Speaking of the End of the World

Quin, do you got your ears on? Girard on War and Apocalypse.


  1. Quin Finnegan says

    Yes! Thank you so much for pointing this out. I suspect (and hope) it's a prologue to the forthcoming translation of "Achever Clausewitz", which I am now painstakingly (by which I do not mean accurately) translating myself on Monday evenings.

    I might be a third of the way through by the time it's published by the University of Michigan publishes it later this fall, or early next year.

    I especially liked Joseph Bottum's paraphrase (at the bottom of the comments):

    he seems to be saying that there is, in fact, no Christian solution to the problem of culture: Christianity's great revelation makes the old pagan solution fail—and gives us no real cultural replacement for it. And the Bible's promise of the apocalypse is proof that knowledge of this fact was built into Christian revelation from the beginning.

    Except that Christianity (Christendom, in Kierkegaard's words) is one of the great, if not the great generators of culture in human history. This culture led to Da Vinci's Last Supper and the Inquisition. That this culture has devolved into the iPod and gilded thrones for Paul and Jan Crouch on TBN is … pretty sad. And Roe vs. Wade vs. the anti-abortion movement. Sadder still.

    Where do we go from here?

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Rufus, we know the commentator!

  3. Rufus McCain says

    That's right. From Blessed Sacrament? I think you know him better than I do, though. I can't recall exactly.

  4. Quin Finnegan says

    Most of this is indeed taken from Girard's own introduction to Achever Clausewitz (a sentence referencing Jehovah's Witnesses that I liked has been left out), and while this clarifies a number of things for me, it seems to me that Girard is still struggling to fit Christianity into his Theory. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

    When it works, I think it's because he is speaking about his subject (the novel, or Nietzsche, or Freud, or whatever) as a Christian. When it doesn't work, I think it's because his Theory fails to supply answers for that which Christian dogma has already supplied an answer – which itself often fails to satisfy. So this is hardly surprising. As an example of what I mean, I'll consider the last paragraph:

    Humanity is more than ever the author of its own fall because it has become able to destroy its world. With respect to Christianity, this is not just an ordinary moral condemnation but an unavoidable anthropological observation. Therefore we have to awaken our sleeping consciences. To seek to comfort is always to contribute to the worst.

    The first sentence deals with the problem of evil. We can say, yes, humanity is the author of its own fall because Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command: original sin. And who really understands original sin? If humanity is really "the author of its own fall", then what are we to make of the serpent in the story? Why did God create the serpent? Isn't he the real author of our fall? Or is the serpent just a mythic creation? Isn't it just a bogeysnake to scare us into resisting temptation, or a scapesnake we use to explain why the world is a shit sandwich? I never asked to be born into this living hell, and I want to know why it had to be this way.

    Quite frankly, I prefer "an ordinary moral condemnation" to "an unavoidable anthropological observation" any day of the week.

    Therefore we have to awaken our sleeping consciences. Yes, right, exactly, of course. Love God, Love thy neighbor, don't be greedy, recycle, put the toilet seat back down … I get it.

    And the last sentence: To seek to comfort is always to contribute to the worst. What the hell does this mean? Admitting even the specialized vocabulary and abstruse reasoning in this as well as all Girard's work, this is simply awful. If he meant that we shouldn't be complacent, then he should say so. But when the bombs start falling … Comfort ye, my people indeed.

  5. Jonathan Webb says

    Right on, Quin!

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