction is placed between the two--one that separates the romantic lie from reality. Abel is innocent, and Cain, though guilty, is protected by God. The deconstruction of mythology has just begun.

The competitive/rivalry-based relationship of Cain and Abel continues to define the modern 'secular' world which we inhabit. The ultimate aim of this kind of relationship is to please false gods, whether that be the ego, a third person, a certain status, or a collective entity. There is no option for failure, i.e. the conceding of the desirable object. As a result, according to Dostoevsky, the rich die from dissatisfaction, and the poor kill each other. Is there any surprise why this kind of relationship is most likely to end in hostility and violence?

We see the same theme of rivalry continuing in the story of Jacob and Esau. This story, however, does not end in violence, but, rather, it ends in realization of error. Jacob deceives Esau and steals his brother's birthright and blessing. He flees when Esau is enraged, and for a short while, it appears as if he would get away with it. But it is not long before Jacob himself is tricked into extra labor and duped into marrying someone whom he does not love. Jacob learns of the wrongness of deception. He is finally able to look from his brother's perspective, and is ultimately moved towards a mutual understading with Esau.

Finally, in Joseph's story, we see the foreshadowing of Christ. Joseph is envied by his brothers because of his predicted dominant status; he would rule not only his entire family but also the entire region. He is beaten, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery. And just when he climbs out of one pit, he is thrown into another. He is accused of rape by his master's wife and thrown into prison. Despite all these betrayals and deception, Joseph does not rebel. He maintains his integrity, and at the same time makes no effort to 'compete' against his persecutors. His is the model of a relationship grounded in non-violence--a relationship not of coercion but of persuasion through the imitation of the divine.

Joseph's innocence is eventually restored, thanks to his ability to interpret dreams. Not only is he restored, but he is also elevated to a position of authority. It is during his reign as a man of power when he comes face to face with his brothers who had sold him into slavery. The former persecutors approach Joseph; they are in need and, though they are unable to recognize him, they must depend entirely on his mercy. The power positions are now reversed.

If this were some story written with an ideological pen, Joseph would have been perfectly in the right to give his brothers a taste of their own medicine. After all, according to Nietzsche, might is meant to be exercised, and weakness must be discouraged. The übermensch does not conform to the slave-morality of the Judeo-Christian God. The übermensch belongs to aristocracy and not to slaves. But, as if God knew beforehand about Nietzsche, it is the Christ-man who is of the aristocratic minority, and the persecutors are slaves to the power of the crowd.

When Joseph sees his brothers, he immediately recognizes them and puts them to a test--a unique test designed in such a way that they may realize the wrongness of what they had done to their brother years ago (see Genesis 42-44). The brothers are dismayed by their failure to get away scot-free. Finally they realize the full depth of the violence that had been committed towards Joseph. It is right then when a teary-eyed Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. The brothers are finally reconciled. Jacob, Joseph's father, learns of this episode and travels with his entire family to Egypt so that he can live with his son once again.

Joseph, twice a victim of persecution, and now a ruler, does not exact vengeance upon his brothers. He makes it known to them that he has the power to kill them, but he does not take revenge. He sheaths his sword and chooses mercy, similar to what Christ does in Gethsemane and Golgotha. What prompts Joseph to choose mercy? We have to recognize that Joseph was a precursor to the coming Messiah. Joseph understood that even the harshest of men were made in the image of God. This simple understanding is pivotal in man's relationship with his fellow man, and only in the Bible is this made known.

