An Alternative Voice from U.S.A.

A Guest-Comment from Jim Williams (*)
(20.9.2001)

Die Anschläge vom 11. September sind Ausdruck einer extremen sakrifiziellen Gewalt. Selbstmordattentäter opfern sich einem gewalttätigen Gott. Es besteht die große Gefahr, dass sich Amerika von dieser extremen Gewalt anstecken lässt und irrational zurückschlägt. Das Gebet für die Feinde ist ein Mittel, um diese Ansteckung zu verhindern und Wege zu einer echten Versöhnung zu finden.

 


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Virtueller Leseraum der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät Innsbruck: theol.uibk.ac.at/leseraum


Originalbeitrag für den Leseraum

© Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät Innsbruck

Russel Carver asked me, as a representative of Girard's mimetic scapegoat theory, to comment on the disasters of September 11. The events are too recent for me to have any great wisdom and I don't know whether I will be given great wisdom about it at any time. I have thought how ironic it is that most of us were so anxious about Y2K, thinking our problems would be technological and logistical. But it turns out on Sept. 11, 2001 that they are very human and apocalyptic. These apocalyptic events are wake_up calls. We need to be in prayer and we need to examine our hearts and minds. We need to examine our assumptions about the world, a world which we usually assume will be comfortable and in which we shall have a pleasurable routine day by day. But mimetic rivalry and violence rolling like a movie film before our eyes remind us that this "world" is not lasting, in it we do not find our lasting city.

The first thing I recommend is PRAYER, and especially prayer for our enemies. From a Christian or Jewish point of view it is obvious that we should pray for the victims and their families and our nation. But we should also pray for the whole world and particularly for our enemies, as Jesus taught us. I have been slowly developing an embryonic idea that prayer is a form of imitation of God. I don't mean that God prays to us so that we should pray to him. I mean - if I can express it at all adequately - that in prayer we ask for and receive the divine being, not in order to gain power over God and man, but to submit ourselves more fully to it. Prayer is  our most basic means of becoming like God.

Second, I think we should CALM THE RHETORIC OF WAR. Isn't it magnifying our enemy into a devil to hold that these events, horrible disasters that they are, are the equivalent of being attacked by a nation_state?

Third, let us BACK AWAY FROM CRIES FOR REVENGE. I see in the newspapers and on television that some are saying we have to strike back ferociously, even if it means killing civilians. Whatever political and military measures used, I hope they will indeed be measured. To my mind, a good scenario would be to track down and capture those responsible and bring them before the world court. If a nation state is harboring the leader(s) and a large group of followers, perhaps should try to bring these leaders also before the world court, as in the case of Milosevic. That might be very difficult and it would  certainly not be possible without military action, but I think the latter should be well regulated and specifically focused.

Fourth and last, in the last several years it has struck me that terrorist groups practice  a form of CHILD SACRIFICE, in the most insidious form. For these sacrificial victims, the suicide bombers, are convinced that they are giving themselves to God through ideological immersion in the rhetoric of violence (ie., of us who are good and victims of the evil Western/Israeli/Christian world) from an early age. In one sense they don't have to be deceived; within their narrow culture they know what they are doing. In another sense, the whole culture is deceived. Now the hijackers were evidently not as young as some of the suicide bombers I have read about, but it strikes me as an extension of the same thing. 

How do we deal with an ideological movement that develops an IMMENSE SACRIFICIAL POOL OF BOYS AND YOUNG MEN to offer to the God of violence? (Parenthetically, we should distinguish between this ideology and the whole of Islam.) I don't have an easy and simple answer, but I don't think we should rush to sacrifice our own young men to the altar of the same God. We have another revelation, a revelation of the God of the Law and the Prophets, the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

* (Jim Williams is the former Executive Secretary of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion)