Sunday, December 02, 2007

Little Drummer Boy

Could the Little Drummer Boy be the most Girardian Christmas animation out there?

Little Drummer Boy Part 1 of 3

Little Drummer Boy Part 2 of 3

Little Drummer Boy Part 3 of 3

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Neo-Conservatism is the Rise of Neo-Paganism

I was reading this article by Glenn Greenwald, and it he unknowingly gives a great Girardian critique of neo-conservative ideology. He states the following:
On a different note, is the curriculum for history classes in some American states restricted to learning about Hitler and the Nazis and 1938 and Hitler and Germany? It must be, because there are many right-wing fanatics whose entire understanding of the world is reduced in every instance to that sole historical event -- as though the world began in 1937, ended in 1945, and we just re-live that moment in time over and over and over:

Love war? You are Churchill, a noble warrior. Oppose war? You're Chamberlain, a vile appeaser. And everyone else is Hitler. That, more or less, composes the full scope of "thought" among this strain on the right.

This is great Girardian analysis, from an obviously non-Girardian. He has really stumbled on the truth of the situation. For Neo-Conservatives World War II was the founding murder. The great collective violence that unified the nation. Neo-conservatism isn't just a political movement it is a pagan religion. It wants to keep repeating this founding, collective and unanimous violence. Their rituals aren't working very well, people are just too skeptical of this new religion, they aren't joining in. So Neo-Conservatives keep rehearsing the ritual, finding new Hitlers, hoping they find someone sufficiently evil to make their rituals, incantations and human sacrifices work. A successful ritual would gather all believers and all dissenters into a cohesive, unified group, focused on the designated evil. Neo-Conservatism is the ideology of the lynch mob, it's this continuing search for an evil that we can all agree on and that we can do away with unanimously. Each event has the same characters, the evil man du jour is Hitler, the Neo-Conservatives are always Churchill and anyone who doesn't believe in these charades are appeasing Chamberlains. Greenwald is right, that's the entirety of Neo-Conservative "thought". World War II has been turned into this mythical event by which all else must be interpreted. This is obviously in stark contrast to Christianity. Christianity holds that the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great interpretive event.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Do They Really Need Another Massive Human Sacrifice?

This is awesome evidence for the contemporary American reality of mimetic theory.

I don't think this yearning, expectation, and hope for another large scale human sacrifice similar to 9/11 is something that's outside of conservative thought. I believe the need for human sacrifice is at the very center of contemporary, Fox News conservatism. They need the power of a televisual spectacle to unite people. They need the blood to flow, so they can feel the love.

They really don't care that much for fighting "terrorism", what they really care about is the unity that comes about after a large scale terrorist attack/human sacrifice. I don't think they're capable of actually conducting the sacrifice themselves so they must rely on the "terrorists" to don the sacrificial mask.

Mr. Bykofsky thesis seems to be that we need continuing human sacrifice to maintain unity and keep internal conflict at bay. We need human sacrifice. Some kind of massive human burnt offering to maintain our unity. He realizes that massive sacrifices, conducted by outside executioners, that unveil an evil that we can all agree on will give us the ability to project our internal disagreements, violence, disunity, psychosis and whatever else may be keeping us from being at one with our neighbor and place these negativities onto an outside other, as we did in Iraq.

There were stories about people celebrating 9/11 and it was understood that those celebrations were conducted by "Islamofascists", but Mr. Bykofsky column puts in doubt the notion that it was only "Islamofascists". Ancient human sacrifices were indeed celebrations, which relieved great stress. We are dealing with a very primitive religion here, a religion of human sacrifice. The greatest threat to American Christianity is Fox News conservatism.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Sick Longing for Massive Destruction

The Iraq War is a conundrum. No one can figure out the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. People from across the political/theological spectrum have put in enormous effort and have set forth the most creative and far-fetched reasons behind the invasion. The WMD thing was plainly bogus from the start. That Saddam was behind 9/11 was just plain ludicrous. The grab for oil was a plausible reason, but definitely not an immediate justification for the invasion of a country and the 100's of billions of dollars thrown away.

The great question remains "Why?". I think we must stop trying to come up with strategic or rational reasons. The pro-war neocons are not rational people, they're ideology is a reversion to the pagan past. A past filled with human sacrifice and witches, of darkness and demons, of pogroms and persecutions.

I read this article by Stu Bykofsky, I don't know who he is and I don't believe the article is satire (you never know anymore). Actually some of the stuff I think is most likely satire usually turns out not to be.

Mr. Bykofsky doesn't believe the human sacrifices of 9/11 and the Iraq War have been sufficient. He thinks Americans are separated from each other, that we don't have any common bonds.

There was a large thread going through the pro-war movement (movement is the wrong word, mostly it was just people sitting in front of their TVs) of this need for unity. Like the whole thing was a big football game. We all had to cheer for the same team, and if you weren't cheering loud enough for our team you must be for the other team.

I'm still not getting to the point I want to make. The conservative movement is obsessed with "Liberals". They can't stand this separation from the "Liberals", they want us all together, all tearing at the same meat. All cheering for the deaths of whoever has been designated by Fox News as the "bad guy(s)". They want to feel the electrifying thrill of unity, of all the differences and barriers falling away, everybody for once playing by their rules, holding their opinions and playing their game. They want to belong to the crowd, the unified crowd. They're sick and tired of confrontation and disagreements, of arguments and conflict. They long for large-scale human sacrifice, some kind of horrific spectacle of human death and destruction that unveils an evil that we can all agree on. That all these happy people doing their own thing will finally feel the anger they feel, that they'll finally have a purpose that they can pursue without being checked by laws or the opinions of others.

They want to stick the sword into somebody and let out the primal scream that cleanses one of low-esteem and loneliness. Instead of it being lonely me and the "them" who thwart me, it can be the beautiful and exhilarating "Us" against the evil "them".

It's the longing to be part of a lynch mob. The freedom to unreservedly thwart whatever you happen to see as evil at that moment. To be around people who wholeheartedly agree with you, who are thinking the same thoughts, who, as the mutilated "evil" lies dead before them, feel all their insecurities and the barriers between individuals dissolve. To stand around the mutilated corpse of a person or a country and finally be able to call the people around them "buddies" and sing some kind of macabre version of "Kum By Yah". To finally have society ordered to their liking.

They long for sacrificed dead bodies and the mob unity that is always found around them. They long for decisive violence and death that clearly delineates good and evil, a human sacrifice that will bring us all together.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mercy Now

This is a great song by Mary Gauthier.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rene Girard on YouTube

Haven't actually listened to this, but certainly seems pretty interesting.

COV&R Conference

The 2007 Colloquium on Violence and Religion conference is coming up in July. The list of abstracts looks pretty interesting, can't wait to read the actual papers. As an extra I'll link to video of Rene Girard's speech Violence, Victims and Christianity.

King Josiah

The latest scholarship and research seems to show that King Josiah had an enormous influence on Biblical history. This is related to our recent discussion on Achan, because it seems that Joshua in the Book of Joshua was actually a not-so-well disguised projection of King Josiah. King Josiah instituted sweeping reforms and the Book of Joshua seems to be propaganda for those reforms. Margaret Barker, though not dealing with Joshua or the politics re the Book of Joshua, has a great speech on the the symbolic reforms of King Josiah. What Did King Josiah Reform?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Forgiving Victim

James Alison's visit to the House of Mercy was very formative in my Christian theological developement. Quite possibly the best sermon I've ever witnessed, Staggered Vision. Anyway, he seems to be conducting a class in London. I suggest to run, not walk to it.

The Iraq War Did Not Take Place?

I think it was Baudrillard who said the first Gulf War did not take place. Well I think it's my contention that the current Gulf War isn't really a war, but that it's some kind of post-modern, international atonement ritual. An attempt on the macro-level to revive the primitive schemes and forms of collective/mob murder. It was an attempt to restore confidence in the voice of the mob. Anyway, I came across this today, I think the remarks of right-wing pundit Dick Morris are relevant to our discussions on the atonement and scapegoating. Mr. Morris asserts,
MORRIS: I think that withdrawal from Iraq — it obviously gives al Qaeda a huge victory. Huge victory. On the other hand, if we stay in Iraq, it gives them the opportunity to kill more Americans, which they really like.

