Books Applying Mimetic Theory in Theology, Religion, Scripture

Alison - Broken Hearts and New CreationsAlison, James. Broken Hearts and New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal. New York: Continuum, 2010. Paper, 292 pages. As the jacket notes describe, “Unforgettable and moving, these remarkable essays show James Alison at his irrepressible best.”

 

Alison - Faith Beyond ResentmentAlison, James. Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. New York: Crossroad, 2001. Paper, 239 pages. As the jacket notes describe, “This is not a book of gay theology but, much more daringly, of catholic theology from a gay perspective.” Stanley Hauerwas says, ‘Like all James Alison books, Faith Beyond Resentment is frighteningly profound…. Alison’s readings train us to undertake the slow and painful work of living free of resentment. So taught we discover how debates about “homosexuality” can be repositioned from the stance of “us” versus “them” to “us” versus “us.” So positioned we may even learn to accept the salvation that is ours in Christ.’ Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, comments on this book: “The very best theological books leave you with a feeling that perhaps it’s time you became a Christian. This is emphatically such a book.”

Alison - JFV logoAlison, James. Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening to the Unheard Voice. Doers Publishing, 2013. Paper (4 vols.), 572 pages. Based on 12 years of classroom development, these are groundbreaking course materials for an adult catechetical learning experience. Alison says of his work, “When a friend told me, ‘This is Christianity as I’ve never heard it before,’ I felt challenged to make the material more widely available. I hope you will find that this course offers a fresh take on how we read the Scriptures, how we are reached by Jesus’ self-giving up to death, and how this enables us to reimagine our lives as Church. Gradually and gently, the course allows the good news of a God in whom there is no violence at all to reveal itself afresh.”

Alison - The Joy of Being WrongAlison, James. The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes. New York: Crossroad, 1998. Paper, 323 pages. This original work of theological anthropology looks at Original Sin in the light of the Resurrection and, from this point of view, is able to read all the major doctrines of Christianity from the order of discovery. Sebastian Moore says in his foreword, “One should, one can, never say of a theological work that it is the definitive statement on its subject. But very occasionally one is tempted to do so, and this book represents that temptation in acute form.”

Alison, James. Knowing Jesus. Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1994. Paper, 114 pages. A wonderful expression of basic Christian theology based on the perspective of the victim as vindicated by God through the Resurrection. It is an excellent and readable introduction to the Girardian thought-process for the Christian faith.

Alison - On Being LikedAlison, James. On Being Liked. New York: Herder & Herder, 2004. Paper, 168 pages. Description from the back cover: “Alison takes us step-by-step through a bold adventure of re-imagining the central axis of the Christian story, not as ‘How does God deal with sin?’ but as ‘How do we take up God’s invitation to share in the act of creation?’. All the while, to our growing astonishment and wonder, we discover ourselves as liked — not only loved — in the eyes of God.” Says Richard Rohr OFM: “Intellectual dynamite and spiritual joy.”

Alison, James. Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination. New York: Crossroad, 1996, 2000. Paper, 203 pages. Alison focuses his Girardian acumen to the subject of eschatology. “…an exceptional book, with soaring power.” — René Girard

Alison - Undergoing GodAlison, James. Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-in. New York: Continuum, 2006. Paper: 160 pages. The collection of essays includes the topics: monotheism, “Worship in a Violent World,” atonement, Romans 1, and more. “Undergoing God sets our comfortable worlds on a new axis.” — Martin Laird

Astell-Goodhart - Sacrifice Scripture SubstitutionAstell, Ann W., and Goodhart, Sandor, eds. Sacrifice, Scripture, & Substitution: Readings in Ancient Judaism and Christianity. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Paper, 424 pages. An excellent collection of essays on Scripture from a Girardian perspective. Contributors: Sandor Goodhart, Ann W. Astell, Rene Girard, Thomas Ryba, Michael Fishbane, Bruce Chilton, Robert Daly, S.J., Alan F. Segal, Louis H. Feldman, Erich S. Gruen, Stuart D. Robertson, Matthew Pattillo, Steven Stern, Chris Allen Carter, William Morrow, William Martin Aiken, Gerard Rosse, Christopher S. Morrissey, Poong-In Lee, and Anthony Bartlett.

