Adam Ericksen is the Education Director for the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, pop culture. He has a Masters in Theological Studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary where he wrote his thesis “Love and Nonviolence in Christianity and Islam.” Adam is a youth pastor and chaplain. He is also a frequent speaker at conferences. Keep up with Adam by liking the Raven Foundation Facebook page and by following him on Twitter.
Posts By This Author
The Truth About God, Life, and Death
“Christ agrees to die so that mankind will live,” wrote Girard in his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.
Many progressive Christians who do not know Girard’s work will bristle at that statement. Indeed, without reading his books, it could sound like a form of penal substitutionary atonement theory that claims Jesus allows humanity to live by saving us from the violent wrath of God.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth that Girard revealed throughout his career is that wrath doesn’t belong to God. It belongs solely to humans. In anthropological terms, what was revealed by the death of Jesus was the human scapegoat mechanism. Once you read Girard’s works, you realize how obvious it is that the violence at the cross had nothing to do with God, but everything to do with the human propensity to scapegoat.
If Girard taught us anything, it’s that humans have been projecting our own violence onto God since the foundation of the world. We justify our violence and hatred against our scapegoats in the name of God or peace or justice, or whatever we deem to be important to our well-being.
The Shema: Teaching Us to Listen in a World of Noise
Secular and religious therapists will all say the same thing — in times of suffering, people want to be heard when they cry out. We don’t have to worry about saying the right things or solving their problems. In fact, imposing our words and answers upon them often just gets in the way of their healing.
But the corollary to being heard is to talk — to talk about our emotions and our pain. This is where our culture has problems. We’re taught to not be a “burden” on others. Few of us want to admit to ourselves or to others that we have pain and that we are vulnerable. We’d much rather handle it ourselves, put on a tough exterior, and bury our pain deep within.
But that doesn’t lead to healing. Rather, it leads to more harm, as our bottled up emotions explode during times of stress. Controlling our emotions by bottling them up never works in the long term. When we us that method, we soon discover that we don’t control our emotions — our emotions control us.
The Shema calls us into a different way of life. It invites us to listen to the pain within ourselves and within our neighbors. In doing so, we find healing. And we find very presence of God.
Star Wars: Racism—and White Fragility—Awakens
I’ve noticed that when many white liberals are confronted with these numbers, and the racism that undergirds our privilege, we start feeling guilty. We generally have two choices in how we respond to our feelings of guilt: First, we can choose to become defensive. We start concealing our own racism by projecting it onto the overt racists who start Twitter campaigns that boycott Star Wars. In other words, we’d much rather take the easy way out of scapegoating. We’d rather blame the racists out there than do the difficult work of examining the racism that infects in each one of us.
But the more vehemently white liberals deny that we are racists, the more evidence we provide that that’s exactly what we are.
The second choice is to move beyond white fragility, by doing the difficult work of examining the racism within ourselves and our society. We can acknowledge that the racist structures that infect our country also infects us. We can choose to openly acknowledge the benefits we gain from racist societal structures. We can choose to work for political, economic, and educational reform that will lead toward greater racial justice.
Why We Need Far More Than Gun Control
We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them.
While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.
God’s Authority: Same-Sex Marriage and a Kentucky County Clerk
A Kentucky clerk claimed “God’s authority” this week when she refused to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. As I read her story, I was reminded of Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, who had a vision about God’s authority.
This story is told in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10. The story about God’s authority comes down to this verse:
"God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean."
This verse was an absolute game changer for Peter and the early church. And it should be a game changer for us today.
ISIS’s Anti-Islamic Theology of Rape
As much as I’d like to blow ISIS away, if we are to take seriously the fact that God’s "mercy encompasses all things," then God’s mercy might extend even to ISIS. Will bombing ISIS stop their violent quest? It may stop their violent quest — but as we’ve seen during the last 13 years in the "War on Terror," when we violently destroy one enemy, another more dangerous enemy emerges.
We don’t need more bombs. The "War on Terror" has taught us that attempting to solve our problems with violence only reinforces a worldwide culture of violence. It teaches us and our enemies that violence is the only real solution to our problems. It reveals that we don’t really believe in God or Jesus or Allah. We and our enemies believe in the same god. And that god’s name is Violence. Our faith in the demonic god of violence will only lead us to a future of mutually assured destruction.
How to Defeat Evil
Christians believe that Jesus definitively defeated the forces of evil. For Christians, faith is trusting that the way to defeat evil is the same way that Jesus defeated evil on the cross and in the resurrection. Jesus was no Jedi. He didn’t use “good violence” to protect himself or others from the evil forces that converged against him. Nor did he run from evil. Rather, he defeated evil by entering into it, forgiving it on the cross, and offering peace to it in the resurrection.
Of course, many – even those who profess to follow him – think Jesus is absolutely crazy. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” It’s true that following Jesus by responding to evil with nonviolent love is risky. After all, Christ was killed, as were his disciples. But fighting violence with violence is also risky and only perpetuates a mimetic cycle of violence.
My White Dad and Sandra Bland: On 'Assaulting' a Police Officer
Once again we find white people blaming a black victim of violence. She’s to blame because she was “irritated.” She’s to blame because she refused to put out her cigarette. She’s to blame because she’s black.
A white response that blames Sandra Bland is a racist response. White people can get away with being irritated at police. We don’t have to be kind to officers. We can express our anger and not fear arrest.
A black person though? If a black person shows any anger, they will likely be arrested or possibly killed. And it will be construed as their fault.
The Planned Parenthood Scandal: Beyond the Morality Police
Our cultural pattern of becoming scandalized by the other side isn’t helping. Whichever side we are on, becoming the morality police is only making the scandal worse as we scapegoat and talk past each other. This pattern gets us stuck in a scandal of unhealthy righteous indignation over and against our opponents.
The alternative to getting stuck in a scandal isn’t to avoid scandals, but rather to go through them. As we go through them, we might just discover ourselves becoming un-scandalized as we see that the other is actually motivated by a good goal. In acknowledging the other’s good goal, we begin to see them as human and not the evil demons our minds have made them out to be.
Does White America Really Believe in Forgiveness?
“I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. ...You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But I forgive you.”
Those words of accountability and forgiveness were spoken to Dylann Roof at his bond hearing by the family of one of his victims.
How are we to understand such radical forgiveness?
Many white Americans interpret black forgiveness as absolution for the racist attitudes that led to the attack. We distort that forgiveness in a way that doesn’t hold us accountable for changing the racist political, economic, and educational structures that infect our country.
When we celebrate black forgiveness but refuse to be accountable to that very forgiveness then we are doing nothing more than creating an aura of deniability. By celebrating black forgiveness of those persecutors like Dylann Roof, we can safely deny that we participate in and benefit from racist structures that persecute black people. In other words, we can so twist the blessed act of forgiveness that we manipulate it to deny that we are persecutors, too.
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