The beauty of the crucifixion of Jesus is that it can be analyzed, meditated on and thought about from many angles and levels. Rene Girard is someone who has promoted one way of seeing the crucifixion that has is a bit different then what those of us who grew up in conservative Christianity in America would have learned. Girard argues that humans learn our desires by imitating others, which leads to desiring the same thing and thus puts us into conflict. As this conflict grows, it threatens to destroy the entire society. To let out the pressure, a scapegoat is identified and all violence is poured upon that person. Girard sees this as the history of religion and culture as the scapegoat is both reviled, seen as guilty and deserving of violence, but also honored for bringing peace.
In this book Girard talks at length about how Jesus of Nazareth fits into his scheme. Girard argues that the Bible, unique among ancient works, reveals the victims of this violence as innocent. Jesus is the ultimate innocent victim and thus, in his death, the entire scapegoating mechanism is revealed for what it is – a system that destroys the innocent.
We still have scapegoats today. Whether in our personal life, or at the national level, it is so easy to identify others who are the reason for all the problems. If we just got rid of that person, or kept those people out, or stopped them, things would work out. The challenge I’ve had from Girard is that the cross is not just something to believe so I can be counted among the righteous. Instead, the cross makes demands upon my daily life, how I view the world and interact with others. This is something I’ve wrestled with a lot lately as I feel much of my life the message was that the cross of Jesus is what gets us in, but once we’re in our morals and ethics do not reference the cross. What if, I’ve thought again and again, the cross permeates every single thing we do. Lots of authors have showed me, in different ways, what this looks like and Girard is one of the best of those.