One of the things, though, that I think the antiwar crowd has not considered is that, if we’re putting the Americans right within their arms’ reach, they don’t have to come to Wall Street to kill Americans. They don’t have to knock down the trade center. They can do it around the corner, and convenience is a big factor when you’re a terrorist.
There it is the atonement theme of someone else supposedly dying for us, dying so that we don't have to, regardless of whether paranoia/lies form the basis of the belief in the supposed need for the sacrifice.

Richard Koenigsberg has been doing some great work re the sources of war and genocide.

In the atonement ritual are two goats. One goat which was Azazel, somehow synonymous with evil/Satan/the Devil, was led outside the city of the walls and thrown over a cliff. The other goat which was Yahweh was killed in front of the people and the blood brought into the temple to repair creation and bind the people together and cover the people from the violence of other members of the community.

So in the Iraq war we have two sets of people, two sacrificial classes. The first class is comprised of the Iraqi people. They, from the perspective of the persecutors in the ritual, correspond to the Azazel goat, they represent evil and are unceremoniously killed outside the camp. All sin is laid on the Azazel goat, making us into innocents.

This is all from the American perspective. The Yahweh goat corresponds to the American soldiers. From Koenigsberg,
According to Marvin, “The community celebrates and reveres its insiders turned outsiders. From within the boundaries, the community fears and worships these outsiders it consumes to preserve its life.” Soldiers are celebrated, revered and worshipped because they (like Christ) take the sacrificial burden upon themselves. They are the designated victims who are required to suffer—and perhaps to die—for other members of the group. The soldier is an “insider turned outsider,” member of the community who has been thrust outward from within the nation’s boundaries in order to do battle over there—on foreign soil.
He asserts that we delegate the execution of our soldiers to our enemies.
War as a unifier of the national community works best when people are able to avert their eyes from the sight of the victims; when they don’t have to look closely at what happens to the bodies of soldiers. People enjoy the idea of war, but would prefer to participate at a distance. They would rather not see the maimed bodies. Sight of a soldier’s mutilated body drains warfare of its glory.
Jesus in the Gospels represents both goats in the atonement. He is Yahweh who is killed in front of the people, but He is also the Azazel goat which is led outside the walls carrying the sins of the people, carrying the violence and dissension of the people and thrown over the cliff. The Yahweh goat is a substitute for the High Priest who also represents Yahweh. The goat is a substitute for the High Priest, so the High Priest can be resurrected in the Holy of Holies and walk out of the temple raised from the dead. The atonement ritual is a unifier, it disguises the violence done to Yahweh and the scapegoat. Jesus making the ritual come alive in history shows that it is the mob that is actually killing the Yahweh goat which is the substitute for the High Priest.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Lovers in a Dangerous Time from Bruce Cockburn and a cover from Barenaked Ladies.

Stonings and Sin Laid on Innocent People

I've been discussing the stoning/murder of Achan so this post over at Metafilter caught my attention. It's almost astounding that collective, lynch mob murders, in their most barbaric/primitive, most raw form still take place in our world today. This isn't the highly mediated lynch mob of the Iraq war, where people sat around their TVs watching Fox News waiting for "Shock and Awe" to start, this is a story of a group people picking up stones and brutally murdering a young girl to uphold some kind of order or unity. I know for certain, without really knowing anything about the situation that this girl is not guilty, that this girl surrounded by a group of murderers, bloody, dying a horrific death, for supposedly breaking some kind of "law" is a scapegoat. The same kind of "law" that Achan supposedly broke. As a commenter at Metafilter, speaking of another stoning, said "...all that was left was a mutilated body slumped over. It looked like an animal rather than a human. It was savage and nauseating." It's obvious that this girl is a scapegoat, but it should also be obvious with Achan, I understand that he is our scapegoat, but by the 20th century we should be able to understand that Achan is a scapegoat in the same way that this girl and Jesus were scapegoats.