It is fitting that this particular story is the redemptive ending to the book of Genesis. Joseph concedes the rivalry, recognizes the image of God in his persecutors, and embraces them as his own. This is the familial image of Christ dying on the cross whilst praying, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' This is God, not punishing, but embracing his persecutors. Joseph becomes a Christ figure to his brothers. He imitates the coming Messiah and saves his brothers from mimetic rivalry whilst giving them hope of a better home. He becomes the precursor to the true human being in Christ Jesus, and therefore, he points out the true human relationship grounded in Christ mimesis.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Gospel in Les Misérables

"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
--Jeremiah 31:33 (NIV) 

The historical relationship between the Christian and the state has always been a case of curiosity. This is all the more exemplified when we see around us those self-proclaimed followers of Christ trying to bring about the kingdom of God through mimetic games designed by the state priesthood. This effort of blending two religions (one centered around Christ mimesis and the other centered on the imitation of man) together is an exercise in futility. The truth is that the incarnation paves the way for the destruction of governments on a worldwide scale. Some two thousand years ago, a babe born into an obscure middle-eastern town heralded the coming of God's kingdom and the death of empires and government. The life that came out from the virgin would destroy governments once and for all, but this destruction would come only through the viral imitation of that very life itself.

In Victor Hugo's novel 'Les Misérables' we can see how imitation of Christ leads to a contagion of God's love through individuals that ultimately affects society at large. Jean Valjean is a former convict who is shown mercy by an old priest when he is caught stealing. This act of compassion from the priest amazes Valjean so much that the criminal decides to embrace the forgiving priest as his new model. By embracing the priest as his model for imitation, Valjean has effectively chosen to imitate Christ; he is now the Christ-man. As a result of his decision, Jean Valjean rises up to become the mayor of a small town through nothing but small yet significant acts of charity and kindness. He is always helping the needy and downtrodden, and he is always humble and discreet in his actions. Soon however, his very existence is thrown up for grabs with the entrance of the zealot police inspector Javert, who wishes to exert the full force of the law upon Valjean's town, even if it means throwing reformed men into cages like animals for past sins. In more simple terms, Javert is the spirit of the accuser, more aptly described in scripture as Satan.

One day, inspector Javert comes across a wretched prostitute who has just struck a man in self defense. Javert commands his men to have the prostitute thrown in jail. He ignores the prostitute's pleas of mercy and is ruthless with his decision, but in comes Valjean, who exercises his much superior authority and pardons the prostitute. Valjean even goes as far as to medically treat the prostitute when she is dying, and he promises to take care of the prostitute's daughter. This throws Javert and Valjean into a head-on collision course. The eventual unmasking of Valjean as an ex-convict causes Valjean to flee with the prostitute's daughter. But Javert will not stop in his pursuit of justice, and he chases Valjean across the country.

Javert is the personification of the state. He is the state's high priest. His unquenchable desire to uphold the law is revealed to be ancient in origin and, hence, sacrificial. Today, many intellectuals speak of the violence of religion, yet very few speak of the violence of the state. The state is very religious, not many dare to recognize this. It operates through the ancient but effective sacrificial mechanism. Scapegoats, violent and non violent offenders, are routinely thrown into cages by the priesthood; this keeps the state in existence, and the catharsis just balmy enough to contain a full fledged all-against-all war. Valjean, on the other hand, is the Christ imitator. He is a priest of the kingdom of God. He is chained to Christ mimesis, and thus cannot use violence and coercion. His only weapon is the crucified life of Christ.

Whereas Javert does not care about a man's potential to reform, Valjean forgives freely. Javert is the law through coercion while Valjean is the law through imitation. One mercilessly throws human beings into cages and the other turns the cheek. The two are, for obvious reasons, irreconcilable.

Javert is finally able to apprehend his man after years of pursuit, but he realizes the superiority of Valjean's law and concludes that he is made directionless because of Valjean's Christ-man. He realizes the immorality of the state's use of violence and the brutal nature of its prisons where countless men languish and are broken forever. The inspector lets go of his man, and commits suicide, marking the obsolete nature of the state in the presence of a viral Christian mimesis.

To this day, thousands suffer in prison. The state-engineered media will echo the violence committed by people, but it will always downplay the violence of the state. Little is spoken of the widespread rape of offenders in prisons across the world. A man guilty of not paying back loans is just as likely to be raped as the vicious murderer. And all this while under the supervision of the state's priesthood. This is the cold reality of governments everywhere.

