September 2, 2015

UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS GOD WHO WAS PERPETRATING THE BAD VIOLENCE:

Hans Urs von Balthasar & the Dramatic Project of Theology (Christopher Morrissey, 9/01/15, Imaginative Conservative)

Hans Urs von Balthasar, in Volume IV (The Action) of Theo-Drama, arguably his most innovative theological work, contains a very brief discussion of the work of René Girard. But what von Balthasar says there about Girard, theology, and drama is especially revealing:

"Girard's is surely the most dramatic project to be undertaken today in the field of soteriology and in theology generally. In his view, world history and all the values realized in it are based on a primal tragedy that has now been disclosed; it comes to a climax--and this is also its turning point--in the tragedy and rejection of Christ."

The primal tragedy, according to Girard, is the tragedy of the scapegoat. An innocent victim is violently sacrificed by a unanimous mob. In myths, the memory of this event is preserved, but also in myths the scapegoats have become distortedly deified into barely recognizable figures that, no longer the victims, now possess supernatural power to restore peace to a community. Hidden by the myth is the truth that in fact an innocent victim paid the price in order for peace to be achieved by ritual violence. [...]

Girard has emphasized how, in drama, tragedy is able to portray the violent crisis point--the point of no return--of the mimetic process. This very crisis is what Girard calls the sacrificial crisis. Once it is reached, the standard violent practices do not work anymore. They break down. A new kind of violence is required. For there will be no end to the sacrificial crisis unless a new violence can be found and made to work.

Typically, in tragedy, such a renovation is achieved by the dramatic death of the hero. The story of the sacrificial crisis is, in brief, expressed by this ancient myth: Good violence suddenly becomes bad violence; good violence is needed again, in order to make the bad violence go away. If, then, the sacrificial crisis is good violence that has gone bad, the only apparent solution to the crisis is to find a substitute victim. The victim of the bad violence (the good violence gone bad) is replaced with the victim of good violence, so that sacrifice can once again be affirmed and violence can work to bring peace: we must admit a little disorder (sacrifice of a scapegoat) to avoid widespread chaos (the sacrificial crisis).



Posted by at September 2, 2015 7:48 PM
  

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