Archive for the ‘Mimetic Theory’ Category

Moral Encouragement and Housecleaning

by Dean Hansen

Tolstoy

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life”.  — Leo Tolstoy

Over the past year, Gil Bailie has expelled eight or ten bloggers from The Cornerstone Forum because they had the effrontery to try engaging him and each other in … conversation! All were serious and respectful, all had read his book as well as the works of his mentor, René Girard, and most were Catholics.

In the latest iteration of his housecleaning announcement, Mr. Bailie again complains that his illustrious project is being subverted by those who (a) ask vexing questions, (b) express opinions contrary to his own, (c) correct errors of fact, (d) expose logical fallacies, (e) think for themselves, and (f) fail to show strict and unswerving allegiance to the Catholic magisterium. He accuses these responders of “carping,” which he defines in part as continuously finding fault about trivial matters.

I have rarely seen anyone raise trivial concerns at The Cornerstone Forum.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bailie seems convinced he is beseiged by provocateurs determined to take potshots at the Catholic Church. When his critics complain about his dismissal of them, he ridicules them for believing themselves to be “martyrs in the cause of free expression.”

With that in mind, his idea of giving what he calls “moral encouragement” and credal succor to whoever remains apparently consists of:

  • Being tirelessly obsessed with and burdened by the approaching fall of Western Civilization (still pending), which will succumb to the forces of secular liberalism, particularly women’s liberation and gay rights.
  • Reminding his readers every day that the world has sunk into apostasy, depravity, decline, fecklessness, calumny, demographic death spirals, nihilism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, Marxism, and of course, “anthropological recklessness” whatever the hell that is.
  • SinkholeRepudiating and distancing himself from everything that could be possibly be construed as human, because being human means having the freedom to make choices that are not sanctioned by the Church. This apparently is what the groaning attempt at sainthood means to him. After all, every chuck hole is a pit, every stumble is a fall, every violation is an abomination.
  • Reminding people that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by scientists and their progressive, liberal, post-modern, agenda-driven secular brethren. In an effort to avoid confronting reality at all costs, he must treat any scientific theory that threatens his world view as a conspiracy.
  • Deploring the banality of evil. The culture of evil. The evil that men do. The evil that men are. The evil that men pretend not to do while doing the evil which other men, equally evil, approve of simply because they’re not as acquainted with it as he is.

Sexual Disorientation

  • Calling homosexuals intrinsically evil, and thus creating enmity between different groups of people based on their sexual orientation. (Is this the aforementioned “anthropological recklessness?”)
  • Assaulting women’s rights and condemning women who resort to abortion. Rejecting alternative forms of birth control that would render abortion largely unnecessary.

anti-abortion-politician-photo-u1

  • Conflating freedom with Marxist ideology and insinuating that liberty only works when it’s constrained by restrictive dogma that is utterly intolerant of individual initiative or personal conscience.
  • Converting the words “secularism” and “liberalism” into expletives, and suggesting that those who embrace these concepts in part or in whole are “tolerance vigilantes” suffering from “moral relativism” in a “multicultural” world under a “libertine regime,” who not only espouse a particular world view that is automatically destructive of and dismissive of anything that falls outside of it, but are somehow forcing him to be tempted against his will to the dark side through a slow and steady subversion of his “principles.”
  • Declaring that hate is a shameful passion to be shunned, but that intolerance, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, sexual panic, denialism and paranoia are somehow acceptable substitutes.
  • Throwing Girardian terminology around while ignoring its principles.
  • Showing scant patience for anyone who questions the rigid and unbending doctrine he’s embraced to protect himself from a world he seemingly despises, and for which the savior he claims to love died.

The cost of vengeanceIn two concurrent posts he managed to scold the White House administration, Western Europeans in general, the Germans specifically, liberalism in general, liberal Jews specifically, Chicago politics, community organizer Saul Alinsky, those unnamed souls who are responsible for the death of marriage, British writers, “the Gentry” (whatever that still is), sexuality—both hetero and homo (a constant)—paganism, ecologists, British conservatives, birth rates (too low), immigration rates (too high), euthanasia, and cremation.  A minimum of 18 targets in two posts. Add a gloating little finale about Van Jones and suddenly it’s high noon in epiphany-ville!

Remember. This is a list of moral encouragements.  Designed to lift the spirits of his followers, I would guess.

In summation, Gil Bailie of late has sadly become to Christian theology what credit default swaps, predatory lending and junk mortgages are to the economy. He does for moral encouragement what Anthony Comstock* did for the public mails.

In the words of Peter Gomes, “Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert. It is dangerous, especially in America, because it is anti-democratic and is suspicious of ‘the other,’ in whatever form that ‘other’ might appear. To maintain itself, fundamentalism must always define ‘the other’ as deviant.” 

In keeping with his various stated views, Mr. Bailie seems to tacitly embrace the idea that “God” is a person who can only be approached when you cease being a person yourself. He proclaims against his own witness that he knows precious little about human nature, but more than is humanly possible about God’s nature.  Gil claims to be a teacher, but is impatient with “students” and resents being taught by others.  He seems mostly devoid of humor, frightened of change, afraid of the future, and either resentful or overly trusting of the past.

He has made a meager reputation for himself by being obsessed with the sins of others, especially those that Jesus never mentioned: homosexuality, sodomy, oral sex, transvestitism, sex reassignment, amniocentesis, sperm banks, masturbation, stem cell research, cloning, genetic manipulation, teenage pregnancy, and abortion. Any attempt to have a conversation about these subjects is muted into oblivion.

He once said that the worst crimes are committed by men who feel unforgiven. How then can anyone who feels ostracized or marginalized by the Church as he defines it ever hope to feel forgiven? The best way to treat homosexuality is to stop treating it not as something outside of human experience, but as part of the miraculous energy of God’s creation. The Biblical idea that homosexuals are sinners because their sexuality is somehow depraved, or outside the range of human experience, is absurd.  To scapegoat or repudiate a whole class of people because they seek to express their need for love in stable same-sex relationships or to be married like other people who love each other is simply wrong.

The Bible on which the church claims to base its authority is not inerrant, and never was. It’s not an instruction manual or the equivalent of an automotive handbook on how to live your life or toot your horn. And if you try to live your life by it exclusively, you will crash.

spanish_InquisitionMr. Bailie has stated in a moment of faux transparency, “…I often ask myself, and I am sometimes asked by my friends, why I allow myself to be distracted by the passing lunacies of the present age.” The self-flattery is almost as clumsy as the unintended hathos.

The time has come to reconsider those “passing lunacies.” Mr. Bailie has said that without Christ he can do nothing. Perhaps it’s time to recast those negatives as affirmations: with Christ, he can do something that isn’t harmful, self-serving, or trite. Or, in the words of Lao Tzu, “It’s better to do nothing than to be busy doing nothing.”

From distinguished antiquity to anthropological nonsense

by Doughlas Remy

(This is a continuation of my previous post, just below, in which I am responding to Gil Bailie’s untitled post of 6/28/13 on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. [TCF])

Gil Bailie writes:

Pope Red PradaA few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this FB Page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious. These critics are unlikely to be convinced otherwise when shown that these opinions and perspectives are shared, not only by the Church to which I belong and to which I intend to remain loyal, but also by the greatest theological and philosophical minds of recent memory, including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph Pieper, Henri de Lubac, John XXIII, Paul IV, John Paul II and Pope Francis, to name but a few. These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.

Those who consider the distinguished antiquity of these principles as proof of their contemporary uselessness, and who therefore regard those who adhere to them as mean-spirited Neanderthals and moral dullards, often use the comments section of the Cornerstone Forum FB Page to let fly entirely predictable salvos of contempt. When reminded that our purpose here is not to argue with those who do not share our perspective but to be of use to those who do, howls of protest arise. And when, in exasperation, we refuse to allow this Page to become a bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses, their authors enjoy the satisfaction of believing themselves to be martyrs in the cause of free expression.

They are as welcome to believe that as they are to believe all the rest of what they believe. I bear them no ill-will, but they will have to find other venues for propagating ideas that, though wildly popular among Lady Gaga Liberals, evince rather than seriously address the civilizational crisis that is upon us.

Mr. Bailie says his purpose here is “not to argue,” and yet he presents several arguments to refute criticisms of TCF’s principles and assumptions. He might more accurately have written that his purpose here is “not to tolerate counter-arguments.”

The first of his arguments—the appeal to authority—is in fact Mr. Bailie’s first line of defense, and its logic goes something like this: “Our opinions are highly respectable because they are shared by our church and by certain theologians and philosophers that we happen to hold in very high esteem.” Mr. Bailie apparently sees no need for further discussion of any of these opinions, since their definitive and authoritative expression has already been offered up in distinguished texts that should be considered the modern-day equivalents of sacred scripture. And yet, TCF offers a comments field after each dollop of wisdom from these august sources, apparently in the hope of gathering up offerings of assent and admiration for them.

