November 12: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xii – ‘Violence against violence.’


For Jesus, non-violence is at the heart of his message, in which we are called to love – even our enemies. This was so threatening to the Roman and Jewish authorities that they eliminated Jesus, hoping his way would die with him. But the message was more enduring. However, early catechesis missed out on the dynamic power of life fully lived even to death. Missing the significance of life resulted in death being seen as the primary constituent for redemption. This led to the notion of redemptive violence: salvation coming through the cross, by the one made perfect through suffering even to the last drop of blood in obedience.

My desires are in imitation of the desires of others. My “I” depends entirely on those who surround me. If I recognise my dependence on other for my desiring, I will be at peace with this other. But as soon as I insist my desire is original I am in conflict with the other. Someone appears wearing a new fashion; someone I like and admire: I’d like to be like. I buy the same item – others comment on my doing this in imitation I reply yes I like what he’s wearing. However, by far the majority of us would resent the implication – insisting my desire has nothing to do with him. The world of advertising seeks to seduce us by showing someone/thing attractive – if you buy X you can be like Y!

We all desire through the eyes of another. The promising protégé soon experiences alienation from the teacher when the latter fears his standing is being eclipsed by this brighter student – and wonders what has happened – what have I done wrong to merit this reaction? Friends have become rivals.

In an attempt to patch things up we seek for a common scapegoat – this would never have happened if he’d never come here – get rid of him and all will be well again. Having achieved this, we experience a kind of peace – but not real peace. It is peace based on deceit, and the covered-up rivalry will emerge eventually, leading to an eventual exclusion of somebody else, to restore such peace.

In this scenario we have to establish 3 things to maintain peace: 1. forbid all sorts of behaviour that would disturb the peace and lead to conflict; 2. repeat where possible the original exclusion or expulsion, which led to our peace, which consists of ritual actions ending in the immolation of a victim – originally human, later animal; 3. and tell the story of how we were visited by the gods and founded a people – so giving birth to myth.

So, social exclusion is a violent form of protection against violence, made possible by murder – disguised through being ritualised. This universally accepted way is a blind justification of what we are actually doing – cultivating a belief in the guilt of the innocent victim. Cultivating such blindness is the only way to resolve conflict and to avoid social self-destruction [it is good that one person die…].

There is only one way this can be challenged. When someone with an entirely different perception, one not dependent on such a lie, comes to the group and points it out. The Jewish story is a long, slow discovery of the innocence of the victim. Look to the foundation of human culture – Cain and Abel – so too with Romulus and Remus – the two brothers who fight about who is the founder of Rome. They organise a competition to see who has received the blessing of the gods. Remus sees some birds, Romulus sees some more impressive birds. In the fight that ensues Romulus kills Remus and becomes the founder of Rome. Remus was accused of impiety towards the gods and for that reason Romulus was right to kill him.

So too with Cain and Abel [Genesis] – the same thing happens – Cain kills Abel; but there is a difference of interpretation: God says to Cain – where is your brother? A – His blood cries out to me! This declares that the murder is no more than that; a sordid crime, and God is on the side of the victim.



Filed under Daily Reflections

4 responses to “November 12: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xii – ‘Violence against violence.’

  1. Would this mean that Jesus’ death was not the fulfilment of the Old Testament sacrifices? Or even a proper sacrifice at all?


    • 1. Read the whole series; 30 posts. Austin is challenging but orthodox!
      2. Always try to discern who is sacrificing what and to whom. A complex matter with the Nuclear bomb as well as the Passion of Christ.


      • Oh, I wasn’t challenging anyone’s orthodoxy, just trying to understand new ideas. Will there be (or is there already) an answer for this in the series?


  2. I would say you’ll have an answer by the end. Christ’s sacrifice is surrounded the noise of human scapegoating and animal sacrifice for sin. These are never enough; people have noticeably not stopped sinning at any point. Pile them ever so high, they are never enough. Austin’s point, as i understand it, is that one human life lived perfectly is all the sacri-fice – the making holy – needed to reconcile God and humanity. As Rowan Williams said, Christ lived a life-long passion. Human life entails bodily death; many deaths are peaceful, but the challenge of Christ’s life led to Caiaphas’ one man for the nation’; to Judas’s treachery and Peter’s betrayal – sacrificing maybe his chance of integrity to unthinking cowardice, self-preservation; but also Mary’s faithfulness, Peter’s plunge into the lake (a baptismal image if ever there was one) and feed my sheep, and his being led where he would rather not go. We must not make Jesus a suicide, though he had evaded the crowd in Nazareth at the start of his ministry. His hour had come. Look at the violence around Good Friday, who commits it? Why? How does the life fully lived come to an end? What gods are the likes of Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas, Judas, Peter, the Roman execution squad, Joseph and Nicodemus actually worshipping at key moments? Self, Mammon, Rome, etcetera? And what God is Jesus worshipping, if that is the appropriate word?


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