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
On Divine Revenge: the Execution of Nimr al-Nimr
There is a definite pattern of revenge to this story, but it has nothing to do with God. As René Girard has taught us, revenge is human, not divine. Girard claimed that humans are mimetic — and we are particularly mimetic when it comes to violence. Humans imitate violent words and actions, passing them back and forth. But violence escalates because each side in a conflict wants to deliver the final blow. In this sense, the Saudis and the Iranians are just like the majority of human beings.
Weekly Wrap 12.11.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week
This week's Wrap was guest curated by Sojourners contributor Adam Ericksen. Read along for his top stories and notes from the week!
There was a lot of negativity in the news this week, but mercy also filled the airwaves. In case you missed it, here’s a list of some merciful events from the week:
Sure, we have some differences, but we’re still crushing on the Pope. “To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”
Emanuel and the Chicago Police Have Trust Issues
McDonald was a 17-year-old kid, gunned down by a police officer as he was walking away. The dashcam video shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in the back.
But the official police story after the murder was that McDonald “refused to comply with orders to drop the knife and continued to approach the officers.”
The officers. Multiple officers witnessed the shooting, but none of them blew the whistle. Instead, they participated in a huge cover-up. It took 400 days for the video to be released. Why did it take so long?
Many speculate it’s because Emanuel was in the middle of a close election and the video would have hurt his chances of winning. To add fuel to the cover-up conspiracy, 86 minutes of footage was deleted from a Burger King security camera, including footage of the shooting. According to NBC Chicago, “a Burger King district manager said police deleted the security footage after spending more than three hours in the restaurant.”
Yeah. Emanuel and the Chicago police have trust issues.
Because in the end we are left with this fact: Laquan McDonald is another black body that didn’t matter.
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.