I'm sure the people who were involved in this lynching were quite happy with themselves. They had punished an evil-doer. They felt very close to each other, they felt very good about each other. United in a job well done. I'm reminded of this photo from a Duluth, Minnesota lynching, it's a very graphic, disgusting and as the Metafilter commenter said, "savage and nauseating", but this is the way the crowd looked as it stood around Achan's dead body and the mutilated bodies of his children. Here's the photo (rated graphic and disgusting, but it's from the Minnesota Historical Society site). The people standing around the mutilated bodies, posing for the camera, thinking they delivered some kind of justice. This is the way all lynch mobs look. This is the way the people around Achan looked, this is the way the people around Jesus looked, this the way the people around Stephen looked, this is the way lynch mobs look. They all look happy and sure of themselves, because so many others around them look happy and sure of themselves. They all believe in the guilt of their scapegoat and in their own righteousness and goodness. You must remember that we Americans aren't very far removed from scenes like the above. That photo was from 1920's Duluth, Minnesota.

The mob feels a tremendous amount of unity after a lynching. It feels to them as if a god has blessed them with peace and unity. This is the foundation of all primitive religion. Religion begins around the body of a dead lynch mob victim. The community in world-ending crisis one minute and the next after they have united to kill a transgressor falls under an indescribable peace. Gods and religions are formed in this unity and peace around a dead body. The thing with Christianity though, some one speaks up, before or after the lynching and says, "this person is/was not guilty". This destroys everything, this is the sword that Jesus brings, because people will retaliate and seek revenge on the murderers if they don't believe the victim was guilty. So it's either endless reciprocal/retributive violence or people with broken and repentant hearts putting a stop to it. The Gospels destroy the idea that the scapegoat is guilty and the lynch mob is innocent and righteous.

The Gospels make a big deal about Peter denying Jesus. Peter was not able to separate himself from the crowd. He still believed the crowd had all authority, that the crowd was the voice of Yahweh. Even Pilate was not able to resist the lynch mob. The Gospels tell us that everybody was involved in the lynching of Jesus, all institutions, all people, even the disciples were not able to resist the lynch mob. They were all lost in the flood of violence that had rained down on earth and crushed Jesus. It wasn't until Jesus returned, forgiving them that they were able to resist the narrative of the lynch mob and begin telling another story about Jesus. Stephen became the first martyr by trying to tell the story, by proclaiming Jesus' innocence.

Rene Girard in The Scapegoat said, "The Gospels constantly reveal what the texts of historical persecutors, and especially mythological persecutors, hide from us: the knowledge that their victim is a scapegoat...".

Achan and the Crucifixion of Jesus

The next step is to lay out the argument that there is no essential difference between the mob lynching of Achan and the crucifixion of Jesus. In the despicable mob lynching of Achan and his family there is still the belief that the insane and ravenous mob, who the Psalms describe as packs of dogs, or herds of bulls or the "strong beasts of Bashaan", is murdering these isolated individuals in the service of Yahweh. Structurally the Gospel narratives and the Achan story are the same. The only difference is that the Gospels destroy the idea that the mob is killing the isolated victim in the service of Yahweh. The mob still thinks they're doing the service of Yahweh by killing Jesus, but in fact they're killing Yahweh himself. The mob is completely wrong, they literally do not know what they are doing. The mob that killed Achan was also operating under false assumptions, they thought Achan caused the defeat at Ai, but Achan could not return from the dead to tell them that they were wrong. Jesus came back from the dead, his voice was not extinguished by that of the mob. The mob's narrative was no longer the sole story. Jesus was speaking, and was now speaking with the full glory of Yahweh. He comes to Paul, the man who was continuing to murder the body of Christ, and says, not "why don't you believe in me?", but "Why are you persecuting me?". Jesus/Yahweh confronts Paul with the light of Genesis 1:3, the light of the holy of holies, and shows him that he does not know what he is doing. That Paul is not serving Yahweh by being part of the lynch mob, but in fact is killing Yahweh, the god he purportedly serves. This sudden revelation literally blinds him. Now the certainty that comes in the total, all-engulfing unity of the mob falls apart, Paul is created as a man by Yahweh. Paul is no longer part of the flood of violence that continues to kill Yahweh and his servants.

During the atonement ritual the blood Yahweh was spread throughout the temple the left over blood, though, was poured underneath the altar. In Revelation 6:9 this blood is shown to be the souls of the martyrs. The death of the martyrs are included in the atonement death of Jesus, they are assumed to be part of the great atonement.

