Girard and the analogy of desire (Alison, 2011)

All of this has been to bring us to the place where I would like to highlight how Girard can help us. Let us take the phrase: “God is for us”. It seems to me that where traditionally the negative approach to God has hinted at a sense of God who is not in rivalry with anything that is, and thus saved us from the danger of worshiping a god within the order of things that are, it has done so by problematizing the word “is”. It doesn’t offer much help in problematizing either the “for” or the “us” – which are inseparably bound together. It seems to me that Girard’s insight into the mimetic nature of desire, which some people accuse of being far too negative, actually gives us a chance to problematize the “for” and the “us” in very helpful ways. Or to put it into nutshell: when we say that “God is not in rivalry with anything that is” the phrase “not in rivalry” might be a very useful starting place for working towards a sense of a “for” that is not part of our cultural framework, and yet which has a positive incidence in it. So I’d like here to set out some hints of what I might call the Girardian analogy – the via negative of rivalistic desire.

God and Desire (Alison, 2007)

Well, I’ve started here, not because I really wanted to talk to you about Original Sin (though no Catholic discussion about God and Desire can bypass the issue), but because it is my claim that the doctrine of Original Sin is an important piece of the grammar of how we talk about God. It is, or should be, a permanent reminder that we humans do not come to talk about God from a stable, fixed, starting place which we can dominate by our discourse. On the contrary. If God is true, then the starting place for our discourse is always as those in the midst of undergoing something. We always start as those who, having thought of ourselves (depending on our self-importance) as minor or major protagonists, in a narrative which we thought we understood, are always having that narrative blown apart by the emergence of another narrative in which someone else is protagonist, and we are peripheral in a way which turns out to be surprisingly reassuring. Or, in other words, the kind of “we” that has brought each one of us into having the unsteady and instable thing we call a “self”, an “I”, over time, that “we” is being radically restructured, and each of us is finding ourselves losing a certain sort of self so as to be given a quite different one in relationship to quite a different sort of protagonist.