- Politics without principle
- Wealth without work
- Commerce without morality
- Pleasure without conscience
- Education without character
- Science without humanity
- Worship without sacrifice
That last one got me thinking about RenÃ© Girard’s mimetic theory, which directly involves the concepts of worship and sacrifice. Did Gandhi understand the mimetic theory?
Ironically, the practice of sacrifice engaged by primitive cultures necessarily involved death. Roughly, the sacrificial or “scapegoat” mechanism is the process by which a victim is singled out and killed, bringing peace to the community. This process has been formalized into the concept known as religion. Sacrifice becomes ritualized, and the objects of sacrifice are only symbols that represent the victim rather than real human beings. That’s a very rough overview; read the Wikipedia article on RenÃ© Girard to learn more about the theory.
Back to Gandhi. The more I consider it the more I think that he may have had some understanding of this scapegoat mechanism, although I can hardly believe that he condoned the practice of sacrificial killing in his list of Deadly Social Sins. Gandhi knew religion (worship) without sacrifice (the peace-producing ingredient) is meaningless. Religion is necessary to sustain human culture. Without it there is chaos, the breakdown of social systems.
The teachings of Jesus deconstructed the sacrificial system, and showed us a new way to interpret the old message: love your neighbor as yourself. The real kicker came with the answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” â€“ Your enemy is your neighbor. Of course Gandhi was right there with Jesus on that one. But there is tension between advocating the sacrificial system which sustains culture and embracing the concept of enemy love which deconstructs that system.