Bailie, Gil. God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love. Angelico Press: 2016. Cloth, 384 pages.

Bailie - Violence UnveiledBailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995. Paper, 293 pages. Brings a bouquet of texts together, including many biblical texts, to give an insightful interpretation of our modern situation from a Girardian perspective. Sam Keen says, “The single most important book of social analysis and prophetic theology to appear in our generation.”

Bailie, Gil. The Cornerstone Forum lecture series from the early 1990’s, originally on audio cassette tape but now available on compact disk and MP3 files. Similar to his book but generally a bit more in depth. Highly recommended are the series: The Gospel of John and The Gospel of Luke.

Bartlett - Cross PurposesBartlett, Anthony W. Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001. Paper, 272 pages. James G. Williams writes: “It is a radically Girardian analysis and constructive proposal regarding the Christian doctrine of atonement. …uses Girard’s idea of the generative mimetic scapegoat mechanism and Kierkegaard’s concepts of repetition and anxiety in a brilliant fashion.” This remarkable book takes the relatively undeveloped thesis from Girard’s Things Hidden, chapter three of Part II on “The Sacrificial Reading and Historical Christianity,” and takes a huge leap forward in reading large portions of Christian history through the lens of an anthropology of the cross — yielding the fresh concept of the cross as Christ’s leap into the abyss of human violence which is transformed by God’s “abyssal compassion.”

Bartlett, Anthony W. Pascale’s Wager: Homelands of Heaven. Syracuse, NY: Hopetime Press, 2014. Paper: 505 pages. A wonderful science fiction novel about remnants living on earth in an artificially engineered world, both physically and spiritually, where it’s dangerous to ask questions about what it really means to be human. Two teenagers dare to pursue answers to their challenging questions and embark on a journey of discovering their true humanity — a journey eerily similar to one many of us have been on in recent years with the work of René Girard as our guide to rediscovering our Christian tradition anthropologically.

Bartlett, Anthony W. Seven Stories: How to Study and Teach the Nonviolent Bible. Syracuse, NY: Hopetime Press, 2017. Paper, 236 pages. “I am so grateful for Tony Bartlett. This new book provides a comprehensive overview of seven main storylines of the Bible, and helps us turn the Bible from a weapon (as it is too often used) into a pathway to justice, reconciliation, compassion, and peace.” — Brian D. McLaren

Bartlett - Virtually ChristianBartlett, Anthony W. Virtually Christian: How Christ Changes Human Meaning and Makes Creation New. Washington: O-Books, 2011. Paper, 290 pages. John Caputo writes, “Tony Bartlett makes a stunning presentation of Christianity as the transformation of desire from violence to non violence from retribution to forgiveness from competition to compassion from acquisitiveness to giving.”

Beck, Richard. Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Morality. Cascade Books, 2011. Paper, 201 pages. With Mimetic Theory very much in play, this book analyses a fundamental element of sacred violence, purity. The official book description: “‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’. Echoing Hosea, Jesus defends his embrace of the unclean in the Gospel of Matthew, seeming to privilege the prophetic call to justice over the Levitical pursuit of purity. And yet, as missional faith communities are well aware, the tensions and conflicts between holiness and mercy are not so easily resolved. In an unprecedented fusion of psychological science and theological scholarship, Richard Beck describes the pernicious (and largely unnoticed) effects of the psychology of purity upon the life and mission of the church.”

Bellinger, Charles K. The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil. Oxford University Press, 2001. Cloth, 157 pages. Reads Kierkegaard and Girard together in offering an understanding of violence and social pathology.

Bellinger, Charles K. The Joker Is Satan, and So Are We: And Other Essays on Violence and Christian Faith. Churchyard Books, 2010. Paper, 193 pages. A collection of essays which focus on the task of thinking about violence psychologically and ethically, from a Christian point of view — featuring Girard and Kierkegaard.

