Returning to René Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Girard makes the following observation concerning the divisive effect that Jesus has in the gospels:
The Gospels themselves draw our attention to the loss of mythic unanimity everywhere Jesus comes and intervenes. John in particular points out on numerous occasions how the witnesses become divided after Jesus speaks, and far from unifying them, his message precipitates disharmony and division. In the Crucifixion especially, this division plays a primary role. Without it there would not be a Gospel revelation; the single victim mechanism would not be truthfully represented. It would be, as in the myths, transformed and concealed as just and legitimate action. (p.153)
It seems to me this is what Jesus probably had in mind when he spoke of coming “not to bring peace, but a sword”, setting “a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34,35): a breaking of human unanimity, which is almost inevitably a unanimity over against somebody else; that is, a satanic unanimity based on mimetic rivalry and the single-victim mechanism.
Perhaps this also explains why the church has, despite Jesus’ prayer for its unity, tended to end up as a “fragmented gaggle”, “disagreeing about every single ****ing thing” (as Thomas put it in a strongly-worded post recently – scroll to bottom of page to see the post in question). Jesus is determined not to allow the unity in the Holy Spirit which he intends for his church to be replaced by a satanic unanimity.
It’s not easy to tell the difference between a true unity and a sinful unanimity – but the essential point is that sinful unanimity is the unanimity of the group over against some excluded “other”, whereas Jesus’ prayer for the church is that “they may be one, as we [that is, Jesus and the Father] are one”: one in a perfect unity that is entirely without rivalry, that is not “over against” anything else (see previous post).
In my next post I’ll look at a possible case study of the difference between unity and unanimity.