…victims and victors…

In some of my reading this weekend I came across this short passage from Philip Yancey’s book, “What Good Is God?”. I have been haunted by some of its implications, particularly with regard to my own presuppositions about power, success, and the difference between being a patriot (which is in no way inherently bad) and being a Christian. This difference between the “kingdom” of America and the “kingdom of God” is a point of much inner debate with me. I believe fully that as a citizen of this wonderful nation I have certain civic responsibilities to be a good member of this culture. I also believe that there are Biblical instructions as to how we are to contribute to our society and exist with a healthy patriotism. But, it doesn’t end there.

How do I as a Christian reconcile the reality that ALL major civilizations that have began or become “Christian” in history have inevitable wound up brutalizing the nuances of that very worldview? Some of Christianity’s core principles of grace, mercy, and forbearance do not fall in line with the perpetual jockeying of a world superpower with a nuclear arsenal and the largest military budget on the earth. I do believe, as CS Lewis has said, that good armies must exist, if for no other reason because bad armies do; but how do I reconcile this with my own life?

Today, I offer no solutions, only questions. And I do this because I firmly believe that it is only when we begin searching for the right questions that we are on the pathway of inductive truth. I can have the right answer to the wrong question for the rest of my life and be comfortable and dogmatic and even convincing and in the end find that I’ve wasted much.

So I offer this passage as a thinking person’s springboard. Opinions are welcome in the response box below, but truly I write these mental wanderings for myself, there is no pressure to respond.

I came across the writings of Rene’ Girard, 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…

The trend mystified Girard because he found nothing comparable in his readings 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 a hero by being a victim. To the consternation of his secular colleagues, Girard converted to Christianity.

– Philip Yancey, “What Good is God?” (pp 325-326)

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