Our name has a double meaning. First, Raven is an acronym of the variety of subjects that we provide commentary on: Religion, Arts, Violence, Entertainment, and News. Second, the image of the Raven symbolizes our mission to end scapegoating. Though the Raven is a harmless creature, it has been scapegoated and falsely accused of evil. In legend and story, it often represents a dark and sinister presence or a harbinger of death, yet in truth it is a highly intelligent bird that bonds easily with humans. The Raven represents the possibility that those we think are evil, who seem most deserving of our hate and our punishing violence, may in fact be as innocent and harmless as the Raven. The Raven serves as a reminder that when we are most certain of another’s guilt, we are most likely guilty of scapegoating.
Suzanne and Keith Ross encountered mimetic theory in 1995 when their pastor began preaching strange sermons about the violence in the bible. He said that all that violence was human not divine. When the text attributed violence to God, well, that’s just what humans do – we blame God for our own failings. Intrigued, they began reading books about mimetic theory, attending conferences and meeting the scholars doing the writing and research. The more they learned the more they began to understand things that had seemed impossible to explain. Religious things like why it was necessary for Jesus to die for us to be saved; why ancient peoples believed in sacrifice and myths and why those things have faded away; and why every human culture has developed religions, rituals, and taboos. And personal things like why friends can become worst enemies; how love can turn to hate; whether humans are violent by nature; why are we addicted to celebrity scandals; and what is the relationship between nature and nurture in human behavior. And then there were the global questions that suddenly seemed to have answers: why is it that everyone claims to want peace yet peace eludes us; can peace be achieved through violent means; how do we recognize evil and how do we defeat it.
As they learned, Suzanne and Keith found their faith and their personal relationships slowly being transformed. They became less easily caught up in political and religious arguments, more able to listen to different points of view, more able to spot self-serving stories in the media and especially in themselves. Mimetic theory opened up a journey of personal growth that they wanted to share with others. While much scholarly work had been done in the 50 years since René Girard first proposed his theory, little work had been done to spread the word outside of academia. So in January 2007, they began the Raven Foundation to do just that. Raven is a not-for-profit, fully funded 501 (c)(3) private foundation. Our primary outreach is through The Raven Review blog that provides social commentary on current events, politics, religion, scandals, and popular entertainment. The goal is not to raise money but to raise awareness about a theory of human behavior, violence, religion, war and peace that can change lives and make possible a real, lasting a global peace.
The Raven Foundation is committed to making religion reasonable, violence unthinkable and peace a possibility by spreading awareness of the transformative power of mimetic theory. Our goal is to foster peaceful individuals and harmonious communities that will reject scapegoating and violence as ways to form identity and achieve real and lasting peace.
Our primary outreach is through hosting The Raven ReView blog that provides social commentary on current events, politics, religion, scandals, and popular entertainment. We also hold live events for the public to learn directly from scholars applying mimetic theory to literature, religion, history, psychology or peacemaking.
Our Mission Expressed Poetically
by Lindsey Paris-Lopez
Once upon a midnight dreary
I woke pondr’ing mimetic theory –
How we imitate each other and role models gone before –
Patterns of human behavior,
And our deep need for a savior
From the violence we savor
That consumes us all the more.
As we compete for our desires with each other more and more
Are we doomed forevermore?
From infancy we form obsessions
With our parents’ prized possessions,
Such that it’s my phone and kindle, more than toys, my girls adore.
My actions for them will inspire
Their own acts, so I aspire
To make sure that I desire
Things and goals worth striving for
My kids are watching all the while, of this one thing I am sure:
I’m their model evermore.
And this human form of learning
From each other has us yearning,
Coveting the things of others, on TV or in the store
More than just for things, we’re aching
For identity, mistaking
Goods and wealth for self, forsaking
What we should be living for:
To love and serve each other should be all that we are living for,
Be our mission evermore.
Yet we find ourselves competing
On and on without retreating
‘Til in anger self-defeating, we find ourselves in all-out war.
Coveting in our hearts creates
Violence that escalates
In cycles that perpetuate
Evermore and evermore
Violence keeps coming back round through that e’re revolving door
Evermore and evermore.
From Cain and Abel, rival brothers,
The virus quickly spreads to others
Jealousy turns lethal, righteous anger ends in gore.
Violent acts keep on compounding
Til the whole wide world is drowning,
Can mercy, too, be so abounding?
Can we hope to find a cure?
From our brutal, warring madness, surely we must find a cure
Or keep searching evermore.
Yet our violence seems abated
When we unify our hatred
Against a single victim we find easy to abhor.
We’re not at each others’ throats
As long as we have our scapegoats
But this short-lived antidote
Just hides our sickness all the more
When we think that we are righteous, we’re deluded all the more
And no better than before.
Whole societies and cultures
Feed off sacrifice like vultures
Never seeing human beings in the ones whom we deplore.
Mob-like, gathering in alliance
To pour out our wrath and violence
On some victim whom we silence,
To be heard from nevermore
Victim purged, we find catharsis; fragile peace has been restored,
Truth is sacrificed once more.
Scripture tells the bloody story,
How we think we see God’s glory
In the sacrifice of others and the victories of war.
Though we’re caught up in believing
In our violence so deceiving,
Looking down, Our Father’s grieving,
Pitying us all the more.
When time was ripe He came among us, His good image to restore,
Reconcile us evermore.
Seeing violence in God’s name and
Grieving for us, Jesus came and
In the form of humble servant, took his place among the poor.
Joining prostitutes for dinner,
Healing lepers, calling sinners,
He stood not among the winners,
But our outcasts he restored.
‘Til authorities and powers couldn’t take him any more.
Vowing vengeance swift and sure.
Against him former foes united
Herod the King and Pontius Pilate
Whipped and stripped and body broken, thorns upon his head so sore
Mob and leaders vilified him,
Followers betrayed, denied him
Human malice crucified him,
But God raised him up once more!
In the Vindicated Victim, we see God as ne’er before
Off’ring mercy evermore!
When the words of peace were spoken,
Then the curse of hate was broken
Sins are healed by forgiveness, not by sacrifice and gore
What a friend we have in Jesus
Seeing others as he sees us
From our violence he frees us
From our senseless rush to war
Only love can break the cycle that leads us on and on to war
On and on forevermore.
In Jesus Christ we fin’ly see that
God could never ever be that
Genocidal tyrant once more dreaded than adored.
By death and hate no longer blind,
We put on Jesus’ heart and mind
And guided by his grace we find
New life, new love, new hope restored.
Freed from jealousy and greed, at last to God we are restored.
Ever and forevermore.
This mimetic theory tells us:
When fickle desire compels us
To fight each other for the things our culture tells us to fight for,
If we live instead for others
Give to sisters and to brothers
And be not fighters, no, but lovers
The world can be whole once more
With Jesus as our human model, our world can be whole once more.
Of this truth we can be sure.
Who coined this theory? Why Girard did
And that’s why he is regarded
As one who makes us see our world, our faith, ourselves, as never before
The insights we gain from his reading
Of the scriptures has us pleading,
“Stop the sacrificial bleeding
For we can afford no more!”
No more sacrifice and violence, there cannot be any more!
This we must work to ensure.
This nonviolent hermeneutic
That we find so therapeutic
Applies not only to our scripture, but to our lives all the more.
From politics to parenting
We keep on finding the same thing:
The insight from Girard can bring
Us closer, closer to the cure
From our bitter warring madness, God’s love is our only cure
Girard just helps us see it more.
Here at the Raven Foundation
We work on proliferation
Of mimetic insights, to spread peace from shore to shore
Exposing violent tendencies,
Reducing our dependencies
On scapegoats and enemies;
Won’t you join us, we implore?
Take Christ as your mimetic model, we emphatically implore
To make violence nevermore!