Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jealousy, Girard, and the crucifixion of Jesus

It is really very interesting that Mark writes: [Pilate] realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed [Jesus] over (Mark 15.10). Jealousy is the driving force that brought the religious leaders of 1C Israel to commit the murder of all murders, the murder of the Son of God.

I appreciate Rene Girard's insights in this matter. Girard is an influential French anthropologist who developed a certain understanding of the origins of violence.

Girard asserts that we learn what to desire -- beyond the basic impulses of nature for food, water, sex, etc. -- by watching and learning from others. Naturally we end up in competition with others as a result of this, since now a great number of people want the same things and supplies are limited. The force of desire may even lead us, out of this intense competition for limited resources, to commit acts of violence towards each other.

This is a very plausible line of thinking. For instance, to borrow an example from my own life, I never cared much for cats until I started browsing reddit; then I was suddenly interested in getting one. There may be other elements at play, too. Perhaps we have a desire to conform to the state of our community, to be a member, to fit in, and this means we share the interests and values of those around us. Inevitably this will put us in competition with them and provoke jealousy.

In any case, Pilate sees that the chief priests are jealous of Jesus. He has won the favor of the people: he cares for them; he teaches them; he works miracles for them; he provides them with teaching that empowers them; he draws huge crowds, sometimes even winning over Pharisees and priests and the like. Worse than that, the people are convinced that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and that means the Romans are going to come and destroy them. Having had enough of it all, they determine to kill Jesus and save their own skins.

We ought to be careful of what we want. We ought to be careful not to put ourselves in competition with others and so to open up the door for violence. Sometimes the violence may be grave and other times it may be subtle -- an angry look; contemptful disregard; whatever it may be. We must learn to desire differently, to try to fit in with a different crowd. We should learn to fit in with that crowd that tries to out-do each other in showing honor and love (Rom 12.10).