René Girard [was] a French philosopher and anthropologist whose brilliant career culminated in a position at Stanford University. Girard became fascinated with the fact that in modern times a “marginalized” person assumes a moral authority . . . Girard noted that a cavalcade of liberation movements—abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, animal rights, gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, human rights—had gathered speed in the 20th century.
The trend mystified Girard because he found nothing comparable in his reading of ancient literature. Victors, not the marginalized, wrote history, and the myths from Babylon, Greece, and elsewhere celebrated strong heroes, not pitiable victims. In his further research, Girard traced the phenomenon back to the historical figure of Jesus. It struck Girard that Jesus’ story cuts against the grain of every heroic story from its time. Indeed, Jesus chose poverty and disgrace, spent his infancy as a refugee, lived in a minority race under a harsh regime, and died as a prisoner. From the very beginning Jesus took the side of the underdog: the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the “marginalized.” His crucifixion, Girard concluded, introduced a new plot to history: the victim becomes the hero by being a victim. To the consternation of his secular colleagues, Girard converted to Christianity.
When Jesus died as an innocent victim, it introduced what one of Girard’s disciples has called “the most sweeping historical revolution in the world, namely, the emergence of an empathy for victims.” Today the victim occupies the moral high ground everywhere in the Western world: consider how the media portray the plight of AIDS orphans in Africa or Tibetan refugees or uprooted Palestinians. Girard contends that Jesus’ life and death brought forth a new stream in history, one that undermines injustice. It may take centuries for that stream to erode a hard bank of oppression, as it did with slavery, but the stream of liberation flows on.
Sometimes Jesus followers join the stream, and sometimes they stand on the bank and watch. Yet over time the gospel works its liberating effect. (You can see the contrast clearly in societies that have experienced little Christian influence.) Women, minorities, the disabled, human rights activists—all these draw their moral force from the power of the gospel unleashed at the cross, when God took the side of the victim. In a great irony, the “politically correct” movement defending these rights often positions itself as an enemy of Christianity, when in fact the gospel has contributed the very underpinnings that make possible such a movement. And those who condemn the church for its episodes of violence, slavery, sexism, and racism do so by gospel principles.
Lenin himself admitted “I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated. But our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. My living nightmare is to find myself lost in an ocean of red with the blood of innumerable victims. It is too late now to alter the past, but what was needed to save Russia were ten Francis of Assissis.”
On a trip to Russia just after the collapse of communism in 1991, I had a conversation with a Marxist scholar who was devastated by revelations about the horrors just then coming to light in his country. “I had no idea things like this were taking pace,” he said. “I became a communist with the best of ideals, to fight racism and poverty, to bring about a just society. Now I learn that we created a monster. We saw the evil in others—the capitalists, the rich, the exploiters—but not in ourselves. I have learned to distrust a utopian philosophy, especially one that sets ‘us’ against ‘them.’ The danger of evil is inside all of us, rich or poor, socialist or capitalist.”
So long as the Self is temporal in space and time, nothing preceding birth, nothing beyond the grave, it follows quite necessarily that the perpetuation of the best possible state of being is the only end worthy of pursuit in an otherwise brief and brutish existence. And this ultimate purpose consists, unequivocally, of a fourfold pursuit:
1. To prolong existence
2. To maximize pleasure;
3. To minimize pain; and finally
4. To ensure by any means necessary that nothing may compromise the pursuit.
It is only too easy to see why the pursuit of power is logically inexorable to this purpose. Power is, by definition, the means by which one’s interests are secured, which applies as much to the Self as it does to the State. And if Ultimate Power does not reside in the Kingdom of Heaven, it falls upon the Self to claim it on Earth, which is the very drive of self-deification . . . the first crime in Eden. In God’s absence, the only pursuit worthy of existence is power. In a word; God is power, or power is God…
The conclusion I would like to draw from this thesis [is this]: that without the Law of Heaven, the Law of Earth is but the Law of Power, and that consequently the Secular State will always be characterized by the oppression of its own people and war with every other people.
It would not be amiss to begin by pointing out that the logical ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼outworking of this has been played out time and again in history, culminating only recently in the two most militant and genocidal regimes ever known to the human race… substantiating that long-maintained theory of the theologians; that those who scoff the notion of Hell are usually the first to institute a Hell on Earth.
Leftism always identifies some group as the source of all problems in society, some class that makes all mankind choke… For, you see, leftism is nothing but one unending witch hunt.
The Hunt for the Oppressor
Now having made such a claim, it is necessary that I reference facts. Once upon a time there was a certain thinker . . . Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and he famously quipped that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Many found this idea appealing . . . So a 200-year chase commenced to find the witch who had brought such maleficence to mankind.
First the Jacobins came, and found the clandestine oppressor to be nothing other than the church and the nobles. So they quickly proceeded to murder the entire clergy and nobility of the French nation. However, this seemed not to bring the desired result; their people still seemed enslaved, the freedom and utter equality they craved had not been acquired. They must have found the wrong witch!
Karl Marx soon followed, and identified the true enemy of mankind as the capitalists. So his followers proceeded to kill all the capitalists, and a quarter of the population of their nations in the process; however, this too failed to break the spell.
The Progressives in America and England soon followed, and ironically saw the oppressors to be the “inferior” genetics of southern Europeans and blacks, who so rapidly reproduced that they were destroying the otherwise paradisical society of white people with their uncivilized blood.
Nazis learned from the Progressives, but, being of a more moderate demeanor, determined that Jews were the worst of the bad lot. They were a sort of combination of what all the previous leftist movements had identified as malefactors: they were brownish, capitalist, and religious—the trifecta!
So the Nazis killed all the Jews, and then God, being partial to his chosen people, killed all the Nazis. Again, man was in chains, and the invisible slave-master was on the loose.
Now Witches Are Everywhere
Now with the birth of pluralism, the Left no longer feels the need to identify a single oppressor, but rather has embraced a slew of them, each oppressing within a single domain: men oppressing women, whites oppressing blacks, straights oppressing gays, industry oppressing the unindustrious, religion oppressing the irreligious, etc. The net effect of these oppressors explains the fact that “all mankind is in chains.” Now it is no longer necessary to do away with only the church, or the rich, or the Jews; rather, it is necessary to do away with all the “ties that bind,” and human civilization with them . . .
This is the fundamental madness of the Left, that, in assuming man could ever be free and equal, must blame something for the fact that no one is free or equal; that thing, whatever it is, must be destroyed, so egalitarian freedom may reign.
They fail to understand what every saint and every suicide knows intuitively, that the cause of life’s misery has nothing to do with some tyrannical spirit in the ether, or dark conspiracy clothed in obscuring shadow. Rather, it has everything to do with the corruption within every man’s mind. “The kingdom of hell is within you.”