Sunday, February 04, 2007


Giles Fraser has penned a trenchant review of a new book on US Christian fundamentalism for The New Statesman. Inter-alia, in the resulting article, Blind Faith, he touches on the important question of cathartic imagination (which is deeply embedded in both religious and cultural expression), noting:

'Nietzsche famously argued that Christianity is driven by hate. The experience of persecution and slavery incubated a deep hatred towards oppressors that came to be sublimated into the notion of the Judaeo-Christian concept of the divine. The Christian God thus became a vehicle for fantasies of violence. So, for example: Psalm 137 begins with the experience of oppression by the rivers of Babylon where "we sat down and wept". It concludes: "Happy shall be he who takes your children and dashes their heads against the rocks."

'As it happens, I think Christianity has deep resources for the containment of what Nietzsche came to call ressentiment. Indeed, theologians like René Girard argue that ressentiment is an unfortunate but unavoidable by-product of the Christian commitment not to answer violence with violence. For, in reality, turning the other cheek, and not indulging in the satisfaction of returning violence in kind, is always going to result in a world of emotional complexity, of nightly dreams of revenge. And bad dreams may be a price worth paying for a commitment to peacemaking. But Girardian theology is a world away from a fundamentalism that manipulates the explosive power of ressentiment. '

Quite. We should acknowledge, and not suppress, our dark fantasies. But we should also recognise them for what they are, as with the Book of Revelation (which I have always argued is part redemption-song and part revenge fantasy). And we should seek the collective moral and spiritual strength to think and act otherwise in the cold light of day - and in the disturbingly warm ray of divine love. {Pic: (c) New Statesman and Society}

on this post: FaithInSociety

No comments: