Provocation And Restraint

Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by guest author Dave Hernandez.

I’m not totally unaware of the ideas around scapegoating; I’m conscious of the Old Testament references. But I’ve only recently taken a deeper plunge into trying to understand the practise of scapegoating in social behaviour.

Although this post is a slight deviation from my previous posts, I’d like to write down a few of my observations on this subject; remarks that have helped me understand reoccurring events in my life. Understanding this has proved helpful and even healing to me. I’ll need a few posts to cover them all.

I’ve always felt a deep need to belong. I know now that we all do. It’s a primal need of the soul. Community offers protection, provision as well as purpose. I found ‘belonging’ within a church community. And so I conformed to my environment. It didn’t matter what the community ‘believed’, I adhered to their beliefs and values because I needed to belong. Beliefs and values are always developed into invisible walls of protection for the community. I agreed in order to belong and I felt secure within the walls; with these people.

I became a preacher and leader. That gave me a greater sense of belonging, significance and purpose amidst the community. There was only one problem. I did everything solely to satisfy my deep need to belong. I would seek approval. And I learnt to reinforce the belief system by exercising my position as a teacher. I became an expert in the community. I was well accepted; I was needed; I had a purpose; I belonged!

The culture we had put in place was so powerful that anybody who couldn’t conform (there were many) was quickly rejected. They didn’t find belonging among us. It was usually a quick process because the outsider just couldn’t fit in.

Eventually, though, I started questioning things: matters that went to the core of the community’s belief system. I didn’t understand that I was innocently threatening the arrangement that made the community feel safe. I had no idea. I realised, through a very destructive process, that the system that protects the community is more important than the people that make the community: relationships will be sacrificed if they threaten the system. That was my first experience in the role of the scapegoat.

Then I sought to belong somewhere else. And the cycle started over again.

The problem with me is that I’m born to be a scapegoat. And now that I know this I feel quite relieved. I’ve even found greater purpose in understanding this than I did when I tried my hardest to find purpose in belonging to a community. That might sound strange but it’s true. It’s not that I don’t need community because I do; it’s more that I understand how things work and the potential for misunderstanding.

You see, some people have been given the gift to stir the quiet waters of community when something within that ‘peaceful’ environment is not quite right. It doesn’t matter what it is but there’s always someone among the common folk that begins to create a storm. It’s rarely the person at the top and his closest lieutenants. They see themselves as the protectors of the system. So it’s usually within the ranks. Someone will quietly begin to ask questions, show dissatisfaction or become a little too curious about what’s happening on the outside. I’ve found that in most closed circles leaders are ruthless in “protecting the community from division”. They deal with the source of ‘division’ swiftly! Another scapegoat is sacrificed. In a ‘self-aware’ community, however, the people and leaders will see the ‘storm’ as an opportunity to engage, communicate and grow. I know that such communities exist; they’re quite rare.

I’m a teacher. I’m called to grow people; not protect a system. I understand that now. As such I’m an ‘agent provocateur’ of sorts. I push the boundaries. I’m called to move communities forward; to help them grow. In that capacity, I am vulnerable to becoming a scapegoat. I understand that now, so I am better equipped to be everything I am called to be while protecting myself from the hurts scapegoats are vulnerable to endure.

I seek to relate to different communities with clear intentions.

I grow my circle of friendships intentionally. These guys are my friends and our purpose is to enjoy each other’s company. My role is to be simply a friend – not to provoke them with my latest thoughts and ideas; not to exasperate them with my theories and rantings. I must exercise restraint. I cannot use this community as a platform to fulfil my needs to push people forward.

As a pastoral teacher, I relate to a different community with a given task to shepherd the people. It’s in these communities that I went wrong. I can’t provoke these people; I’m only called to lead them to a place of healing and health. Again, self-restraint is needed.

Then there are people in my life that keep watch over me. I am open and vulnerable to them; they can correct me because I trust them. We often share thoughts and ideas too. They play an important part in my growth because they create a space of freedom and protection for me to grow. They help me see where I can go wrong while protecting the relationship. I show self-restraint here because I’ve positioned myself to learn from and with them.

Finally, there are people in my life, community, even communities that allow me to let out the steam. These guys welcome my ideas and provocations. I feel totally free to push the boundaries because I have permission.

I have found my purpose. I know that I am called to push boundaries. I also know that my best friend is self-restraint and a clear understanding of the roles I fill in the various communities of my life.

I recognise that sometimes the only way a community can move forward in leaps and bounds is when a forward-thinking provocateur is scapegoated! I prefer not to be the scapegoat. Jesus, however, was aware of his role and was crucified as the perfect scapegoat. But that subject will need to be looked at in another post!

3866560Dave Hernandez is an author, speaker and blogger. He has been a student, preacher and teacher of the Bible for 30 years. Dave is married to Laurence and has two sons. He is a lover of all cultural expressions.

 This article first appeared on Daves personal blog You can access the blog via: http://www.iamsonofgod.net/blog.html And http://iamsonofgod.blogspot.com/.

Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in the guidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.” Articles published do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff at the Raven Foundation, but are selected primarily because of the way they enhance the conversation around mimetic theory.


interfaith friends

Interfaith Friendship Will Save The World

My Friend Sheima

The first face of Islam I ever encountered belonged to a smiling 11-year-old girl who kindly gestured for me to sit next to her on the bus that would take us both to our first day of middle school. I was shy and introverted, but I had been nervously excited to begin a new chapter of my life with all the thrills middle school had to offer – changing classrooms, having my own locker, no longer being just a “little kid” in elementary school. All of my eager anticipation was nearly crushed before the day even began, as many kids on the bus greeted me by making fun of the new perm I had been so eager to show off. But this one girl reached out to me in kindness, and I felt a rush of relief in the midst of my embarrassment as I sat down next to her. We gradually became good friends. Over the years, Sheima would become a sister to me, one of the first people who helped me see the beauty in God and humanity… and the potential within myself.

When we first met, I did not know anything about her religion. But as time went on, I realized that her faith had compelled her thoughtfulness in our first encounter. It is not that she felt obligated by her religion to reach out to me. Rather, in knowing God to be gracious and merciful, in learning from her faith the values of empathy and compassion, her natural inclination toward me and everyone else was one of love. Her love mirrored the love of God to which she opened herself multiple times a day in her prayers and meditations, and love from and for God shaped her understanding of the world.