Bellinger, Charles K. The Trinitarian Self: The Key to the Puzzle of Violence. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2008. Paper, 167 pages. “Bellinger has thrown a clarifying spotlight on the question of violence as the crucial intersection between our human sciences and theology, a dialogue that proves as fruitful in theory as it is necessary in practice. His telling readings of Søren Kierkegaard, Eric Voegelin, and René Girard are woven together into an interpretive framework that multiplies the diagnostic relevance of each one for our conflicted human condition. Ambitious, clear, and creative, this book is a welcome contribution to the theological understanding of humanity and to the struggle to overcome violence.” — S. Mark Heim

Bredin, Mark. Jesus, Revolutionary of Peace: A Nonviolent Christology in the Book of Revelation. Bletchley, England: Paternoster, 2003. Paper, 260 pages. Foreward by Richard Bauckham. Bredin cites René Girard as one of his main guides in seeing “Jesus the Nonviolent Teacher and Activist.” From the back cover: “Drawing insight from diverse strands of literature, Bredin spreads a rich feast, to energize readers in the nonviolent revolution of Jesus Christ for justice and peace.” — Willard M. Swartley

Collins - The Head Beneath the AltarCollins, Brian. The Head Beneath the Altar: Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Paper, 314 pages. This is the first book to present a wide-ranging study of Hindu texts read through the lens of René Girard’s mimetic theory of the sacrificial origin of religion and culture. Collins examines the idea of sacrifice from the earliest recorded rituals through the flowering of classical mythology and the ancient Indian institutions of the duel, the oath, and the secret warrior society. He also uncovers implicit and explicit critiques in the tradition, confirming Girard’s intuition that Hinduism offers an alternative anti-sacrificial worldview to the one contained in the gospels.

Cowdell, Scott. Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety, and Violence. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009. Paper, 232 pages. “Cowdell explores how “having faith” has changed under the influence of modernity and post-modernity in the West…. He explores faith against the backdrop of secularization, the collapse of community, and the encroachment of an intentionally destabilizing consumer culture. He expounds the nature of desire in terms of imitation and rivalry, and the violent false-sacred roots of cultural formation evident in the modern West’s many victims, all according to the uniquely comprehensive vision of René Girard. Finally, he dismisses today’s growing mood of militant religious skepticism as philosophically outdated and out of its depth before the resilient confidence of a genuine living faith. What Cowdell calls ‘abiding faith’ emerges as a venerable yet strikingly contemporary possibility.”

Cowdell - RG and Secular ModernityCowdell, Scott. René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis. University of Notre Dame Press, 2013. Paper, 260 pages. Wolfgang Palaver writes, “Scott Cowdell’s book is the first comprehensive study of modernity and secularity in René Girard’s thought. Cowdell brings Girard’s theory into a fruitful dialogue with leading approaches on secularization like those of Max Weber, Hans Blumenberg, Peter Berger, or Charles Taylor. Scholars and students of theology, philosophy, and sociology will benefit from this wide-ranging overview of the relationship between religion, modernity, and secularization.”

Culbertson, Diana. God in a World of Violence. Villa Maria, PA: The Center for Learning, 2003. Paper booklet, 52 pages. Written for adult education in the Christian congregation, this booklet provides an excellent introduction to Girardian anthropology for the life of faith (but no longer available). (Diana Culbertson was an original member of COV&R and long-time officer on its Board.)

Daly, Robert J., S. J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2009. Paper, 260 pages. “Most ideas of sacrifice, even specifically Christian ideas, as we saw in the Reformation controversies, have something to do with deprivation or destruction. But this is not authentic Christian sacrifice. Authentic Christian sacrifice, and ultimately all true sacrifice … begin to enter into that perfectly loving, totally self-giving relationship that is the life of the triune God…. After exploring the possibility of finding a phenomenology of sacrificial atonement in Girardian mimetic theory, the book will end with some suggestions on how to communicate its findings to people likely to be put off from the outset by the negative connotations associated with ‘sacrifice.'”

Dawson - Flesh Becomes WordDawson, David. Flesh Becomes Word: A Lexicography of the Scapegoat or, the History of an Idea. MSU Press, 2013. Paper, 200 pages. In his Amazon review, Andrew Marr writes, “this book is about a lot more than tracing the evolving meaning of a word [“scapegoat”]; it is tracing a growing level of awareness of humanity’s tendency to shift the blame for social tensions on to one person or group of people, precisely what was revealed in the Gospel narratives.”

Distefano - All Set FreeDistefano, Matthew. All Set Free: How God Is Revealed in Jesus and Why That Is Really Good News. Resource Publications, 2015. Paper, 154 pages. ”All Set Free is a splendid contribution to an ever-growing theological conversation springing from the work of René Girard…. Most of all, he gives us a positive message of a nonviolent God whose deep attraction promises to make the rote prayer of ‘your kingdom come…on earth’ become thrilling human reality. A vital book for twenty-first-century Christianity.” — Anthony W. Bartlett

DiStefano, Matthew. From the Blood of Abel: Humanity’s Root Causes of Violence and the Bible’s Theological-Anthropological Solution. Quoir, 2016. Paper, pages. “…an excellent book to recommend to seekers who have begun to question traditional Evangelical teachings on alleged God-sanctioned violence, a sacrificial hermeneutic, doctrines of hell and eternal punishment, and much more. Matthew has processed weightier works on these topics and synthesized their salient points into a volume that is reachable to the majority who may have neither time nor inclination to read academic-level treatments on those subjects. In doing so, Matthew has done the body of Christ a great service. I wish I had read a book like From the Blood of Abel when I was twenty-one. If I had, my life would have charted a much different and much more Christ-conformed path, much earlier. — Stephen R. Crosby

Dizdar, Draško. Sheer Grace: Living the Mystery of God. Paulist Press, 2008. Paper, 218 pages. Sheer Grace “is about doing liturgy as theology, and about a way of doing theology through liturgy as something that God does; and invites us to participate in as fully, consciously and actively as we are able.” The introduction outlines Mimetic Theory as the lens through which the book reads its subject matter.

Doran, Robert M. The Trinity in History: A Theology of the Divine Missions, Volume 1: Missions and Processions. University of Toronto Press: 2012. Cloth, 544 pages. “The Trinity in History is an extremely important book, for despite the proliferation of Trinitarian theology, Lonergan’s voice in this discussion has not yet been fully heard. Doran guides us systematically through an expansive argument, integrating his appropriation and development of Lonergan’s thought with that of other important contemporary thinkers, most notably the groundbreaking work of Réne Girard. Attentive to our multi-religious context, he develops a theology of the Holy Spirit that deserves wide engagement.” — Randall S. Rosenberg

Douglas - Stand Your GroundDouglas, Kelly Brown. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Orbis Books, 2015. Paper, 264 pages. “Douglas’ book is a clarion call to all in the United States, regardless of race, gender, class or faith, to acknowledge our sordid and painful past and to work together to transform the American dream of equality and opportunity into a reality for all.” — National Catholic Reporter

Douglas, Kelly Brown. What’s Faith Got to Do with It?: Black Bodies / Christian Souls. Orbis Books, 2005. Paper, 252 pages. Book description: “…this book begins as a reflection on the historical sins of Christians, particularly the role of white Christians in countenancing the lynching of African Americans. This exploration then leads the author to broader questions: What is it about Christianity that could lend itself to racism and similar abuses?” Girard’s work has a prominent place in examining atonement theory; Ms. Douglas was a presenter at the 2013 Theology & Peace Conference.

