I’ve been reading Michael Kirwan’s Discovering Girard, an amazing summary/explanation of Rene Girard’s theory (observation?) of mimetic violence. I thought I’d post just a couple of the quotes from it; neither of them, incidentally, are his directly, but they did make me sit up and listen. The first comes from George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan; the following is a conversation between two churchmen, one of whom, de Stogumber, is speaking of the traumatic effect upon him of witnessing St Joan’s martyrdom:
De Stogumber: Well, you see, I did a very cruel thing once because I did not know what cruelty was like. I had not seen it, you know. That is the great thing: you must see it. And then you are redeemed and saved.
Cauchon: Were not the sufferings of our Lord Christ enough for you?
De Stogumber: No. Oh no: not at all. I had seen them in pictures, and read of them in books, and been greatly moved by them as I thought. But it was no use; it was not our Lord that redeemed me, but a young woman whom I saw actually burned to death. It was dreadful: oh, most dreadful. But it saved me. I have been a different man ever since, though a little astray in my wits sometimes.
Cauchon: Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those who have no imagination?