Mr. Bailie’s second argument is an attempt to shore up the first: “These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.”

This is of course circular, since the “anthropological reality and moral reason” of which he speaks have been garnered from the eight theologians and philosophers he cites, all of whom, significantly, are Catholics, and five of whom are popes! And then he adds, as if not having noticed any of this, that “the persuasiveness [of these views and principles] depends on no particular religious belief.” Really?

Mr. Bailie’s third argument is the appeal to the “distinguished antiquity” of these principles. The older the better, right? To this I would say, if you want antiquity, go to ancient Greece, Egypt, India, or China. Antiquity is a guarantee of nothing, least of all truth, justice, and the American way.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

And when all else fails, one can always resort to name-calling. No one has called Mr. Bailie a “Neanderthal” or a “moral dullard,” but he has no scruples about calling his critics “Lady Gaga Liberals” who use TCF as a “bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses.”

One would like to know WHY he has reached these conclusions about his interlocutors. But we are not likely to find out, because in Mr. Bailie’s world there is no intermediate stage between expressing an opinion and attacking those who disagree with it. There is no desire to enter into conversation, no respect for divergent opinions, and no tolerance of vigorous debate. This is the Old Catholicism of centuries gone by, a Catholicism that held sway through ignorance, fear, and deference for authority. It is a far cry from our contemporary lay Catholicism that has sought openness, dialog, and reform.

TCF’s own comment thread for Mr. Bailie’s post follows:

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From intrinsically disordered to intrinsically odious

by Doughlas Remy

After more than a week of testy exchanges with friends and other respondents on The Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page, Gil Bailie expresses his exasperation in an untitled post on 6/28/13. I believe his post clarifies his position very ably, and I will respond to it in detail. First, however, a little background:

Mr. Bailie believes we are in the midst of a cultural crisis. So do I. The one that he sees and the one that I see are same, but our perspectives on it are very different.

Though hardly a utopian, I see our cultural stresses in a mostly positive light, for I believe they are signs of a creative unfolding of the better parts of our human nature. I am hopeful, but not always optimistic, that this unfolding will continue, because time is running out and the worsening condition of our planet is creating environmental stresses that could warp or reverse these positive tendencies.

Mr. Bailie’s view, on the other hand, is apocalyptic: the worst impulses of our fallen natures are in the ascendency, and only those who are faithful to the teachings of the Church will resist being swept away by the currents of cultural change.

The “crisis” results from the opposing movements of two great tectonic plates: modernism and religion. Modernism is associated with the European Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and, more recently, the scientific and communications revolutions. It is fundamentally consequentialist and pragmatic, secular and naturalistic, progressive, democratic, and egalitarian. Religion (including the political religions of Communism and Nazism) is associated with resistance to all of the above. It is supernaturalist, conservative/regressive, authoritarian, and anti-scientific when contradicted by science. It tends to distrust and even abhor the expansion of knowledge and the free exchange of information and ideas.

The Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page is a microcosm of the cultural clashes that I have just described. This accounts for my longstanding interest in it. One can’t do a longitudinal study of a cultural petrie dish without somehow staying in the lab and collecting data.

So, I found Mr. Bailie’s post very enlightening and will respond to it here as best I can. He begins:

A few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this Facebook page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious.

Notes from the UndergroundThe term “intrinsically odious” cannot fail to remind us of the Catechism’s description of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered.” Is this just a coincidence, or is it a reverberation? Several of Mr. Bailie’s critics and one of his supporters have already commented on the mimetic doubling effects that have become apparent, both in Mr. Bailie’s responses and my own project of “mirroring” TCF on this site. I believe there is considerable truth in these observations, and I am willing to own that truth for my part. Resentment has indeed driven many of my responses to Mr. Bailie’s incessant disparagement of homosexuals over the years. Why do I continue reading his homophobic comments? It’s not because I enjoy being demeaned. Rather, it is because Mr. Bailie’s treatment of me and other LGBTs makes me angry, and I believe I can both own that anger and put it to good use in the service of others. (I realize this holds the promise of a fruitful discussion about the merits of righteous anger from a Girardian perspective: How can one be certain that one’s anger is righteous, and what if it is not?)