Finamore, Stephen. God, Order, and Chaos: René Girard and the Apocalypse. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009. Paper, 290 pages. “If the Apocalypse was a book for its times to enable what the Spirit was saying to late first century people, Finamore’s reading of the Apocalypse, through the lens of Girard’s theory, is an equivalent wake up call for a world addicted to violence and coercion in the pursuit of human flourishing and a plea to consider the ‘better way’ of the victim, the story of whose death, supposedly expedient for the wellbeing of the people, is recorded in the New Testament Gospels.” — Christopher Rowland, Oxford

Flood - Disarming ScriptureFlood, Derek. Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did. Metanoia Books, 2014. Paper, 294 pages. “Jesus is the savior of everything — including the Bible! That’s what I kept thinking while reading this brilliant book. There have been a number of excellent books in recent years on how Christians should read the Bible, but Disarming Scripture is the very best. Derek has done us an immeasurable service in showing us how to read the Bible like Jesus did.” — Brian Zahnd

Flood - Healing the GospelFlood, Derek. Healing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice, and the Cross. Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012. Paper, 136 Pages. ”On a cresting wave of reaction against violent atonement theory, Healing the Gospel charts a sea-change course back to Jesus’s ministry as a model of gracious restoration, moving far beyond the traditional, abusive contours of penal substitution as explanation of Christ’s death . . . Jesus dies to show us God’s enemy-love, which changes everything. A splendid, stirring, and essential book!” — Anthony Bartlett

froemming-salvation-storyFroemming, David R. Salvation Story: A Biblical Commentary on Human Violence and Godly Peace. Resource Publications, 2016. Paper, 152 pages. Salvation Story is written to challenge religious fundamentalists and atheists alike, as well as the rest of us — all those who realize that our current approaches to the Bible are woefully inadequate.

Goodhart, Sandor. Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Cloth, 362 pages. “Sandor Goodhart shows most convincingly that … the supreme works of our culture, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and the Hebrew Bible, are still ahead of us in their anti-mythic mythical stance.” — René Girard

Layout 1Goodhart, Sandor. The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical. East Lansing, MI: MSU Press, 2014. Paper, 342 pages. Whether engaging the European novel, ancient Greek tragedy, Shakespeare’s plays, or Jewish and Christian scripture, Girard teaches us to read prophetically, not by offering a method he has developed, but by presenting the methodologies they have developed, the interpretative readings already available within (and constitutive of) such bodies of classical writing. In The Prophetic Law, Goodhart divides his essays on René Girard into four groupings: Girardian concerns with Biblical scripture (Genesis and Exodus), literature (the European novel and Shakespeare), and philosophy and religious studies issues (especially ethical and Jewish subject matters), and polemical exchanges as part of what could justly be deemed Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. Mimesis and Desire: An Analysis of the Religious Nature of Mimesis and Desire in the Work of René Girard. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009. Paper: 224 pages.

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994 (out of print). Paper, 175 pages. A commentary on the Gospel of Mark using Girard’s ideas; with an excellent summary of Girard’s basic theses.

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. Sacred Violence: Paul’s Hermeneutic of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992 (out of print). Cloth, 230 pages. Provides an introduction to Girard’s theories and then applies them to the writings of St. Paul. (This is the book that launched me into Girardian studies — PJN.)

Hardin - Compassionate EschatologyHardin, Michael, and Grimsrud, Ted, editors. Compassionate Eschatology: The Future as a Friend. Cascade Books, 2011. Paper, 294 pages. Wes Howard-Brook writes, “Compassionate Eschatology interweaves close readings of the Bible — with Revelation as its central text — theology and current events to shed light on the ‘times of the end.’ The authors reveal, each from their own angle of vision, how God’s ultimate purpose is not destructive vengeance, but the healing into harmony of all creation.” Contributors include: the editors, Richard Bauckham, Barbara Rossing, Walter Wink, Anthony Bartlett, and Jürgen Moltmann.

Hardin - The Jesus Driven LifeHardin, Michael. The Jesus Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus. Foreword by Brian McLaren; afterword by Walter Wink. Lancaster, PA: JDL Press, 2010. Paper, 317 pages. Walter Wink: “I scarcely know how to find words to do justice to this brilliant study. The Jesus Driven Life is nothing less than a magisterial synthesis of much that can be known about Jesus and the early centuries of Christianity and their continuing relevance for today.”