The state has always been a continuation of religion; violence and coercion has always been it's ritual sacrifice. But this does not mean that we should rise up and rebel against it in a mimetic manner. Such stupidity is reserved for the Marxists and clueless leftists. God revealed to us what we must do while living under the state. His answer is Jesus. This answer is amplified in Victor's Hugo's Jean Valjean. The ex-convict Valjean shows mercy not only to the victims, but also to the oppressors. His form of justice is restorative and does not require scapegoats. He helps out the workers. He practices benevolence towards those who are unfortunate enough in society. He becomes father and protector to an orphaned girl. And he, on more than one occasion, spares Javert's life.

The life of the fictional Valjean is a mirror image of the divine Savior. His life is an excellent example of how Christians must behave under the tyranny of the state. Only a fool would take the state, which makes full use of the scapegoat mechanism, as a moral agent of society. The true moral agent for mankind is and has always been none other than Jesus Christ, and his imitation, and the viral nature of it, renders all government and religious institutions obsolete.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Persecutor Within Us

'You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye.'

Too many times, we take this particular saying of Jesus and apply it to anyone else but ourselves. This is the problem that confronts us when we read scripture with a self-centered, ideological lens. Judgment is always aimed at the reader's enemy, but benediction is always conveniently bestowed on the reader and reader alone. The outcome of this philosophy is that our own violence is always justified while the violence of the other is the origin itself. This dishonest reading of Jesus' words gives way to mimetic rivalry. Both the envious reader and his opponent mimic each other; one wants the other to 'remove the log for thine own eye,' and in the end, neither remove their respective logs at all!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once remarked that the reader should always read scripture as if God is speaking directly to him/her. The beauty of the above quote by Jesus is that it never works in a third-person setting. If we read the above quote as a third person, we enter into mimeric rivalry. We either start playing the holier-than-thou oppressor or we become the oppressor masquerading as a victim. To fully comprehend what Jesus said, we have to realize that it is we who are the oppressor and accuser. We have to realize that we have been duped by Satan all along, and that we have become Cain, full of resentment and bitterness. In our accusatory spirit we echo killers like Panzram and the Columbine shooters. These people were no different than us. They were full of hatred for humanity. They were full of hatred for being itself. And why wouldn't they be full of hatred? Mass murder is, after all, the endgame of the accusing spirit.

What then can be done about it?

René Girard said, 'Christian conversion is our discovery that we are persecutors without knowing it.' The realization that we can be infinitely more evil than our perceived opponents is the first step. This knowledge should cut to our hearts as it did to the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem. It is our scapegoating tendency that nails Christ to the cross over and over again. Obviously, we, as Christians, would not want to do that.

The second step, knowing full well that we are an imitative species, should be the embracing of a perfect source for imitation. Christ is that perfect source. The gospel is designed in such a way that merely preaching it is far less effective than actually living it. The power of imitation cannot be underestimated. We are far more helpful to our oppressive or victimized brothers and sisters when we imitate Jesus. The Nazarene befriended both the tax collector and the Samaritan woman. He healed both the rich and the poor. He healed and fed whoever that approached him. The reason for Christ's scandalous impartiality is his serving attitude towards all. This serving Christ should be our model in a world of sloganeering and accusatory ideals.

This attitude of humility and servitude (not to be confused with self-flagellation), irrespective of persons, is the call of Christ for today's world of the ideologically possessed. The world has seen enough of people who talk the talk but can't walk the walk. We know that the world is full of suffering and misery. We know that there are tyrants, and we know that the pain will never go away. Hence, we need to live out the crucified life of Christ--a life that is true, beautiful, and good, despite the never ending pain and sorrow. We need to echo Jesus' cry of forgiveness from the cross. At the same time, we must never compromise on the truth; the truth being that scapegoating is no friend of God.

To be able to live the crucified Savior's life depends entirely on our deep realization that we are the Columbine shooters. We are Panzram, and we are the Nazi concentration camp guards in waiting. Carl Jung wrote, "No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell." Let us then remember the depths to which we have fallen, and let us, to the everlasting glory of God, become better angels to ourselves and everyone around us while imitating the man who saved us from drowning in the ocean of accusation.