An additional reason for my returning again and again to track Mr. Bailie’s shabby treatment of homosexuals is that I am witnessing the fascinating spectacle of a mimetic reversal in progress. In recent years, those who were once so virulent in their denunciations of all things gay have begun to worry that the tables are being turned on them and that they will become as marginalized for their bigotry as LGBTs have been for their sexual orientation. We have heard this from Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of NOM, and from virtually every other media opponent of same-sex marriage. In fact, it has become one of the major talking-points of the opposition. Just last week we heard it in Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion on the DOMA case, where, unaware of the irony of his remarks, he made the very same complaints that we have heard from homosexuals for years, i.e., we are being condemned, demeaned, and humiliated; we do not wish to be adjudged “hostes humani generis” (enemies of the human race). This is the language of the victim and of the powerless, and I do not believe Justice Scalia was shamming for the sake of effect. There was emotion in his words, and that emotion was fear mixed with anger and resentment.

I sensed that same trepidation in Mr. Bailie’s opening sentence for the post in question: “A few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this Facebook page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious.”

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGEThe DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, added to the state legislative victories of recent months and years and the same-sex marriage legalizations happening in Europe and Latin America, have rattled the political right. There can be no mistaking that. Cultural crises are always about paradigm shifts and usually entail redistributions of power. But the long arc of equality and justice in our consitutional democracies should ensure that no one has anything to fear when these changes occur.

There’s much more in Mr. Bailie’s post to chew on, and I will continue doing so tomorrow.

Gil Bailie’s Critics Take Him to Task (The Saga Continues)

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

This is a continuation of the “purge” account begun in our previous two posts. As the story unfolds, Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page has jettisoned several of his critics for objecting to his calumnies against poll workers and President Obama. One of these critics, Timothy Brock, evaded his captors and has now returned to give Gil a piece of his mind about the purges and to repost Sophie Sommers’ link to this site, which Gil had deleted. Gil’s stalwart supporter, Gordon Savage, attacks this site for “crude Photoshops,” ad hominems, etc., and Timothy responds with what may be his dying breath on Gil’s site.

Timothy Brock:

Gil, you forgot to throw me overboard along with Sophie, Ben, and Jim S. As you know, my son is about to be married to his partner, so I naturally take exception to some of the ideas in your post. [re: TCF’s post of 6/23/13 on equality and the redefinition of marriage]. However, you seem to have taken all the flak you’re going to take for now, so I won’t waste my time responding at length. For those who are interested, TCF’s shadow site is here, and discussions that are not allowed here are apparently welcomed there.

In your “friends” box at the top of this page, you’ve got one “friend,” Ben Boyce. You might want to take that down now that you’ve cast him off.

Farewell.

Gordon Savage:

Timothy, It’s a stretch to call what goes on at Doughlas Remy’s mirror to Gil’s FB “discussion.” There is ridicule, ad hominem attack, stereotyping, crude photoshop images, and, most of all, a bizarre obsession with Gill [sic] that illustrates Girardian theory about scandal and mimetic obsession without comprehending it. But “discussion”? Hardly.

Timothy Brock:

On the contrary, Gordon. I found lots of discussion on the site. In fact, the two most recent posts are simply transcripts (without commentary) of two discussions that took place here during the past week. Remy managed to capture them before they were hatcheted here.

As for ridicule and ad hominems, I don’t see anything egregious, and certainly nothing worse than Gil’s recent slanders of poll workers and the president. What I do see is a free discussion, and free discussions do get messy at times. Why don’t you leave a comment there and see what kind of reception you get? Don’t be afraid.

Crude Photoshop image
Crude Photoshop image

Crude Photoshop images? Huh? Your standards must be much higher than mine. I thought they were very tasteful.

A bizarre obsession with Gil? Maybe it’s just an obsession with the truth. And what about Gil’s bizarre obsessions with homosexuality, abortion, and Obama? Why is it that anyone who disagrees with Gil is said to have “bizarre obsessions” about him? Let’s be fair.

Don’t flatter yourself that you are the gatekeeper for Girard’s mimetic theory. I know from what these people have written that they are all familiar with Girard and his theory, as I am, and that is precisely what brought them to Gil’s site, hoping for an open exchange of views. Furthermore, they had all read Gil’s book. Unfortunately, Gil attached the condition that one must be hard-line neo-con Catholic in order to talk about mimetic theory, and so they were thrown out of the game.

