Unity and unanimity

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.

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5 Responses to Unity and unanimity

  1. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Immorality, unanimity and victimisation

  2. Blair says:

    Hello John,

    you’ve probably seen this already, but your thought above matches a part of James Alison’s argument in ‘Wrath and the gay question’ – http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng32.html “However, from the perspective of the wrathful, that is, of all of us run by the mechanisms of identity building, peace building, unanimity building “over against” another, Jesus has done something terrible. Exactly as he warned. He has plunged us into irresoluble wrath….”

    in friendship, Blair

  3. frank sonnek says:

    blair, even the most dangerous one. people who are unnanimous against those who are against unity or against exclusion or against victimization. This can all take so many different forms. but the hallmark is us vs them. Gays who are christian do not have the luxury of indulging in any of this. there is too much at stake in the form of souls that desperately need to hear the the Holy Gospel does, in fact, include them and that they can stake their lives on that as a certain fact. No matter what.

    alison says that the idea of original sin was developed in the 3rd century by the church (sic) to say we are all the same. no us/them. we are all the same in law and gospel.

    but there is a different law and gospel for homosexuals. and the thing that always stands out when the church talks about homosexuals is that homosexuals are never ever there. are never included in “us” or “we” . homos are always “them”. and often reduced to a thing that is feels less than human.

  4. Blair says:

    Hello frank,

    am right with you in the second and third paragraphs – as you say “homos are always ‘them'”. It’s still very rare to hear a voice from within a church saying ‘I am’ on this issue. Seems to me that when it happens, it’s more powerful coming from within a ‘conservative’ group.

    I’m not sure I totally understand your first paragraph – is it that you’re saying that there’s a strong risk of ‘us vs them’ developing in all sorts of ways and forms, and that gay Christians must not indulge in any of this? If so it’s something I find a daily challenge…

    in friendship, Blair

  5. frank sonnek says:

    dear brother blair,

    you read me right. alchoholics say they do not have the luxury of resentment and anger for much the same reasons I am saying this.

    Labels are put on subgroups to keep them in their place. Dominant groups have an existence devoid of labels . eg: ” bright young white student” or ” hi my name is george. I need to tell you that I am heterosexual.”

    at the same time a black man or gay man will have a miserable existence if he cannot accept himself for who he is, which in our culture, probably involves some labeling….

    In Lutheranism the challenge has always been to distinguish in categories without separating or dividing. I guess in a real way that is our job as humans too. to allow for what distinguishes and makes each unique and different and very special and at the same time to know that we are all created by the same God and have the same Jesus and that we all need the same law and gospel.

    I saw someone here get very upset and ugly (screaming) at someone making a loud comment about a religious group parking busses on a busy street and creating a very bad traffic bottleneck. he was shouted down as “biggot” and “intolerant”.

    I wonder how many times I have done the same with an us vs them mentality either as a lutheran, christian, american, white man, gay man, or whatever. It is wrong. and it is in me too. Gay christians cannot afford righteous indignation. why not? there are so many hurting gay men and lesbians and transgenders and… who desperately need a church to go to where they can be certain that they are the ones being spoken to when the pastor says “I forgive you all your sins , in the name of the father, and the son and the holy spirit + amen!”. so we need to be patient and loving and work with our fellow sinners to facilitate this happening.

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