By JC Mitchell
So if I said, “It is amazing that God put water everywhere people settled in America,” you would laugh at me. I hope. I recall in a history class learning that a historian of the 19th century implied that statement, so you can see we have a hard time discerning what God’s actions are and what are humanity’s. It is the nature of theology to struggle with these questions.
However, theology alone will fall short. Take our friends Galileo and Darwin. They found the Divine at work in ways others had never imagined. I realize there are still those that confuse Darwin, yet they now accept Galileo’s scientific observation that the earth revolves around the sun. Just as we realize today that pioneers settled near sources of water (except Las Vegas), and that God was present in their lives (and in the lives of indigenous peoples) in other ways than putting streams and ponds where they built a house, we will appreciate how evolution plays a key role in our understanding of God.
Thus Theology needs science, and I believe the essential science we seem to ignore when we discuss the divine is that of anthropology. Religions are human created institutions, in which we talk about God, try to be in relationship with God, and are how we experience God. Even those who say they are spiritual but not religious fall within this realm as well, for to be not religious is simply another human construction of attempting to understand the divine. So we must look for how the sacred came to be, how religion was constructed, and we will discover the divine.
It is actually very simple. The Christian scriptures point to it consistently and once you start seeing this discipline as essential to your theology, the progressive theology you desire fits together not simply because of your experience. Human desires are at the center, as our desires are based on the desires of other people, actually connect all humanity. This is not simply the desire you are conscious of, such that you may learn, but the desire that is preconscious.[i] This imitation is what we refer to as Mimesis. This theory of René Girard, which pulls back the layers of humanity to see the reality that God is the only other (truly non-violent; truly love) beyond our desire that ultimately ends in violence. This violence occurs in direct confrontation, but more normatively, in the systematic sacrifice and scapegoating of others to unite people. Violence is our human way of being sacred, for it is how we obtain unity and peace, by either attacking a person or group who has what we (as a group or individual) have that we desire. This sounds sad, almost as if humans are simply evil, but the reality is we constantly strive for peace, often sacrificing the other or an individual for that temporary peace, temporary lack of violence. Any of you have had read or seen the Hunger Games can understand that happens, at lockers in middle school to nations with armies.
The divine is actually the only non-violent other. The cross is truly what reveals for Christians the Divine’s complete non-violent light, by Jesus not retaliating even when separated from Abba and nailed to the cross. The reality is we attribute a lot to God, but it becomes clear when we explore Girard’s theory and utilize anthropology with theology that we do get a glimpse of the Divine. I cannot help but think of Moses:
Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, ”you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23)
Moses was set in cleft, a cave of sorts, with the earth rocks on both sides blocking his view of God’s glory. Our sacred violence is what blocks our view of the divine as we built religion and believe it is God while it is actually human and earthly, and not divine like the rocks of the cleft. Once we are aware of humanity’s mimetic way of creating the sacred, we can glimpse the heavenly non-violent other: God.
Bartlett, Anthony (2011-03-16). Virtually Christian: How Christ Changes Human Meaning and Makes Creation New NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.