Gil’s three stipulations–(1) fidelity to the magisterium’s brand of Catholicism, (2) fidelty to his own interpretation of Girard, and (3) fidelity to his own view of reality–are fatal to any sort of productive discussion. If you want “bizarre,” you’ve got it here in spades: A purely ideological and propagandistic Facebook page that invites people to step in and comment, but then throws them out on their ear when they dare to have any views that are divergent from the host’s own. So far, upward of ten Girardians have been expelled in just the last year, and please don’t tell me they were wild-eyed radicals. Most of them were Gil’s fellow Catholics, though he would probably deem them to be “unfaithful” to traditional Christianity. Most or all of them came here in the belief that Gil was an intellectual who could enter into an honest, give-and-take discussion with them—or, at the very least—tolerate such a discussion between his guests. Instead, Gil has discussed nothing. He has just laid down ultimatums. He has been a most inhospitable host and has revealed himself as an intellectual fraud.

BTW, why are you frowning in your photo?

Gordon Savage

If I’m a gatekeeper it’s of the painfully obvious: running a parallel site that finds in the “other” a source of almost daily scandal is at the very least ironic from a Girardian perspective? You do see that? Girardian “theory” is first about untying the knots of mimetic obsession. Get out of the vortex of obsession with what others think about you — even more what you imagine they think. Doughlas’s site reminds me of that old cartoon in which a man sitting at his computer all night says to his angry wife: “I can’t come to bed, somebody on the internet disagrees with me!” 

“A bizarre obsession with Gil? Maybe it’s just an obsession with the truth. And what about Gil’s bizarre obsession with homosexuality, abortion, and Obama?”

Since he’s working on a book about the cultural crisis these topics reveal, his focus on abortion and homosexuality might qualify as research. If he was truly obsessed with Obama, on the other hand, he should set up a website dedicated to mirroring everything Obama does, photo-shopping his head on pictures of babies (sound familiar?), coming up with your own truth squad to call him out for every breath he takes — I can even recommend a website as a model for this.

Gordon Savage

Gordon Savage

Anyway, since you make it sound so inviting I’ll come by Doughlas’s website sometime. Otherwise I’ll look forward to carrying on this conversation somewhere in God’s heaven.

And who is frowning?

Timothy Brock:

Gordon, the fact that you see “othering” at TCFS but not at TCF is truly amazing and ironic from a Girardian perspective. Gil’s treatment of homosexuals is “othering” at its most vicious. You needn’t dignify it as “research.” And not only is it “othering,” but it is also scapegoating in its starkest and most repugnant form. René Girard wrote a magisterial work on scapegoating. Are you blind to what it was about, to how it might apply to what is going on in the current cultural scene, or to how Gil himself has mastered its techniques? The recent flap about the Bill O’Reilly slanders or any number of Gil’s posts about gay issues should have alerted you to this. Do you want to discuss this? I would be happy to, but apparently that discussion won’t happen here, because Gil cannot stand to hear it and I am shortly to be thrown off like the others.

So I should get out of the vortex of obsession with what others think of me? But I am not the one who squelches any whisper of dissent from my own views. Do you think Doughlas Remy does? Try him out. Go ahead, post a comment on his site and see if he throws you off for not towing his line. It seems to me that Gil is extraordinarily thin-skinned and insecure, extraordinarily concerned with his reputation and his credibility, and extraordinarily fearful. People who feel secure in their worldview do not create a “public forum” and then censor those who accept their invitation to join it. Remy was right-on in describing it as a Venus fly trap. And it does a monumental disservice not only to Girard but to Catholicism.

Gil doesn’t need to start a separate website on Obama. He’s got this one, and he is clearly obsessed with Obama as “the other.” Nothing that our president does is ever right in Gil’s view. Surely, any human being must occasionally do something right. But this is just another discussion that we’ll never have, because I’m about to disappear.

Who has photoshopped Obama’s head on pictures of babies? What are you talking about? 

To answer your last question: You are. Try smiling.

The Cornerstone Forum (Gil Bailie):

Who’s obsessed with whom? I haven’t been showing up on your timeline or Page to carp at your opinions. One can “unlike” or “unfriend” this Page with the click of a mouse, thereby relieving oneself of the experience of being offended. I cannot imagine going to a Facebook timeline or Page or website or blog just in order to carp at the opinions expressed there, opinions which—in our case—are not intended for just everyone, much less as a starting point for an endless and useless Facebook debate, but are rather offered—for what they might be worth—to those who share our perspective, and who might find them worthwhile.

