René Girard (1923-2015)

I heard while traveling today to the Subverting the Norm III conference that René Girard passed away.  I had been told by Michael Hardin, who is close to the family, that he had been ill for some time.  

I first encountered Girard’s work when a pastor who supervised me years ago tried to explain his ideas, but somehow concluded that the hidden, subliminal message of Girard’s work was a reaffirmation of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.  I avoided his work for years until after attending a Colloquium on Violence and Religion session at the AAR, and began reading myself, and being quite puzzled about the disconnect between what I am reading in Girard’s books and what many of his mimetic disciples say.  But this is one element of his work and influence which I find to be very interesting, namely, how his work has been appropriated by evangelicals, perhaps to castrate the radical conclusions that would diffuse much of practiced Christianity–as if there is an intentional drive toward watering down the ideas, like Bonhoeffer, to distract folks from actually reading what the author is saying.

Regardless, I have found his ideas enormously helpful and especially with intersections with the work of Altizer and Daly.  For Altizer, their shared high Christology leads to a similar reading of Nietzsche’s ethics; for Daly, her concept of the “Sado-Ritual Syndrome,” the methodology for understanding violence against women in Gyn/Ecology, reads very much like a commentary on Girard’s ideas about mimesis and violence.

Here is a link about his life at Stanford University.