Recently Patrick Coffin released on YouTube and his website an interview with Gil Bailie recorded in the Fall of 2019. For those who know and follow our work the 80 minute interview offers a kind of primer as Patrick Coffin asks Gil to help him and those unfamiliar with the work of René Girard get a toe hold on mimetic theory and the history and breadth of Girard’s influence.
It is encouraging to see a growing awareness among Christians of the relevance of Girard’s work. However, as secular intellectual and social movements in the West move more intentionally toward a post-Christian (some say even anti-Christian) milieu, the specifically Christian sources and associations in mimetic theory tend to be either ignored or expurgated.
Our efforts over the past decade to provide a bridge between the Catholic theological tradition and mimetic theory have largely focused on making this connection explicit. While we believe there is a fundamental link between the Christian gospel and mimetic theory, not all students of mimetic theory see this. Girard himself, while acknowledging its Biblical sources, did not consider his theory to be a Christian apologia but emphasized its scientific basis. The mimetic hypothesis can be viewed as a tool which is useful in various applications. There are students of Girard’s work who provide unique perspectives on various fields of study from economics to brain science without any reference to Christian faith. On one level mimetic theory provides a diagnostic tool for the understanding of human relations and the origins of human culture. That one of the universal components of culture is religion (and in its earliest manifestations – religions of blood sacrifice) is one of mimetic theory’s most banal insights. That the Paschal drama of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the source of the West’s relentless quest to find innocent victims to defend has been extraordinary and transformative.
Perhaps the unease some people experience as our Judeo-Christian heritage disappears over the horizon motivates them to look for ways to understand this situation. To see, on one hand the alphabetic confusion of sexual identities and gender fluidity as a crisis of distinctions and on the other hand, the West’s secular hostility to expressions of Christian virtue as ‘the Gospel casting out the Gospel’ may clarify the dynamics but does not address the dysfunction. Girard never suggested that his work could or would result in a world of less rivalry and conflict. On the contrary, as Gil Bailie has noted, especially for those who are resistant to sacramental grace exposure to mimetic theory may only make them more adept at the multifarious ‘games people play’.