Jim Daly:

Carping

Carping

Gil, “carping” really doesn’t seem like a very kind or accurate way to describe how people have gently taken you to task for some of the more questionable things you’ve posted, such as the lies you reposted from the Bill O’Reilly site. And, in any case, even when I’m in agreement with you, which is often, I still find it useful to hear dissenting views. Nobody can be right all the time. We need others to help us identify our own biases and errors and to remind us that there may be valid perspectives other than our own. 

I looked at this TCFS site and read the posts that allegedly got people banned from this page. For the most part, they seemed to have expressed their ideas and criticisms in a courteous and thoughtful manner. If it’s true (and I hope it’s not) that this was all it took to get them banished from this forum, it really does make you look bad. Were there other infractions that the TCFS site isn’t reporting?

Tim Brock (not quite dead yet):

Mr. Bailie, when you misrepresent the truth about other people in order to put them in a bad light, and then you refuse to either apologize or retract what you’ve written, then you are guilty of slander. That’s not just your private concern. Slander is not an innocent past-time. It harms people unjustly, and your own faith tells you it is a moral failing that requires redress and repentance.

SpeakeasyYou write that your opinions “are not intended for just anyone.” Who are your slanders intended for? Those who will agree to channel them or at least not challenge them? You’re on the Internet, and on Facebook, no less. If you want a private, select audience, then you’ve absolutely come to the wrong place. Even if Facebook allows you to “unfriend” people at the click of a mouse, it does not allow you the option of screening all those who view your page,  A restricted website might be the answer, and you could limit access to those personal friends who will swear an oath of fidelity to your view of Catholicism, your view of mimetic theory, and your view of reality. Better yet, make the site unidirectional, with no input allowed from visitors.

You would describe our objections as “carping.” How would you describe your own objections to everything that emanates from the Obama administration? And the Supreme Court’s recent DOMA and Prop 8 decisions? Not carping, just principled disagreement? I think carping is in the eye of the beholder.

Sophie Kicks the Door Down

The Cornerstone Forum writes:

“The process of desacralization … ends up by returning us to a savage sacrality.” – Antoine Vergote

We can, and should, move from the primitive sacred—at the heart of which is violence and superstition—to the sacramental sacrality of sanctification and holiness, but secularity is not sustainable in naturally religious creatures like ourselves. As a religiously edifying sense of the sacred is eliminated from cultural life, it is only a matter of time before primitive forms return: idolatry and child sacrifice.

Readers respond:

Sophie Sommers Mr. Bailie, what is the difference between primitive sacrality and the sacrality of Christianity? How does desacralization return us to sacrality?

Gordon Savage

Gordon Savage

Gordon Savage Sophie, Seriously, to understand what goes on at this forum you need to have read and thought through [René] Girard’s “Violence and the Sacred” and “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World,” as well as Gil’s book [“Violence Unveiled”]. Minimum. If you don’t know how Girard differentiates the primitive sacred from Christianity, you’re simply missing the meaning of most of what goes on here.

Sophie Sommers Gordon, how arrogant of you to assume my question was asked out of ignorance of Girard’s theory. I have read all of Girard’s major works as well as Mr Bailie’s only one. And how ungenerous of you to put down anyone who asks a question about mimetic theory. Not very interested in outreach and education, are you?

Since you have been initiated into the mysteries, maybe you could answer my question, provided you have not taken a vow of secrecy and your fraternal society does not exclude women.

Can you explain the paradox? How does one achieve “desacralization” through human sacrifice, even if the victim is recognized as a victim? If God “sent” an incarnation of himself to be sacrificed for our sins, and that sacrifice was in expiation for original sin, as Catholic teaching holds, how is that NOT a continuation of the primitive sacred? How can the Passion “reveal” the scapegoating mechanism while actually serving the identical purpose that all blood sacrifice serves, i.e., expiating, cleansing of rancor and of sin? The victim is always regarded as a savior/god “after the fact,” and is also sometimes shown to have been innocent. Doesn’t Jesus’s death serve the same purpose for Christians as human and animal sacrifice always did for those who practiced it? It’s a foundational act because without it there would be endless mimetic conflict, making stable societies impossible. Isn’t that also what expiation is also all about? Carrying away sin? Cleansing the society? Washing oneself in the blood of the lamb?

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