Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by guest author Dr. Chezeray M. Moore. It is the second of a multi-part essay. You can read the first part here.
An Appreciative Commentary on James Alison’s Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice, Book 1
My Born Again Experience, Part 2
The challenge presented in Essay #1 to up one’s intellectual ante gains exponential momentum in Essay #2. There are some implications that accompany the fact that Jesus was indeed a very human victim which I found to be profound. And in this profundity, I am challenged to reset my interpretive compass, as this revelation of Jesus as the forgiving victim becomes my “True North.”
I had to accept the fact that, in reality, Jesus was not the true north for me, as he hasn’t been the true north for most of us. The proof of this is revealed in how the Bible is spoken of in typical religious parlance as though it is authoritative in and of itself.
“What does the Bible say about… ?
“The Bible clearly says…”
“The Scriptures clearly instruct us…”
Such questions and phrases indicate a thought process that’s taken into scriptural study as if one is in a physics lab trying to unravel the mysteries of the laws of motion with these fixed, independently verifiable axioms.
However, such questions and phrases do not represent the thought process taken into scriptural study in the days of antiquity. They represent a relatively new thought process which has crept in and supplanted that which was demonstrated by Jesus himself; a thought process which centered in the questions, “How do you read the scriptures?” or “Through whose eyes do you read these texts which we call the scriptures?”
It dawned on me that the differences between these two thought processes are of vital importance.
Treating the scriptures as though authority resides in the texts themselves is on par with trying to use a map that doesn’t have a compass and a scale. Your starting chances of being directionally correct are only 25%.
The thought process used by Jesus, which he hands to his followers, challenges us to recognize the importance, and in fact places emphasis on, the eyes that read – OVER AND ABOVE – that which is read. Jesus goes further, and lets us know, in no uncertain terms, whose eyes we are to read the scriptures through; those eyes being HIS OWN. THE TRUE NORTH.
Post-resurrection, we have Jesus meeting up with two men on a road to a village named Emmaus. Jesus meets up with them as they are in a heated discussion about… Jesus (Luke 24:13-35).
They are trying to make sense of recent events, juxtaposed with their expectations. They are considering their scriptures and the reports they have heard about the tomb. At the same time, they don’t recognize the fact that it is indeed Jesus who is walking and talking with them. The fact is no,thing is made clear to them until two things happen: #1 – Jesus interprets for them in ALL the scriptures, beginning with Moses and the Prophets, the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)
This brings to mind the pre-crucifixion incidents when Jesus admonished the Sadducees on the very issue of resurrection saying, “You do err, not understanding the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Mark 12:24)
And a group of Jews recorded at John 5:39-40 “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
They’re trying to read the map without its scale and compass.
Next, clarity doesn’t come until,
#2 – “When he [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.” (Luke 24: 30-31)
The breaking of the bread being, according to Jesus, pre-crucifixion, “This is my body which is given up for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:18 [in conjunction with the cup])
I had to ask myself if I read the scriptures through Jesus’ eyes, if I was experiencing the eye-opening, spirit-stirring awakening that occurs when Jesus is teaching. And then, after ignoring that mimetic voice in my head that was screaming, “Oh. Yes! Hallelujah! The Holy Spirit instructs me in all Jesus teaches, I have an unction, I’m anointed, praise God! In Jesus’ name, Amen!” I asked myself the same question – a second time.
It brought to mind Jesus’ admonishment of the Church at Pergamum, which had some who adhered to the doctrines of Balaam, a Prophet whose enthusiasm for mimetically-motivated rivalry between Israel and Moab caused him to “hear” from God erroneously. (See Revelation 2:14 and Numbers 22: 12-14, 15-22, 23-35)
So, I gave up, “Balaam’s Voice.” I surrendered my inner need to be able to put my finger on a verse of scripture and declare its literal and fundamental reading as my warrant of authority. I let go of the characters to whom I was mimetically attached; all of whom defined their own sense of rightness in rivalry with someone else’s wrongness. I gave up the mental mechanisms that create victims. And I embraced the idea of seeing scripture as a story about victims, not conquerors. A broken Jesus.
The idea that we are to interpret scriptures from the perspective of the victims is a bitter pill to swallow for those who are concerned they are in all things more than conquerors. For those who believe they are the beneficiaries of manifest destiny. For those who believe they carry the white man’s burden. For such individuals it is virtually impossible to embrace reality, and scriptural interpretation, through Jesus’ eyes; therefore, impossible for such to be free from errors.
So for me, the choice is between two processes of thought; Fundamental literalism, or through Jesus’ eyes. Faced with the potential freedom offered by learning to live independently from mimetic rivalry, I choose to join James Alison and René Girard, as well as the many others who enjoy this freedom, by choosing the eyes of Jesus – let him who has eyes to see, SEE.
By this truth, my life continues to be transformed by the life, death and post-resurrection accounts of the historical person named Jesus. I hope my story, my born again experience, continues to resonate with you, and you find the inspiration to take in the challenges presented in James Alison’s collection of essays, as I have. Share your own story. Until next time, and always, be in peace.
Dr. Chezeray M. Moore discovered mimetic theory through studying James Alison’s “Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice.” The truths expounded by Girard so profoundly effected Moore’s life that he declares Girard his guru. While Dr. Moore can only be reached by post, he would greatly welcome your correspondence. His address is Dr. Chezeray M. Moore, #B-54755, P.O. Box 1700, Galesburg, IL 61402.
Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice with James Alison is a product of the Raven Foundation with financial support from Imitatio. The essays are published by DOERS Publishing, LLC and are available in print, as e-books, and a video course at most booksellers.
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.
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