Hardin, Michael. Mimetic Theory and Biblical Interpretation: Reclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. Cascade Books, 2017. Paper, 130 pages. Book description: For close to two thousand years, Christian theology has been captivated by a sacrificial rendering of the Gospel that renders God as retributive, arbitrary, and Janus-faced. In the past fifty years a non-sacrificial way of perceiving the Gospel, God, and the mission and message of Jesus has challenged this sacrificial hegemony. Now what began as a trickle in the 1960s has burst the dam and the Gospel is on a collision course with Christianity. What are some of the implications of this moment? What is the integral cohesion in a non-sacrificial theology, ethics, and spirituality? What does Christian doctrine look like if ones removes retributive economies of exchange?

Hardin, Michael, and Baker, Sharon L., editors. Peace Be with You: Christ’s Benediction Amid Violent Empires. Foreword by Willard Swartley. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2010. Paper, 299 pages. A collection of essays sparked by an August 2007 conference on Post-Christendom theology. Contributors include: Brian McLaren, Michael Hardin, Sharon Baker, Ted Grimsrud, and more.

Hardin - Reading the Bible with Rene GirardHardin, Michael. Reading the Bible with René Girard: Conversations with Steven E. Berry. Foreword by Scott Cowdell. JDL Press, 2016. Paper, 196 pages. “One of the many gifts of René Girard is his ability to unfold his theory in interviews…many of these dialogues open new perspectives on mimetic theory. Reading the Bible with René Girard is a wonderful example of this.” ~ Wolfgang Palaver

Hardin, Michael, and Jersak, Brad, editors. Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007. Paper, 536 pages. “In the search for constructive rethinking of the cross, this book is a mother lode of resources.” — S. Mark Heim. Contributors include: James Alison, Anthony Bartlett, Marcus Borg, Miroslav Volf, Rowan Williams, N. T. Wright, and many more.

Hardin, Michael. Walking with Grandfather: A Skeptic’s Journey to Spirituality. Foreword by Brian Zahnd. JDL Press, 2014. “Both skeptic and acolyte, Hardin explores how a Christian path can converge peaceably and fruitfully with a deep spirituality of nature.” — Ched Myers

Hardin - What the FacebookHardin, Michael. What the Facebook? Posts from the Edge of Christendom. Foreword by Brad Jersak. JDL Press, 2014. “Michael’s posts have helped many to rethink their concepts of God, man, atonement, violence, and the satan.” — Andre Rabe

Haynes, Stephen. Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Cloth, 322 pages. Presents a thorough history of interpretation of Noah’s curse on Ham (Gen. 9:25), especially in its justification of American slavery; saves mimetic theory’s perspective of the victim to the book’s end as the way of redeeming the past sacrificial readings of this story. Walter Brueggemann says, “Noah’s Curse is an exercise in historical disclosure not to be missed by those who care about the crisis of reading in the church and in a Bible-reading culture.”

Heim - Saved from SacrificeHeim, S. Mark. Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. Paper: 346 pages. Publisher’s Description: “The cross has long been not only a scandal but also a profound paradox: filled with saving significance and power, it is at the same time a sobering tragedy. In Saved from Sacrifice theologian Mark Heim takes on this paradox, asserting that the cross must be understood against the whole history of human scapegoating violence. In order to highlight the dimensions of his argument, Heim carefully and critically draws on the groundbreaking work of French theorist and biblical scholar René Girard. Yet Heim goes beyond Girard to develop a comprehensive theology of the atonement and the cross through his fresh readings of well-known biblical passages and his exploration of the place of the victim.”

kaplan-rene-girard-unlikely-apologistKaplan, Grant. René Girard, Unlikely Apologist: Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology. University of Notre Dame Press, 2016. Cloth, 282 pages. Grant Kaplan brings mimetic theory into conversation with theology both to elucidate the relevance of mimetic theory for the discipline of fundamental theology and to understand the work of René Girard within a theological framework.

Kaptein, Roel. On the Way to Freedom. Columba Press, 1993. Paper, 142 pages. An early, readable introduction to Girard’s thought by a sainted practitioner of peacemaking in the late 20th Century Northern Ireland.

