Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Epochal Upheaval . . .

"I believe that we are on the eve of a revolution in our culture going beyond all expectation and that the world is headed for a change in comparison to which the Renaissance will dwindle to nothing." -- René Girard
Those who think Girard is being optimistic here are not familiar with his most recent writing.


Unknown said...


Can you make us more familiar...in clear and plain language?

Gil Bailie said...


As Rene told me many years ago, the popularity of his theory -- such as it is -- is due, he surmised, to the ease with which it is given a politically correct and optimistic interpretation. His own assessment is far more sober. In fact, he has often expressed the opinion that only Nietzsche -- who hated Christianity -- saw clearly what would happen once it was discarded. About such a prospect, Nietzsche said this, among many other things:

"How much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined because it was built on this faith, propped up by it, grown into it; for example the whole European morality. This plenitude and sequence of breakdown, destruction, ruin and cataclysm that is now impending – who could guess enough of it today to be compelled to play the teacher and advance proclaimed of this monstrous logic of terror, the prophet of a gloom and eclipse of the sun whose like has probably never yet occurred on earth."

Pretty sobering, and prophetic even if from the pen of someone mad enough to prefer this chaos to Christianity.

The apocalyptic warnings in the New Testament are too easily shrugged off as the confused eschatology of the first Christians.

Our task, in the "mean" tine, is to awaken a hope not subject to historical disappointments.

Athos said...

I find taking and reading Battling to the End as I go deeper into the throes of my battle with cancer very bracing and tonic, Gil.

I am a recovering Jungian with occasional Egypto-Gnostic hankerings now and then (as above so below, etc.); Girard has a way of presenting biblical, orthodox truth in a way that blows mere gnostic meanderings out of the water with depth and scope.

Great quote - thanks!

Mark Gordon said...

And yet, Gil, at least politically you seem to have aligned yourself with people who are thoroughly modernist, secular, and materialistic. The neoconservatives you now find so attractive - figures like Mark Steyn, David Horowitz, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson - don't think with the mind of the Church; they aren't working toward the "new springtime" or the "civilization of love" prophesied by John Paul II. These people, with their devotion to imperial warmaking, a Darwinian social ideology, and the idolatry markets, are as far from the Church's vision of the common good as it's possible to be. In many ways, they embody the very anti-christian, worldly hubris that brought Europe to war in 1914.

It seems to me that the antidote to Nietzsche's prophecy is to be found in the voices of Emmanuel Mounier, Dorothy Day, Chesterton, Msgr. Giussani, Charles Peguy, John Paul II, and yes, De Lubac and Balthasar, rather than the Americanist cafeteria Catholics at National Review.

As you know, I used to heed those voices. In fact, I used to be a reseller and rebroadcaster of them. But I've come to see them as antithetical to the Gospel and the teaching of the Church in nearly every way. I pray that their grip on you will wane.

Unknown said...


I need to say, in all sincere charity and absoluetly no malice or ill will, that what Mark is telling you resonates deeply with me. Having read and listened to you over the years much of the company you keep these days bewilders and saddens me. Putting the substance aside for the moment many of the people Mark notes..Steyn, Horowitz et al are arrogant, snide and vicious to those with whom the disagree..utterly lacking in charity...hardly Christian in their demeanor.

Mike O'Malley said...

(i)thoroughly modernist, secular, and materialistic... neoconservative()... figures like Mark Steyn, David Horowitz, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson ... These people, with their devotion to imperial warmaking, a Darwinian social ideology, and the idolatry markets, are as far from the Church's vision of the common good as it's possible to be. In many ways, they embody the very anti-christian, worldly hubris that brought Europe to war in 1914.(/i)

I often read and I value the insights each those men bring to our public discourse. So you may have to forgive me Mark, but your characterization of them as devotees of:
Imperial war making,
Darwinian social ideology
idolatry (of?) markets,
seems ungenerous and off-the-mark. Indeed, Victor Davis Hanson seems at times to parallel Girard's apprehension of impending apocalyptic violence. But if you seek another anti-modernist Catholic antidote to Nietzsche, I will offer you J.R.R. Tolkien. He is one of the insightful and profound anti-Nietzschean Christian writers of the 20th Century... IMHO of course.

ignatius said...

I don't know much about those neo-cons you've mentioned, but aren't you being a bit hard on them? If you approved of their views for awhile, then they might not be all bad.

I think, for example, that Europe is becoming increasingly Islamic, and there are dangers in that. Steyn is one of the few who has seen this clearly.

There is also now evidence that some climate warming scientists were not completely honest in their presentation of data and were trying to marginalize people who disagreed with them. Steyn was one of those who called them on it. That's not so bad, is it?

Gordon said...


I agree with Ignatius and Mike O’Malley on this. Is your point that everyone who supported the Iraq war is therefore part of the “imperial warmaking” cabal and should be excluded from consideration on other matters? (How about those who approve of the Afghan war? Abortion? Or, according to Dorothy Day, WWII?) I’m assuming you must mean this because you can’t possibly be referring to the actual content that Gil often sites from these men. See, if you compare that content to the thought of one of your “good guys” it doesn’t make much sense.

I’m in the middle of re-reading a few books trying to cull out an ethics from von Balthasar’s trilogy (Melanie Barret’s book succeeds nicely), so please do tell me precisely where he stands in opposition to these men. Is it Steyn’s view that post-Christian Europe slides into moral and intellectual chaos? Maybe Hanson’s argument that the West can’t understand it’s present condition without retrieving the Classical tradition and with it the condition of man before Christianity came along? (I’m sure if he was alive he’d deeply regret all that untranslated Latin in the Glory of the Lord — so bad for our self-esteem) Maybe you imagine von Balthasar coming to the defense of the post-modern university against Horowitz and Sowell and their contention that truth is knowable without the prefixes black-, fem-, Latino-, LGBT-?
Since you once “rebroadcast” these evil men, maybe you can tell exactly why their “analysis of the world” is so hostile to your list of great Catholics (all of whom I admire very much)?

Athos said...

As probably all of you know, Gil's place has undergone several name changes since he opened shop many years ago. The first I know of was "Tenemos", gleaned from Jung's analytical psychology (cf. CW 11, 95 - "isolated sacred precinct"). Then came the more familiar "Florilegia Institute" from the in the heady days of his riotous explorations - or, better, re-explorations - of nearly everything he had read in light of Girard's mimetic theory. (These were my favorite recordings, for what that's worth.) And, now, the thorough-going Catholic and Christo-centric Cornerstone Forum, which, if I hear these criticisms aright, some perceive Gil is straying from in the use of recent conservative writers' works.

My take is a little different. From what I can see, Gil's tack has always been one of "Gold is where you find it," which doesn't mean you are subscribing wholesale to everything the author quoted has ever written or said.

In biblical terms, it is sort of what the children of Israel did when they left slavery under Pharaoh: they "plundered the Egyptians." They took what was salvageable and useful, regardless of the fact that those who used them previously performed wholesale sacrifice and pagan practices.

I once pastored an Evangelical church where a Sunday School class was scandalized that I quoted and agreed with C. S. Lewis. Why? because the great man wasn't a tee-totaller. This is just an analogy.

All in all, I'd say that Gil is following the more Catholic tradition of taking what is worth "plundering" from less-than Orthodox writers and valorizing it for use by Catholic truth, goodness, and beauty. That's my take. Cheers

Mike O'Malley said...

ignatius said... Mark,
I don't know much about those neo-cons you've mentioned, but aren't you being a bit hard on them?

Hello Ignatius!
I've attended lectures and debates by a few of those "Neo-Cons" to whom Mark refers. I've met Dr. Sowell. I find Mark's harsh characterization of those men to be unwarranted, perhaps even mean spirited. That's my subjective assessment based on experience and of course your mileage may vary, however, I've objected to vilification and unwarrented harsh criticism of Neo-Conservative any number of times in the past. I've found that almost invariably that left-wing critics are unable to accurately define what Neo-Cons actually stand for. I've got a copy (somewhere) of American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and on occasion I've challenged leftists to characterize "Neo-Cons" with a view to comparing their answers to the American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia's definition of Neo-Conservatism I've found that they almost always provide answers with a ZERO % correlation. Oddly more than half the time the answers they give correlate to what Neo-Cons actually oppose. This suggests to me that there is a lot of psychological displacement and projection going-on on the Left. On occasion I've found Paleo-Conservatives and Libertariansto be no more accurate, although I've never been subjected to snap ferocious vilification by right-wingers the way I've been by left-wingers for defending or self-identifying as a Neo-Con..
Mark Gordon said...rather than the Americanist cafeteria Catholics at National Review.
Hello Mark:
I'm not particular interested in discussing Neo-Cons today, but what about those "cafeteria Catholics" over at National Review? Can you identify who you have in mind and tell me which Church teachings they leave on the cafeteria counter? I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing about National Review before.

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Mike O'Malley said...

Hello Michael:

Perhaps Marc isn't ever going to get around to backing up what he said about the Catholics over at National Review. Perhaps his assessment can't be supported? ;-)

And so it is well past time to return to the topic of your opening comment.

Rene Girard wrote an important piece on point published in the August/September 2009 issue of First Things. I believe that Gil responded on-line with an extended comment too.

You should read the essay:

On War and Apocalypse
René Girard

It seems Girard believes that the meek will inherit the earth as the result of massive reiterative bloody attrition.