This is the Islam I first encountered, manifested in one of the best friends I have ever had. Her family welcomed me into their home and hearts as well, and through them I learned not only the doctrines of Islam, but the values of Islam embodied in Muslims who take their faith seriously – values of hospitality, compassion, tolerance, patience, generosity and love.

Religion As A Weapon

I know that there are violent expressions and interpretations of Islam. I know that any religion can be used to marginalize and exclude others. I know that not all Muslims, and not all Christians, interpret their faith in a way that is loving and peaceful. I know that monotheistic faiths in particular can lead people to an exclusive understanding of God that facilitates a dualistic, us-versus-them mentality that treats people of other faiths and no faith with suspicion and hostility, making them easier to dehumanize, oppress, persecute, and kill.

But none of my Muslim friends, none of the Muslims I know, have ever been motivated by their faith towards hostility and violence. The hostile spirit wielded by some Christians toward Muslims in the post 9/11 world, and particularly after the attacks in Paris, however, is unmistakable. When governors shut the doors to Syrian refugees, prominent officials call for religious tests, and presidential candidates seek to score points through ostentatious displays of Christianity and simultaneous fearmongering against Islam, faith is brandished as a cudgel.

But it gets worse.

When President George W. Bush launched the Global War on Terror, he felt compelled by his understanding of the Christian faith to do so. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath has quoted him as saying:

I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’

While President Barack Obama has not made such appeals to God regarding his administrative decisions, he also identifies as Christian. And he has overseen the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a war on Libya, and over 450 drone strikes that have killed predominantly untargeted individuals. A conservative estimate of the deaths from the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq alone stands at 1.3 million.

While religion should not drive foreign policy, Christianity that does not lead to restraint in warfare, Christianity that does not bear witness to the victims of war, has lost its salt and is worth nothing. And the many who see no contradiction, indeed, see a vital link, between Christian faith and military service, who believe in raining fire and death upon the enemy, do not know what spirit they are from.

At home and abroad, Muslims have experienced Christianity as a weapon. Yet they are constantly compelled by a demanding, suspicious population to counter the image of Islam as a hostile religion of terrorists. Muslims in the United States and around the world have denounced terrorism, hosted interfaith gatherings, written editorials and articles, and continue to live lives of patient compassion, modeling the religion of peace that I have come to know and love. Yet their voices are too often ignored by those who demand accountability for “Islamic” violence.

The truth is, violent expressions of Islam mirror violent expressions of Christianity in a cycle of hostility driven not by God, but by human fear. As mimetic theory shows, vehement religious zeal is driven by a desire to assert one’s self, or one’s religion, over and against another, and any differences are ironically drowned in an overwhelming flood of violence.

A Mutual Dependence on Enmity

The tides of violence are rising as fear and hatred perpetuate one another. The American Empire, ever living up to Dr. King’s apt assessment as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” depends on ISIS to keep the war machine turning and put a noble face of “fighting terror” on a policy of maintaining military dominance and exploiting resources. ISIS, for its part, depends on violence from the United States and her allies to create an atmosphere of desperation, which is their biggest recruitment tool. In a recent article for The Nation, Lydia Wilson interviewed captured ISIS soldiers who confessed to being “terrorized” into fighting. Civil war fueled by American occupation had triggered a desire for vengeance, but more than revenge, fighters were desperate to provide for their families in a broken and impoverished land.

ISIS uses the devastation and hopelessness nurtured by a decade and a half of war to convince Muslims that the world is against them and that they are their only hope. Every gun fired, every drone strike, every parent, child, spouse and sibling killed, every dream obliterated, drives another recruit into their ranks. And with every act of terror they commit, they turn the world against not only them, but against the innocent Muslims who become increasingly isolated. Islamophobic attitudes and policies play directly into the hands of ISIS, who want to force Muslims to choose between them and an increasingly hostile world. Muslims who resist this binary are voices for peace, and they make up the majority of ISIS’s victims.

ISIS uses Islam to bring a veneer of righteousness to their violence, when there is nothing Islamic about it. Seeking to provoke overreaction by Western powers and further isolate fellow Muslims, they target not only soldiers, but civilians of all religions, ignoring the Qur’anic proclamation that to kill an innocent person is to kill all of humanity. (5:32). The United States military, for its part, invokes Christian prayers and employs Christian chaplains, yet throws Jesus’s command to “love your enemies” out the window and demonizes its victims. Both sides are made up of fearful, flawed human beings trying to protect themselves and their families, believing God to be on their side.

Interfaith Friendship Will Save The World

But there is hope. Religion that excludes and dehumanizes others is a weapon, but faith that recognizes the interconnection of all life can be a healing balm. At their best, Islam and Christianity both show life, the universe, everything to be ordained by the One who is Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Christians and Muslims worldwide are compelled – by hope and faith and love nurtured by prayer and support from their communities – to lives of active kindness, generosity, and a determined struggle for restorative justice. At their best, Islam and Christianity inspire not pride, but humility, not self-righteousness, but empathy, not hostility, but healing.

Worshipping the same God, inspired by ethics of compassion and mercy, and striving for the same goals of restorative justice for victims of exploitation, oppression and violence, Christians and Muslims have great potential to be not merely allies, not simply partners in peacemaking, but true friends. Interfaith dialogue is a good beginning, but the seeds of compassion must be sown deeper. Knowledge can be forgotten, fear can taint information, but friendship is the antidote to hostility that can dispel violence and lay a foundation for reconciliation.

So how do we form these friendships? Muslims around the world are already reaching out, as I have said before. Christians must step up and denounce Islamophobia, in order to dispel the fear that precludes relationship. Hand-in-hand with this task comes recognizing and condemning the violence of our own government. I am convinced that Islamophobia works subconsciously to dehumanize the victims of American aggression overseas as well as implant subtle but damaging views of Muslims at home. How else can we explain our collective complacency with a drone program where up to 90% of the casualties are not targeted and a genocidal ideology that justifies the killing of all military-aged males by deeming them combatants even when their identities are unknown? Friendship cannot grow in hostile soil polluted by fear and self-deception.