In John 20:21–23 Jesus breathed into the disciples, as Yahweh breathed into Adam in Genesis. "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" The word translated "forgive" also means to bear. He is telling is disciples to forgive/bear the sins of others. He is creating them as high priests, as Adam was a high priest, He is telling them to do what Achan did involuntarily, what the servant in Isaiah 53 did, what Jesus himself did, to bear the sins of others. To carry the sins of others so that the people will not destroy themselves, so that they will be transformed, so that they will be created in the same way the disciples were created when Jesus/Yahweh breathed into them and gave them the Holy Spirit, and gave them the ability to no longer conform to the mob, but to conform to Jesus. Jesus in the Gospels is creating the World. He is calming the flood waters which are the murderous crowd.

In Matthew 23:35 Jesus compares his death to all the other murders and mob lynchings in the Old Testament from the first to the last.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Easter Eyes

This is a great insight, a very succinct theological summary from S. Mark Heim and the Grow Mercy blog.

The Achan Story - Addendum

In my rush to finish up last night before bed time I forgot a couple important details in the conclusion.

In Chapter 8 Joshua goes against Ai again. You would think that since it was Achan's fault that the first attack failed on Ai Joshua wouldn't really need to change strategy. It wasn't the strategy that caused the defeat it was Achan stealing the loot, but that's not how Joshua sees things. He knows it was a strategic failure and that he violated God's commandments re leading all of Israel into battle. So this time Joshua does in fact lead all the newly reunited Israel into battle, he doesn't sit back and let just a small contingent do the dirty work.

The second interesting thing is that in 8:2 he immediately rescinds the ban, now it ain't so bad to have privatized loot.

The first attack ended with the human sacrifice of Achan, the second attack ended with subdued animal sacrifice.

Chickamauga by Uncle Tupelo

I love this video.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Achan Story

Jericho was decimated. Except for Rahab and her family, every living thing within the walls was killed. They burnt the city with fire, all men, woman, children and any unborn babies were burned alive, but before destroying the city and all the lives in it, Joshua, as verse 6:24 tells us, hauls out all the silver, the gold, the vessels of brass and iron to keep in the Lord’s treasury. Joshua was feeling pretty good about himself, in Joshua 6:27 it says his fame was noised throughout all the country. Joshua could feel the power, he could feel the fear emanating from the neighboring peoples.

Joshua, as the text hints, is feeling a might bit of pride. He immediately wants to continue his victories, so he sends some spies out to check out the city of Ai. Presumably the spies tell him that because our army is so tough and you are such a great leader Joshua it won’t take much to smite little old Ai.

Joshua, still partying and enjoying his victory and new found fame, doesn’t find it necessary to send a full force of people to conquer Ai, he doesn’t even find it necessary to go himself. He sends a small contingent of men to labor in the battlefields of Ai. The soldiers are probably wondering why do they have to go and do this harsh duty while everybody else gets to stay back and continue the party. Joshua is probably even showing off all the loot in the treasury to the better connected people. Joshua like any proud man is sure that Ai will fall at the very mention of his name. He is convinced that the people Ai will start running as soon they see Joshua’s army.

The soldiers know something isn’t right. Joshua isn’t coming with them. They remember the words of Numbers 27:15-21, Joshua is supposed to go out before them and Joshua is supposed to lead them back in, not some just a small contingent of them, but all of Israel.

The predictable happens, the soldiers without their leader pretty much turn tail and run at the slightest sign of resistance. A small number of them are killed. Joshua is not there to lead them. If Joshua doesn’t consider it important enough to be on the battlefield they don’t think it is either. They want to get back and take a look at all that loot in the treasury too, to sit back and bask in the victory at Jericho a little longer, just like their leader Joshua.

Word gets back to camp that the army has been beaten, beaten bad, humiliated even. Joshua and all the elders immediately get all dramatic. Something bad has happened and they, of course still full themselves, know that it’s not their fault. They will blame somebody else. He immediately starts blaming the soldiers for the defeat, and they’re thinking, well Joshua it’s not really our fault you were supposed to be out there with us. Our buddies and brothers have been killed because you stayed home and didn’t send an adequate force. Joshua doesn’t immediately sense the anger being directed at him, he’s more worried about how he will be perceived by the Caananites.

