A California Yankee in Innsbruck

The Colloquium on Violence and Religion’s 2019 conference is winding up what seems to have recently become its annual attempt to distance itself from René Girard’s Christian and Catholic sensibilities.

That this is done in the name of Girard’s understanding of the role of scapegoating violence in the human cultural enterprise is not surprising as most of the participants come from academic institutions where the heritage of the (Judeo-Christian) West with its colonialist past of enslaving and expropriating peoples and lands of the non-western world is not just studied but recounted as a kind of mantra in an effort to inoculate themselves against what they perceive as the pernicious hegemonic influences that have produced the horrors of the current western world’s incipient fascist immigrant fearing climate change deniers.

I am grateful for the important work scholars here have done in documenting the suffering of those caught up in the upheavals of violence and starvation that have in recent years precipitated some of the massive movements of peoples from their native lands to the comparative safety and abundance of Europe and America. The desire to alleviate such suffering is not the exclusive purview of Christians, but it is certainly one of the duties of every Christian who wants to follow Christ. I only pray that those who feel free to make use of Girard’s mimetic hypothesis to explicate the perversity of our human propensity to find someone to blame for our problems would appreciate, as Girard did, how our relationship to the cross of Christ is the lens through which, in the West, we perceive the suffering we see around us.

I have been greatly encouraged by young scholars I’ve met here whose faith has informed their study of Girard’s mimetic theory. Their work deserves our support and prayers as they will become, with God’s help, the impetus to heal and strengthen the Church as she travels its penitential and purgatorial path through our world and into the future where few things are certain…that there will be suffering is one of them.

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