With fear dispelled and hearts broken open to the truth of our violence, I believe that more people will be willing to reach out to Muslims in friendship, or receive the friendship Muslims continually offer. Of course, friendships, like the one Sheima and I developed, come about naturally if they come about at all. They cannot be forced. But the current climate marginalizing and isolating Muslims precludes interfaith friendships, whereas reaching out in humility and compassion can facilitate them.

Friendships between Muslims and Christians would go a long way toward sucking the oxygen out of ISIS’ ideology and out of the United States’ war machine. Neither side in this battle is endorsed by God, no matter what leaders and soldiers might say. Yet all who fight are beloved of the same God, who stands with all victims and recognizes the fighters themselves as victims of violence and their own fear. The key to peace is not the elimination of the people who fight the battles, but the elimination of enmity itself. Showing that friendship is possible across boundaries of faith shows that God transcends human limits and can’t be confined to one group or invoked against another. It also draws upon and fuels positive mimesis. Compassion is contagious.

Just as ISIS and the West mirror each other in violence, Muslims and Christians can mirror one another in love, and come together in mutual resolve to end violence and sow seeds of peace. A fragile and dying world is dependent on it. And our souls will be enhanced by letting the expansive and reconciling love of the God we all believe in draw us together. Because I am already blessed with such a wonderful friendship, I can testify that so much joy and hope await if we tear down the divisions of fear and hostility and come together in love. We have everything to lose continuing on our destructive path of violence, and everything to gain in coming together in friendship. If we cannot make peace together, we cannot make peace at all. Only friendship across all human divides can save the world.

Image: Copyright: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz via 123rf.com


An Open Letter to Mr. Trump

Editor’s Note: This letter is primarily written to presidential candidate Donald Trump, but it also expresses what must be said to all who claim the identity of Christian and advocate violence as a credible solution to the world’s problems. Matthew writes for the benefit of all who are affected by the vicious cycle of violence and hostility which is unfortunately being fueled by Islamophobic rhetoric. The victims of this rhetoric are innocent Muslims harassed at home and falsely labeled enemies abroad, but they are also those who perpetuate this dehumanizing rhetoric and lose something of their own humanity in the process. All who profess to follow Jesus should understand that violence is antithetical to his Way, as he came not to take life, but to give life in abundance to all.


Mr. Trump,

Just a few days ago, you stated that your plan for ISIS, should you become the President of the United States of America, would be to “bomb the shit out of them.” My first question regarding this is: how do you reconcile your stance with that of Jesus? As a good Christian, I am sure you are aware of the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew’s version of the story (as well as John’s), you will read about a violent disciple, Simon Peter, who attempts to thwart Jesus’ peaceful mission with a sword but is immediately rebuked by the Lord. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Jesus then even says that he has twelve legions of angels at his disposal, should he decide to bomb the shit out of the overwhelmingly powerful Roman soldiers and thus, save his own hide. Is that not essentially the same type of firepower that you will posses should you become the President? So, why then, would you unleash your arsenal when your Master did not? You do claim to be a follower of Jesus, don’t you?

Live by the bomb, die by the bomb.

Now, I am sure that you are also very familiar with the Sermon on the Mount. Even non-Christians like Gandhi, who read the sermon daily, take these teachings seriously. In this sermon, Jesus offers some very radical teachings on non-violence and enemy love. Contrary to Levitical law, Jesus teaches that we are to love our enemies (Matt 5:44) and turn the other cheek when violence is committed against us (5:39). We do this because that is what the Father does (5:48). Mr. Trump, how can you honestly reconcile this command of love with your current view of the worldwide crisis, one that is only exacerbated by an ever-escalating cycle of retributive violence? In my opinion, it simply cannot be done, no matter how creatively, or rather, how un-creatively, you read Matthew 5–7.

And speaking of commands of love . . .

Do us all a favor and read the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats because it will go a long way in helping you better understand how to properly love the One you claim to follow. In this teaching, Jesus, in a very real way, teaches that what we do to the “least of these,” we do to him. Literally! Paul takes an identical view regarding humanity’s interconnectedness in his letter to the Romans. According to John’s gospel, this is because nobody comes into being without coming into being through Christ (John 1:3). If I may be blunt: this includes Middle Eastern refugees, of which, Jesus was one. When you refuse to feed the hungry, when you refuse to give drink to the thirsty,when you do not welcome a stranger, you do those very things to Jesus Christ, the Lord of your life, nay, the Lord of everything and everyone!

So, after the cameras are turned off, after the microphones are taken from your mouth, after the ego lays itself to bed at night, meditate on this.

I do not say these things to condemn you. Your words and actions are self-condemning (See Romans 2:1). But you are loved and therefore, can be love to others. You must humble yourself and see Christ in even your enemies though. The first and second century followers of the Way—i.e. Christians—had this view and that is why they were decidedly non-violent.

O, how far we have fallen as a church!

Mr. Trump, I implore you to repent. Change your mind regarding this. It is never too late to change your posture to line up with Christ’s, which is decidedly peaceful. Test this with John 20:19–23. If you claim to be a follower of Christ and thus, living in the Spirit, then the manifestations of that will clearly match the Spirit Jesus breathed on the disciples after the resurrection. The public actions I have seen from you in the past few months assuredly do not. Again, in the quiet moments, when you are at your most childlike, meditate on this and repent.

I pray you find the peace of Jesus in your heart.

Matthew J. Distefano


Image: Screenshot from Youtube.

Girard screenshot

Farewell René Girard

It has been a few weeks since the passing of French anthropologist René Girard and I am just now sitting down to write my tribute. To be honest, I simply did not know what to put in writing. Other Girardians seemed able to get something out quickly while I was left processing at a painfully slow pace. But, now I feel ready to say what I would like to say.

So, here it goes . . .

The motivation to write something about the father of mimetic theory came abruptly last Saturday in Palo Alto, California, the city where René’s funeral was held. I made the three hour drive from my home by myself, so it gave me time to reflect on just how important Girard’s contributions to humanity are. When I arrived at the gorgeous Catholic church, I was met by my good friends Michael and Lorri Hardin and together, we witnessed a touching service for the late, great theorist.

After the event, I was invited to head back to René and his wife Martha’s private home at Stanford University. To be frank: it was an extremely surreal experience. Here I am—having never met René but having been so greatly impacted both intellectually and personally—standing in his very bedroom. I perused through his immense library and could barely speak. When I did, it was sparse.

Dinner was next and I was graciously invited to that event as well. It was at one of those restaurants where the prices are left off the menu so you know it’s going to be fantastic. And it did not disappoint. Throughout the night, the Hardins and I spent the evening chatting with some of René’s grandchildren, which was quite touching. We heard stories about who René was as a person; his humility, approachableness, and gentle nature, none of which was a surprise. All in all, it truly was a once in a lifetime experience, as bittersweet as it inevitably was.

Now, I would like to personally explain why René Girard and mimetic theory is so important to me. If I think back just half a decade, I easily recall a Matthew Distefano who was riding the fence of agnosticism. I deconstructed my conservative theology so much so that my house became void of any furniture, so to speak. It was an uncomfortable time for me to say the least. In comes mimetic theory and, as the French would say, voilà! Like Neo in The Matrix, down went the red pill.

Personally, the thing about mimetic theory is that, once I “got it,” the Gospel account then made so much sense. It ends up truly being “good news.” And because it explains human culture and religion so thoroughly, it actually helped the Bible—you know, even those cringe-inducing parts—finally make sense. After years of having a love/hate relationship with the good book, that was a welcomed relief!

Frankly, that was my major issue, even as a (struggling) conservative Christian. I could not, in good conscience, call the God of the Bible, as he was explained to me from a “plain” reading of scripture, good. Regardless of the various ways in which he was described, nothing worked. So when I almost salvifically discovered the work of Girard, my mind immediately became satisfied. Since that discovery—which, if I correctly recall, has been roughly three years—I’ve only delved deeper into the theory, which has in turn deepened my conviction that the theory is indeed correct. My mind has only wanted more. But it has not just been about the mind. There is a “heart” element to of all this too.

For me, it was the mind first, then the heart.

That is why I say René Girard has impacted me not only intellectually, but personally. Once things “made sense,” my heart has only been filled with the joy of that revelation. And so, I’ve discovered a whole new side of myself—a more forgiving side. I can’t help but look at others drastically different than I used to. I can no longer ignorantly scapegoat them for now I should full well know better. It has really been enlightening and actually quite healing because I could finally repent of the correct things.

For that, I must say: “Thank you, René Girard!”

I am not exaggerating this when I say that, in retrospect, I predict that René Girard will one day be viewed as one of the most important figures in human history. His work is that important! To be accepted and understood by the masses, if my personal transformation is worth anything, could have profound implications. To find the cure to any problem, one must first understand the underlying cause. René Girard has done humanity a great service in helping us understand the root cause of some of our greatest problems, those that could even have the potential to threaten humanity itself.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, now is as good a time as any for mimetic theory to be understood by more people. I believe the greatest way we can both honor René Girard and move toward discovering peace in our lifetime, is to spread his work like wildfire. The torch has been passed and so my hope and prayer is that, in community with one another, we carry on and even expand on the work he devoted much of his life to.

Rest in peace, René, and enjoy the comfort and rest in the arms of Papa. Until I join you, I offer thanks and gratitude, and stand in solidarity with all those who yearn for peace.

-Matthew J. Distefano


Image: Screen shot from Youtube. René Girard on Peter’s Denial by Steve Berry.

Rene Girard

Many Voices In Celebration: A Tribute To René Girard

Introduction: Remembering Together

René Girard, Immortel de l’Academie Francaise, took his place among the immortals in the Communion of Saints on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. In the week that has followed, friends and disciples the world over have shared grief and gratitude, memories and lessons learned.

For many, Girard’s legacy has been noted in the annals of history as that of a great interdisciplinary scholar. But as our colleague Adam Ericksen has noted, “those of us who have been highly influenced by René know better.” For us, René Girard’s insight of mimetic theory is the lens through which we perceive what Jesus first revealed, “hidden since the foundation of the world.” Our world is built on victims; our violence runs deep. But if mimetic theory exposes the depth of our darkness, it also shines a hopeful light. It short, it illuminates what it means to be human and the intricacies and intimacies by which we are bound to each other. So for those of us who have studied mimetic theory in only some of its myriad applications, it frames our understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be made in the image of the Triune, relational God. Girardians know that René was not simply one among many. We do not exaggerate when we say, “René Girard changed my life.”

Yet paradoxically, while Girard may stand out in our minds, if he taught us anything, it is that one never stands alone. We are all interdividuals, unique compositions of interconnections, made who we are by our relationships. We are quite literally nothing without each other. For Girardians, René’s insights have shed light on our relationships with family and friends, helping us understand both how conflicts arise and how to redirect the our energy from conflict to cooperation and compassion. We are grateful for the ways Girard’s insights have enhanced marriages, friendships, and relationships with our parents and our children and our siblings. And we are also grateful for the community we have found in each other.

Girardians from around the world have come together in real and virtual communities not only to study and learn, but to form relationships, which we know to be the building blocks of our humanity. At conferences such as the Colloquium on Violence and Religion and Theology and Peace, we have come together in fellowship and pursuit of knowledge, prayer and meditation, laughter and occasional tears. We keep our relationships alive through virtual communities, where we feed and reinforce our mutual desires for reconciliation with God and neighbor. Because of René Girard, we strive to live for everyone and against no one. We are all recovering scapegoaters seeking to hold ourselves accountable for our victimization, yet comforting one-another as we undergo the painful and redeeming metanoia of turning from violence to peacemaking. Those of us who never met René Girard in person met him in each other. René’s insights brought us together, where we can do so much more than we ever could apart, because we are so much more together than we are apart.

So it is only appropriate that we mourn and celebrate together. Accordingly, the Raven Foundation has compiled many (but by no means all) of the memorials and obituaries of René Girard together in this tribute. As we reflect on the life and teachings of our beloved mentor, let us remember that he lives on through us as we live through each other. And let us continue the mission he helped us understand, begun in Christ and given to us all, to cease our victimization and build upon the peace that comes from reorienting our desires from self to service. We can only achieve this mission in community and communion.

Rest in peace, René, and rise in the glory of the God whose love you helped illuminate.

~Lindsey Paris-Lopez

The Flock at the Raven Foundation wrote multiple tributes to René Girard.

Adam Ericksen explains how Girard taught us about life and death through the exposure of the scapegoating mechanism. “Girard taught us that to truly live is to stop scapegoating our enemies, and to stop justifying it in the name of God.” Read more in The Truth About God, Life And Death: In Memory of René Girard. 

 Suzanne Ross links the work of Girard to that of Maria Montessori, showing how Girard’s illumination of the scapegoat complements Montessori’s revelation of how adults blindly scapegoat children when we misunderstand childhood. René and Maria both have gifted us with an awareness of our violence toward the most vulnerable… and how to turn such violence into compassion. Read more in Tears For Girard.

Matthew Distefano mourned and celebrated with René’s closest family and friends at his funeral. It was there that he found the words to commemorate Girard’s tremendous impact on all aspects of his life. Read his Farewell to René Girard.

Colleagues and Media Outlets eulogized Girard:

Fellow Stanford professor Cynthia Haven wrote a moving obituary from the perspective of one who knew him personally and professionally. “Girard was always a striking and immediately recognizable presence on the Stanford campus, with his deep-set eyes, leonine head and shock of silver hair. His effect on others could be galvanizing… Others were impressed, but Girard was never greatly impressed by himself, though his biting wit sometimes rankled critics.” Read more in Stanford professor and eminent French theorist, René Girard, member of the Académie Française, dies at 91.

Scott Cowdell, of Charles Sturt University, deftly summarizes Girard’s work for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation: “Girard knew that we cannot escape mimeticism, but we can follow worthy models of desire into non-rivalrous living, away from violent escalation and violent resolution, finding an ecclesial experience of unity without the need for enemies.” Read more in The ‘Darwin of the Human Sciences’: René Girard, A Theological Retrospective.

René Girard, philosopher – obituary, anonymously written in The Telegraph (UK), states the takeaway from a Girardian hermeneutic: “Jesus’s sacrifice is presented not as a means of appeasing an offended deity, but as an example of a loving God offering human beings liberation from this destructive cycle. The resurrection of the forgiving victim offers human life new foundations.” 

Randall Frederick of the Huffington Post writes that Girard “has helped many recontextualize violence and the role of violence in religion and historical practice.” Read more in René Girard (1923 – 2015) in Contemporary Philosophy.

Bishop Robert Barron, writing for The National Catholic Register and The Catholic World Report, describes Girard’s “permanent and unsettling contribution” as “the recovery of Christianity as revelation, as an unmasking of what all the other religions are saying,” in René Girard, Church Father.

Quentin Hardy, of the New York Times, touches on the ways Girard’s mimetic theory manifest in economics and social media, among other things, in René Girard, French Theorist of the Social Sciences, Dies at 91.

And Girard’s friends and disciples have written loving tributes in his honor:

Michael Hardin, of Preaching Peace, whom René has called his “best interpreter” (except for his wife, Martha), writes, “What do you say about the person of whom you can say they absolutely changed the way one thought about things, about life, about the Gospel, about God? I cannot imagine my life or my theological work apart from mimetic theory.” Read My Tribute To René Girard. 

James Alison, Catholic priest and Girardian theologian, explains the broad appeal of Girardian thought, transcending bounds between layperson and scholar and appealing to a wide spectrum of political ideologies as well. He believes this is because “At the center of Girard’s thought is an understanding of how both order and disorder are created,” with people on the right attracted to his understanding of order and people on the left attracted to his explanation of disorder. See the memorial video: James Alison On René Girard.

Andrew Marr, Benedictine Monk and Girardian author, writes of Girard’s generous spirit and kindly manner: “I realized that Girard does not have followers; he has colleagues. That’s how he treated people. And not only colleagues, but friends.” Read more: In Memorium: René Girard: 1923 – 2015.

Artur Roseman, professor and channel manager of Patheos Catholic, has written several blog posts commemorating Girard in the last week and a half. His memorial is Lux Aeterna: RIP René Girard (December 25, 1923 – November 4, 2015).  

He has also written a very useful article explaining how Girard’s influence has spanned multiple disciplines. “You cannot hope to escape him, and you can barely even contain him.” Read TOP10 Books: The Girard Option of Interdisciplinary Influence.

 Andre Rabe, author of Desire Found Me, writes, “Thank you René – somehow I think he can hear us – thank you for the courage to think and communicate so clearly. Because of you I know myself and others a little bit better, and most significantly, I have a greater awareness of the God who is not the product of our own violent projections, but the One who saves us from our own delusions.” Read more in Before and After René Girard.

 Erik Buys, on his blog, Mimetic Margins, explains how Girardian wisdom helps us transcend idolatry and envy: “Once we find ourselves loved for who we are, we can enjoy the talents of others without feeling threatened, or without the tendency to downplay the unique gifts they bring to the table.” Read more in Killing Idols: Commemorating René Girard’s Spirituality.

He has also compiled moving obituaries in several languages from around the world here.

Tom Truby finds Girardian wisdom in the tale of the widow who gave out of her poverty. “Girard’s thinking has made us more aware of the poor widow sacrificed on the altar of exploitive religion and culture and of how she and all those at the bottom are actually the hidden and unjust foundations upon which everything else is built.” Read more in his Special Wednesday Sermon: In Memory of René Girard.

 Other friends have voiced their gratitude and condolences:

René Girard passed away this morning. For those of you who know me well, you would understand that his work has informed the last 25 years of my life. Sorrow for all who knew him and for his wife Martha and their children.” ~ Betsy Hansbrough (who also scoured the internet finding many obituaries in many languages).

I wrote a book about his thought, but never met him. I was a few miles from his home three years or so ago, with an appointment all set, when Martha called to tell me he had to be rushed to the emergency room — and I had to fly back to NY. Always sad about that; but having his thoughts change my life has been consolation for missing out on knowing the man. Blessings on those who knew him and grieve the man, and blessings on René Girard, who, through his powerful insights, has kept many of us within the Christian flock. ~ James Warren

So grateful for the life of René Girard. Prayers for Martha and all who love him. I can’t even express how much he meant to me. I’m not even sure I actually know. Strange that I’d never even met him. Though is that true when you read someone? Was channeling him just this morning. I’m sad. ~ Katy Piazza

René Girard died early today. His journey was extraordinary, from France to the U.S., from literature to apocalypse, from theology to anthropology. His work represented the dark suspect underground of glittering postmodernism. He showed us the blood on the tracks. I followed those tracks personally, from England to the U.S., from postmodernism to the coming of compassion. Although he’s gone from view, René’s journey will most surely continue. ~ Anthony Bartlett

And many, many more…

David Hayward, also known as the Naked Pastor, expressed his tribute to René Girard through art, with the featured image on this tribute page. The lone scapegoat in the desert mourns Girard, who spoke for him. We must all speak for the scapegoats now, until the world learns to live without them.

Is there a great tribute to René that we missed? Link to it in the comments and it will be added! Please voice your own memories there as well! As Girard taught us so well, we are interconnected, and our shared stories become a part of us all.

matt and adam talking

Talk To Me Tuesday: The RavenCast: Episode 3 with Matthew Distefano – All Set Free

Show Notes:

In the third episode of the RavenCast, Adam talks with Matthew Distefano about his book, All Set Free: How Christ Reveals God and Why That Is Really Good News

We discuss topics like: what Christ reveals about God, violence in the Bible, heaven and hell, how to love your neighbor as yourself, and Atonement.

You can keep up with Matthew on his website, “All Set Free” and at the Raven Foundation.



Expressions Of Faith And Seeing The World Christocentrically


Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by guest author Dave Hernandez.

I’m enjoying life residing on a tropical island of the Indian Ocean with my wife and kids at the moment. It’s a beautiful place and we’re enjoying our stress-free lifestyle.

This island features a real multi-faith society: Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism make up most of the religious expressions and traditions its people practice. It has been a bit of an eye opener. I have to admit that I enjoy the richness of the cultural and religious expressions. We can hear the call to prayer from the nearest mosque to our place of residence. As you drive through the towns you pass places of worship representing each religious expression within less than a kilometer of each other.

It got me thinking. We categorise people. In this case, we categorise them by their religious affiliation. We also categorise them by their ethnic origins. On this Island, for instance, there are many ethnic backgrounds represented. We also categorise people into classes based on wealth and fame.

Being raised in a Christian circle kept me confined to my category of religious expression enjoyed with like-minded, same-coloured, middle-class people. That was my world. And to be honest, we feared those who weren’t like us. Evangelism was therefore a conversion of “others” to our way of seeing and doing life!

Recently, though, God has pulled me out of this classification system and pulled me closer to Christ, the Cross and the Resurrection. The new lenses of seeing the world Christocentrically has done wonders in setting me free from my old fear-based, deceit-infused and shame-filled mindset.

Instead of seeing the world as separate from me because they’re not “Christians” like me, I am beginning to see everybody on a journey of transference from the dead Body of Adam to the resurrected Body of Christ. Our lives are in Christ. We are alive only in and because of Him. The original Blueprint of Humanity is revealed and restored to us in Jesus who gathered all humanity into His death and released us into true life in his Resurrection.

If the Apostle Paul were writing today, I believe he would be saying this: “In Christ there’s no Christian, Hindu or Muslim…”

Paul writes this:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:14-16a NASB).

Paul says that he no longer sees anybody according to their carnal state (through our fear-filled categorisation of people) which means that he sees them according to their restored identities made available to them in the fact that Christ died and resurrected for all of us into himself.

It means that people of all expressions of faith are, in fact, in their own traditional and cultural expression, seeking their resurrected state because they are dead. They are dead in and because of Adam. And Jesus nailed the Adamic “Body” to the cross. All are dead in Christ! And all are resurrected in Him!

The problem is that we are imprisoned by the lies, fear and shame we’ve inherited from our forefathers.

The good news is that the Spirit of Life and Freedom is at work in the world leading seekers of life as well as the most enthusiastic lovers of death to places where the “elevated Christ” will draw them to a realisation of their forgiven and redeemed state in Christ. Jesus said, “if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself (John 12:32 NASB).”

I have repented of my old way of seeing things. I see nobody according to the old Adamic state although I know they are still imprisoned and struggling with the Adamic inheritance of lies, fear and shame. And I also see how the Holy Spirit is working in every person’s inner being leading them to love, truth and honour found in the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is working in the world in ways that the institutionalised Christian Church cannot. Muslims are seeing Jesus in dreams and visions; Hindus are hearing the voice of Jesus while worshiping in their temple; Catholics and Protestant alike are coming alive to their real state in Christ.

Some are totally unaware of this process. Some are aware and believe but still imprisoned by terror, deceit and a broken self. Others are recovering the blueprints of their lives. We are all on this journey!

What does this make us then? And what do Hindus or Muslims “become” when they come into the awareness of the true state and identity in Christ? And what of the atheist? It makes us children of God!

3866560Dave Hernandez is an author, speaker and blogger. He has been a student of theology for 30 years. Dave is married to Laurence and has two sons. He is a lover of all cultural expressions.

This article first appeared on Dave’s personal blog. You can access the blog via: http://www.iamsonofgod.net/blog.html and http://iamsonofgod.blogspot.com/

Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in the guidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.”



Lamentation For Victims of Death By Religious Christianity

I used to be religious. I immaturely believed my beliefs were what led to my salvation. If organized in just the right ways, I would somehow “know” God. In Christianese, I would “be saved.” Of course, this begs the question: “saved from what?” If it is salvation from a monster god—one that abhors us as if we were some loathsome insect[1]—I’m not sure what a damn bit of good my “correct beliefs” were going to do for me.

But I digress . . .

The problem for me was that the beliefs that were somehow going to lead to “heaven” changed like the blowing wind. I was “saved” as early as five but really, what does that mean? No five year-old can understand what they are saying when they sycophantically ask Jesus to “come into their heart (as if he isn’t already there!).” It is all just a mimetic response: a deliberate imitation of, more often than not, their parents. And my “decision” to follow Jesus was because the alternative was a divine Abu Ghraib. Nothing says “free choice” like the threat of torture! I couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around any of this and it spiritually killed me.

I thought of just how wretched I was. There was a Bible verse and subsequent fundamentalist interpretation to “clearly” denounce just about everything I did. If I cussed, James 3:9–12! Laugh at a dirty joke and its right to Ephesians 4:29. Oh, and I won’t fail to mention just what sort of thoughts my teenage years were responsible for. Although God smote Onan for reasons other than simply “spilling his seed,” regardless, I never imagined he was all too pleased with how I chose to spend a good many hours as a teenager. If anyone was a sinner it was me! My law-based religion reminded me constantly.

So, like I said, I spiritually died. “Don’t do this and don’t do that” was like dying from a million paper cuts. I became another victim of “death by religion.”

Sadly, victims are still being produced today. I see it all over the place. Correct beliefs about Jesus often seem more important than loving like Jesus. Let me rephrase. Correct beliefs about Christianity often seem more important than loving like Jesus. Too often, even Jesus plays second fiddle to the religion that was created in his name. Talk about an irony of ironies!

And speaking of irony, as Jesus never created scapegoats, just look at who is “in” and who is “out” according to mainstream, religious Christianity.

Homosexuals? Out.

Muslims? Definitely out!

“Liberal” Christians? They don’t even exist according to some.

Universalists? Don’t even get me started!

Hindus? See “Muslims.”

All other faith traditions? Obviously out!

And just to make sure the world knows who is “in” and who is “out,” some religious zealots make signs and stand on street corners, intimidatingly stand outside Mosques with guns in hand, label others as “satanists,” “false prophets,” and “cultish,” and tell just about everyone who doesn’t square with their subjective understanding of “Christian” that they are on the “road to perdition.”

It sickens me.

I grieve for both those trapped in the snare we call religion and those abused by it. I believe Jesus does too. He came to free us from placing our belief in sacred violence so it must pain him to think such abuse is done in his name.

We must begin to say “enough!” We cannot continue to stand for doctrines and dogmas that rely on an “in” crowd and an “out” crowd. Those types of beliefs always lead to persecution, to victimization, to violence. And none of that is compatible with following Jesus. It must stop!

Jesus came to heal and comfort those the religious authorities kicked to the fringes of society. He didn’t come to validate “us vs. them” thinking. He didn’t come to validate sacrificial religion, a temple system, or a god who needs something in order to give something. He came to teach us that the divine is even in the “least of these.”

Homosexuals? In.

Muslims? Included.

“Liberal” Christians? Yes they exist and yes they are included.

Universalists? I would hope so!

Hindus? See “Muslims.”

All other faith traditions? Like I said: included!

Every 500 years, Christianity goes through a major change. It has been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation so it is that time again, this time for a reformation from Christianity to following Jesus. And that means the real Jesus. That means the Jesus who stood in the face of the Roman Empire and refused to fight fire with fire. That means a messiah who refused to live up to the violent expectations of such a title. That means a Jesus who refused to create victims, who refused to create scapegoats, and who refused to do anything but the will of his Father he affectionately called “Abba.” That Jesus!

I pray for the day when Christians convert to Jesus en masse. In order for that to happen, Christianity must be shorn of its religious aspects—holiness codes, sacrificial hermeneutics, law-based doctrines, and the like. Until then, I will continue to lament over those who face the wrath of religion. Unlike the yoke of Jesus, which is easy, religion’s is more than hard and its burden great indeed. That path leads to destruction but the path paved in love leads to life. Let us choose love. Let us choose Jesus . . . but I repeat myself.

[1] See Calvinist Jonathan Edwards’ sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

Image: Stock Photo by Charles Wollertz from 123rf.com.


Everyone Who Loves Is Born Of God And Knows God

The following article was submitted by guest author Dave Hernandez.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

This passage defines the parameters for “knowing” God quite clearly!

It seems that this reference of Scripture, along with many other encouragements to ‘love one-another’ throughout the Holy Bible, have not been the strength of the churchgoers I’ve associated myself with over the years, including myself.

It’s not that we’ve not known how to do ‘good works’ and show kindness to the poor and outcasts of society – because we did well on that front. It’s just that our ability to really love those we disagree with morally, theologically or even in terms of religious expression remained somewhat limited.

In my opinion, it’s because our eyes are still blind to the Trinity as our source of Love, Truth and Honor. Without these we die. Without God we die. Adam introduced us to death.

Perhaps we don’t know God as much as we’d care to admit. Let’s not be too harsh on ourselves: we carry lies, shame and fear from generations past since Adam’s disobedience. That’s how Adam and Eve’s disobedience hurt us so much. We are blind. And because of our blindness, New Testament truths have been hijacked and turned into a religious system that has kept us enslaved to more lies, fear and shame.

Or is it that we don’t know ourselves because we’ve remained focused on sin as behavior and moral short-comings, instead of understanding that we all live disabled by a broken soul needing unconditional love, uncontaminated truth and a sense of dignity and honor to survive?

Perhaps looking at our common brokenness with an open heart of humility will help us understand how blind we are and why? Self-awareness has never hurt anybody. And, maybe that self-awareness will open our eyes to the struggles of every other person we encounter in life?

New Birth gives us new vision. That’s what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3: Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3). I have no doubt of our salvation, but I must admit, to my regret, that I have just recently come to a place of awareness that allows me to declare, “I am beginning to see clearly.” It’s not that I wasn’t born… I was simply in the infancy of New Birth that dragged on for over 25 years. Now, however, I feel that I am fully aware of my New Birth, and I am beginning to get a grasp of The Kingdom presented to us from the Cross and our Resurrection. Further on Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

I am undergoing metanoia, a change of mindset. It’s forcing me to face the incredible foolishness of my past mindset. And I am very sorry. I sincerely apologize to the many people I have shunned, ignored and rejected all in the name of Holiness and Truth. I am profoundly sorry, but I didn’t actually know God back then. That may not be a good excuse, but it’s true. I was blind. I had doctrine but not God. However, He knew me and was patient with me. He graciously took me through a process of unlearning everything. It was painful but well worth it. I was a preacher but I didn’t know God as Love. At least, I didn’t know Him in the way John describes in his Epistle: the way Jesus reveals The Father and His Kingdom at and from the Cross. I knew the Cross as a means to satisfy the wrath of an angry God. I knew the cross as a means to make me acceptable before a Holy God. But Love? One that embraces all Humanity? That can’t be true? There’re too many people I find difficult to love out there, in that evil world, and I can justify not loving them because, well, they just don’t have Truth and Holiness like me.

That mindset has changed. It must change for all of us. That’s true repentance. If I am to reflect that I know God, then I must let Love flow from my inner most being like a river of sweetness. That is what Jesus is referring to in John 7:37-38:  

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”

James, in his Epistle, asks us a question: “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (James 4:12.)

I recognized that my soul, my innermost being, was flowing with bitter water and needed healing. Yes, despite being a “Christian” all my life, and a minister as well, the waters were poisoned by anger, jealousies, criticism and various manifestations of fear. Further on John continues to write, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,…” (1 John 4:18)

You see, my waters were embittered by fear because I didn’t know God…not really! I was still blind living my christianity with fear, lies and shame being my primary motivators.

I knew of God. I knew about Him. I loved the Bible. And I sought after Him. I was religious although I believed I wasn’t. My soul was filled with lies, fear and shame. To be honest, I was like everybody else on this planet living life according to the old Adamic reference of death. The atheist, the Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Evangelical and me! All as one Body living in our fears, lies and shame, seeking something. All on a quest. Some know of God, some not. Some are showing love but not knowing its source. Some are religiously devout but showing anger. All of us, as one body of people needing a transforming encounter into Love, Truth and Honor.

The Cross reveals and recovers for us everything we’ve lost. God is Love. The Cross shows us the extent of Love. Jesus came full of Grace and Truth. He restores us to Truth at the cross. “For this cause I have come”, Jesus admits to Pilate, “to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). And, in our forgiveness, revealed to us at the Cross, we are restored to a place of dignity and honor as Sons and Daughters.

The outcome of that restoration will be evident to all: everyone who loves is born of God and knows God!

3866560Dave Hernandez is an author, speaker and blogger. He has been a student of theology for 30 years. Dave is married to Laurence and has two sons. He is a lover of all cultural expressions.

This article first appeared on Dave’s personal blog “I Am!

Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in the guidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.”


Tears of Friendship, Birth-Pangs of New Life: An All Saints Sunday Meditation

(Below is a slightly modified adaptation of a sermon I preached for All Saints Sunday, 2012, based on the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 32-44, or “The Raising of Lazarus.”):

Friends, there are at least two themes to this familiar Gospel story: resurrection and friendship. How appropriate for All Saints Sunday, when we celebrate our eternal friendship, united in the joy of resurrection in God’s holy reign! I want to suggest that friendship and resurrection are deeply connected. It is not merely that we will all be friends in heaven. In a very real sense, friendship is resurrection.

Saint Paul says that to be in Christ is to be a new creation. And to be in Christ is to be in friendship, in free and voluntary love, with him. And if we are in friendship with Christ we are also united in the body of Christ as friends.

I once found it strange that Jesus wept moments before raising Lazarus from the dead. After all, he knew that joy was about to conquer sorrow. Why, then, did he weep?

Yet the more I meditate on Jesus, the more I see that he could not have done otherwise. He wept because he was human. He wept because he was God. And he wept because Lazarus was his friend.

To be human is to feel the urgency of human need, even when you have faith that, in the end, all will be well. It is to weep with others, to shoulder their pain so that the weight of sorrow does not crush them.

As God in flesh, Jesus understood the suffering of Lazarus and his sisters more deeply than they themselves ever could. He mourned the pain that Lazarus endured in his final hours. He felt the anxiety of Mary and Martha, missing their brother and facing the double oppression of occupation and sexism. Impoverished women, living without a man under an occupying power, could hardly make a life for themselves and were often left behind by their society.

And Jesus mourned the violence that permeates human nature and creates such unjust systems, which burden people of all times and places.

But beyond all of that, Jesus had lost a personal friend. He had lost someone with whom he had shared laughter and stories and tears. Grief was the only possible response.

We tend to think Jesus wept before he raised Lazarus from the dead. But what if tears were part of the resurrection process itself?

It wasn’t just Jesus’ power that raised Lazarus. It was Jesus’ love. Love is the power, love is the whole being, of Jesus, indeed the whole being of God revealed in Jesus. And love is vulnerability. It is sharing another’s pain. It is weeping.

If Lazarus could not have been healed without Jesus’ love, does that mean that he could not have been healed without his tears? I think so. And I believe the tears are the birth-pangs of the same suffering love that would be fully borne on the cross.

We know that God is Love, and Love is the power that gives us eternal life. But love can seem abstract and fuzzy. We can say we love humanity and truly wish to help all people. But an awareness of the suffering of the world rarely makes us weep, unless we see that suffering manifested in a friend.

God’s love manifested itself for us in the most personal and profound way – in the life of our best friend Jesus, who weeps with us in our darkest hours even as he leads us into the splendor of eternal light and life. We are bound to him at our most vulnerable by mutual tears. What a friend we have in Jesus.

And if our new life in Jesus is this profoundly intimate friendship, then we are bound to each other in friendship as well. I began this article with the word “Friends” because you, dear readers, are my friends. Friends forever. It’s not just a catchy phrase to write in a yearbook; it is our eternal destiny in Christ.

We are united in a love that transcends all bounds, a love not compelled by family bonds or common associations, but freely given and received in grace. This is what it means to be the communion of Saints.

What if, today, we all commit to deepening our relationships with those around us, and journey further into the new life we have received in Christ? This doesn’t mean looking past differences, but exploring them more deeply, with open minds and hearts. It means setting aside judgment and listening with empathy. It means taking a risk, making ourselves vulnerable, as Jesus was when he wept.

We are called by Christ to love all people, regardless of race, language, politics, sexual orientation, or creed. But because we are human, we must wait until we are united in the fullness of God’s kingdom before we can know them all. We cannot offer personal friendship to every single person on earth. But we all know those to whom we can offer it. It is in particular friendships and concrete acts of kindness that we transcend our prejudices and deepen our love for humanity.

We can take the time today to make a new friend, or deepen a relationship with someone we know only by sight or name. The more we open ourselves to others in friendship, the more we will see Christ revealed, and the deeper we will feel ourselves fall into the secure embrace of God’s love.

In the name of God who models the perfect friendship in Triune Harmony and unites us in eternal friendship as the Communion of Saints, Amen.

Image: “The Raising of Lazarus” by Davezelenka. Available on Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.