Israel is in crisis, Joshua tells them that this defeat means that Yahweh is no longer with them. Joshua threatens them with looming destruction. The people are scared, angry at Joshua, angry at one another, actual internecine violence may be taking place, recrimination and blame are circulating. Joshua, to deflect criticism of himself, tells them that the only possible cause of the defeat is the sin of the people. Someone has taken the accursed thing, and that is the only reason that Israel was defeated. Forget all the strategic considerations, sin is the reason for the defeat. The story only names Achan as the transgressor, but it also says that all Israel sinned. This might seem contradictory, but I can see how people might reconcile the two statements, but that’s not all we have to consider, verse 8:2 says, after all the commotion in verse 7 about the accursed thing, that after Ai it is OK to take the plunder and accursed thing. I’ll use this little detour to lay the basis for my belief that Achan was not the only one in the story that was in possession of the accursed thing.

Joshua thinks he has discovered the cause of defeat, and of course it isn’t him. It is one person, only one person. To accuse more will more only cause greater dissension. He already knows who will be blamed for the defeat, it’s definitely not him or any of the elders. It will be someone who cannot fight back, and more importantly it will be someone who is isolated, weak and unattractive, with no one to defend him or become his advocate. There is no advocate for the defense in this story, the voice of the victim/scapegoat will be almost totally crushed. (Unlike Isaiah 53, many Psalms, Job and the Gospels)

Because of all the dissension/retributive violence/fear/guilt in the community Joshua decides to conduct an Atonement ritual. Atonement literally means “At one ment”. The goal of all atonement rituals is to unite the people. This idea of atonement, this idea of a scapegoat ritual, is not just common in primitive communities, it is nearly universal. The Greek pharmakos immediately comes to mind. The idea of all atonement rituals is for the sin/dissension/violence of all the people to be transferred to a scapegoat/pharmakos. (we see the pharmokos ritual in the New Testament in Luke 4:28-30, there was nothing magical about Jesus walking through the crowd, in the pharmakos ritual no one person was designated as the executioner, the people couldn’t touch the pharmakos, they just kept crowding around him until he jumped off the cliff of his own accord, but Jesus had nothing to do with this, his desires were not in accordance with the mob, so he just walked right out between them. Keep this in mind when Achan makes his confession)

Joshua isn’t searching for justice, he will be running an atonement ritual. He wants to remove the fear/violence/sin from the community. He needs to designate one person to do this. He tells the people that he will use the Urim and Thummin to find the wrongdoer. He lines them all up, a lot of people are worried because they have loot at home, maybe by this time though they were smart enough to get rid of it. He makes it clear that the person who he designates is guilty of causing the defeat at Ai. That this person, not Joshua, is guilty of causing the deaths of their loved ones, for causing all the internal dissension and for causing the shadow of destruction to hang over them. These are serious crimes that affect everybody. A logical disconnect here, of course, but mobs and people in crisis aren’t really concerned with logic. How does the privatization of a small amount of loot, especially if the possession of said loot is not common knowledge, bring about a military defeat.

So the atonement ritual begins, one by one, in great fear, they approach Joshua. One by one Joshua forgives their sin, he pronounces them not guilty, and as the ritual sin bearer he absorbs their sin. Joshua frees the people of their sin, this is a very intense situation. There is a lot of anger here, the people are waiting to unload. Joshua is going to deliver them a scapegoat and it’s not going to be him.

The ugly despised and isolated Achan is chosen and Joshua discharges the sin upon him. Joshua is a substitute for all the people, he has absorbed their sin and Achan becomes the substitute for Joshua and accordingly becomes the substitute for all the people, the doom that was to befall them now will befall Achan and only Achan. At this juncture in the story I’m going to assume, even though there are differing opinions, that no one brings up Deuteronomy 19:15. That no one brings up the fact that it is Joshua who was gone astray, because he has forgotten that a man’s guilt can be proved only through two witnesses, not through the Urim and Thummin. That no one brings up the fact that Joshua wasn’t subject to the ritual.

So Achan is taken out by the angry and delirious mob and murdered. Not only Achan though, but his whole family, his sons and daughters. His sons and daughters were not guilty, but Joshua didn’t want them around to bring up doubts about Achan’s guilt later on.

Achan is a scapegoat, just like Jesus. Achan wasn’t a perfect man, but he was innocent of the charges that were made against him. Achan was not killed because he had some loot, he was killed, in Caiaphas’s words, because it was better that one man die than the whole nation be destroyed. The murder of Achan by the collective caused the community to be “At-One” again. Achan in this story is a precursor or an expectation of the Christ figure. Achan became the bond of the convenant. The murder of Achan was what kept the people together. The New Testament, of course, condemns this idea of “At-One-Ment” at the expense of an isolated individual.

One more thing at the end here. Jesus is the good shepherd, He leads them in and out, he doesn’t lose any of his sheep, he doesn’t scapegoat any of them. Joshua can’t say the same.

One more thing, almost immediately after the homicidal rage that consumes Achan is quenched, while the people may still be covered with the “At-One-Ment” blood of Achan, Joshua lifts the ban. Peace has returned, but it is the peace of the world, not the peace of Yahweh, it is the peace born from unanimous hatred of a supposed evildoer, which Rene Girard has found to be the foundation of all pagan religions.

I realize that there are a lot of themes here that need further expansion, but I’m only a lowly blogger.

Achan and the Distortion of Desire Part III

Rene Girard says the tenth commandment term “covet” means “desire”, in this excerpt he discusses the idea of mimetic desire. I think what he says can be summarized, at least partially, in this way. If we do not follow the proscriptions laid out in the second half of the ten commandments we are in danger of being created in the image of our neighbor. If we become doubles of our neighbor we will be desiring the same things, not just the same things, we will desire to become our neighbor, and if we follow the progression in the second half of the ten commandments this will result in murder.

Important Additional Readings:


Satan and Scandal

Distortion of Desire

Scapegoat for the World

Achan and Atonement Part II

The Law in Joshua 7 serves not to keep people together, but to exclude. There’s a juxtaposition between the Achan story and the story of Rahab, who is part of the story of Jericho. Rahab, because she was not an Israelite should have been subject to the “ban”. She should have been murdered along with her family and the rest of the Jerichoites, but Rahab and her family were allowed to live. Joshua, apparently setting aside the legislation of Deuteronomy 20:16-18, allows Rahab, the prostitute, and her family to live. Rahab had submitted to and pledged allegiance to Joshua’s war machine. Rahab was the ultimate “outsider”, but because she surrendered to Joshua’s will she became an “insider”. Achan, was an “insider”, he had the correct lineage, but because he did not completely submit to the will of Joshua, he made himself an “outsider”.

The stories of Rahab and Achan were used to create boundaries and norms. Those who voluntarily submitted to the Law would become or remain “insiders”. Those who transgressed the Law would become “outsiders”. The punishment for being an outsider was death. The story of Achan was directed at the “insiders”, warning them that if they transgressed the Law or didn’t follow the dictates of whoever was the central authority at that time they could be subject to the death penalty. This text is intended to coerce people into submission by using the threat of homicidal violence.

I think this text is about more than just the Law and the penalties for breaking the law, or in Rahab’s case the advantages of following the Law . Breaking the Law, if those transgressions are allowed to run their full course will inevitably result in death, the actual, real world deaths of the transgressor and most likely the real world deaths of others. Most likely the death of others first, and then the death of the transgressors. The second half of the ten commandments is entirely concerned with forestalling violence. It shows that even small transgressions, if not somehow prevented from running their full course will implacably end in homicide. You shall not covet, meaning you shall not be envious of your neighbor, of either your neighbor’s possessions or your neighbors “being”. You shall not bear false witness, I think could mean you shall not project your negative beliefs and will to violence onto your neighbor. You shall not steal, I guess this means your neighbor’s possessions or your neighbor’s “being”. You shall not commit adultery, becoming directly entangled in rivalrous relations with your neighbor. Finally, the result of all these smaller sins is murder. “Thou shalt not kill”. An immediate modern example of this downward spiral is in marital relations that end in murder, I think if you look closely at some of these spousal murder cases, they follow this trajectory. So following the Law is very important, because in the end it will prevent the killing of your neighbor or neighbors.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I haven’t really written anything recently, so I gotta warm myself up and get those brain cells pumping (or whatever brain cells do) again. I want to write about the Atonement, but it’s such a large subject and there’s so much to explain and go over I don’t know where to begin. So to get myself going, I think I’m just going to rewrite, reorganize so old stuff. I think my best stuff so far has been the posts re Achan. So I think that’s where I will begin.

Achan and Atonement

The story of Achan in Joshua 7 is an atonement ritual. Caiaphas explained the basis of all atonement rituals in John 11:49-50, “…that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

The Achan story is about a crisis, all scapegoating rituals arise from tumult and societal disintegration. Achan in this story is a scapegoat. Achan is an atonement sacrifice, given by Joshua to the people, or a better description would be the rapidly forming mob.

As I’m reading commentaries on this story, I sense this, I don’t know, dichotomy, between the Law and what Jesus and the New Testament are trying to explain. The Deuteronomists want us to believe it is the Law that holds things together. That by obeying the Law, following the dictates of the Law, our group, culture, tribe, society or whatever community will not collapse in a spiral of jealousy, rivalry and ultimately uncontrollable violence and retributive murder. The Law formed the bonds of society. It’s what kept everybody together. It was Yahweh’s Law that kept society together, not Yahweh himself, thus the idea that if you transgress the Law you would be offending Yahweh. Violations of the Law would bring divine punishment. You get the idea of the wrath of God falling upon the sinner. Transgressions and trangressors of the Law must be expelled. Law-breakers must pay. Atonement becomes the removal of sin.

In Numbers 27:15-21 Moses asks God for a man to lead Israel,

17Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

And God says, his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.

In this story Joshua, who also can be called Jesus, is not a Good Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus states that He is the Good Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus begins discussing the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate was what the sacrificial sheep passed through on their way to the altar. Like Joshua in this story, Jesus says that some sacrifice the sheep without entering through the gate. Unlike Joshua, Jesus will lay down his life for his sheep, and not only that, but the sheep themselves will be given the courage to follow him into the sacrificial machinery and be led to and from pasture. I definitely haven’t made it clear yet, and probably won’t for a long time, Jesus will say that He is the bond of creation, not the Law. It is not the Law that will draw all men together, but Jesus when He enters the sacrificial machinery of society and is lifted up.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Sermon from James Alison and the Wrath of God

This is quite simply a miraculous sermon by James Alison. I shouldn't heap too much praise on him, but he may be one the clearest thinking theologians out there. This is a discussion re the Parable of the Vineyard and it he gives a pretty good definition of what the wrath of God actually is. "The wrath is coming in a form which you do not recognize. It's coming in the form of the Lord who is the Son, because Joseph was both the Lord and the Son, and it's as the one who is cast out, that the Lord is coming, and actually being the cast out one, being the victim before whom you might be put to shame is a far harder coming than the wrathful one which John the Baptist imagined. Because it means that you all will have to stand before that one and be ashamed in order to look upon the one whom you have pierced."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Might Be Back

It's been a while. I'm just going to brainstorm some topics.

1. Is the Genesis Creation story a foretelling of the life and passion of Jesus Christ?

2. Is the Easter story a story about the creation of the world?

3. Is the world created at the crucifixion of Jesus?

4. Does the Genesis Creation story correspond to the Day of Atonement?

5. Why do adherents to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory insist on a vengeful god?

6. Why does Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory fit so well with consumerist society?

7. Is it a coincidence that the rise of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory corresponds to the rise of consumerist society?

8. Why does the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory maintain that there is basically no consequence to sin other than that it makes "God" angry. I believe PSA fundamentally misunderstands the nature of God.

9. Why does PSA deny the idea of human wrath and human violence?

That's all right now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Uncle Tupelo

Found this old Uncle Tupelo footage.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Yahweh and U2

I like how this video pretty much says that Jesus and Yahweh are one and the same. The eyes of Jesus are the eyes of Yahweh. Jesus was the god of the Old Testament. Jesus created the world. Jesus was Yahweh incarnate. Yahweh was the Son of God.