Kirk-Duggan - Refiner's FireKirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. Refiner’s Fire: A Religious Engagement with Violence. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001. Paper, 206 pages. COV&R participant Kirk-Duggan uses a womanist perspective and “probes the meaning of religion’s involvement in violence — for good and ill — in the Bible, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the youth scene today.”

Kirwan, Michael. Girard and Theology. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2009. Paper, 165 pages. “The work of the French American theorist René Girard (1923-2015) has been highly influential in a wide variety of intellectual disciplines…. Mimetic theory is an account of how religion, culture and violence are interrelated. Its three principal parts consist of: an assertion of the ‘mimetic’ (i.e. imitated or derivative nature of desire); the function of ‘scapegoating’ as a means of achieving and maintaining social cohesion; the gospel revelation as the means by which these truths of the human condition are made known to us…. Kirwan looks at these ideas and their relevance to theology as well as their reception in the development of ‘dramatic theology’ and new theological concepts of atonement and sacrifice.”

Kirwan, Michael, and Hidden, Sheelah Treflé, editors; Williams, Rowan, foreword. Mimesis and Atonement: René Girard and the Doctrine of Salvation, Volume 5: Violence, Desire, and the Sacred. Bloomsbury, 2016. Cloth, 208 pages. Mimesis and Atonement brings together philosophers from Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Jewish backgrounds — including James Alison, Anthony Bartlett, Nikolaus Wandinger, and Michael Kirwan — to examine the continued significance of Girard’s work. They do so in the light of new developments, such as the controversial ‘new scholarship’ on Paul.

laird-and-hidden-the-practice-of-the-presence-of-godLaird, Martin, and Hidden, Sheelah Treflé, editors. The Practice of the Presence of God: Theology as a Way of Life. Routledge: 2016. Cloth/paper, 168 pages. Exploring the unity of the practice of prayer and the practice of theology, this book draws together insights from world-class theologians including Rowan Williams, Andrew Louth, Frances Young, Margaret R. Miles, Sebastian Brock, Brian Robinette, and Nicholaï Sakharov.

Lefebure, Leo D. Revelation, the Religions, and Violence. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000. Paper, 244 pages. Jacket: “Lefebure extends the path-breaking insights of René Girard into a multi-religious context.”

marr-moving-and-resting-in-gods-desireMarr, Andrew. Moving and Resting in God’s Desire: A Spirituality of Peace. St. Gregory’s Abbey, 2016. Paper, 368 pages. With the help of the Gospel, René Girard’s insights, and soundings in the fundamental practices of Christian spirituality, Marr examines how … shared desires lead to violence and how we can overcome it by allowing ourselves to be strengthened by God’s desire as shown us in the Forgiving Victim who rose from the dead. A powerful path towards spiritual renewal.

Marr, Andrew. Tools for Peace: The Spiritual Craft of St. Benedict and René Girard. iUniverse, Inc., 2007. Paper, 256 pages. A fine resource on mimetic theory that relates very much to congregational life in its insights into how to live in Christian community.

McCracken, David. The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Cloth, 204 pages. Excellent New Testament exegesis on a key Girardian term: “stumbling block” (Greek: skandalon). Also compares Girard’s work to that of Kierkegaard.

McKenna, Andrew J, ed. René Girard and Biblical Studies. Semeia: an experimental journal for biblical criticism, No. 33. Decatur, GA: Scholars Press (for the Society of Biblical Literature), 1985. Paper: 171 pages. An excellent collection of essays on Girard’s work as it pertains to biblical criticism.

McLaren - Everything Must Change pbkMcLaren, Brian. Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide. Thomas Nelson, 2007. Paper, 338 pages. McLaren’s most important book (even though it’s before his ‘conversion’ to Mimetic Theory). “McLaren, a leader in the emerging church, issues a salvo of arguments for radical hope in the face of profound dilemmas. The prolific author and pastor identifies the earth’s four deep dysfunctions that have created a suicide machine: crises in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. … Using a close reading of the Gospels to challenge conservative evangelicals’ emphasis on individual salvation, not to mention end-times theology and, by implication, the prosperity gospel, McLaren argues for establishing a beloved community based on justice, peace, equality and compassion.” — