Advent and redeeming religion

By Simon Barrow
December 13, 2007

My prize discovery of the Advent season is a website offering seasonal reflections on the lectionary derived from the insights of René Girard.

Girard, for those who don't know, is a cultural and anthropological historian and literary scholar who has explored 'the scapegoat mechanism' in ancient cultures, understanding it through mimetic theory (which looks at how human beings learn by behaviour reproduction and modification) in order to arrive at some highly innovative and useful theories about the relationship between violence and the sacred on a planetary scale. His work really should be studied by all those who are sounding off loudly in the media at the moment about religion and violence, since it probes well beyond the simplistic polarities that often pass for analysis in this area - from both 'secular' and 'religious' protagonists.

He returned to Christian faith as a result of the special study he made of the Hebrew prophets, the New Testament and especially the Passion narratives.

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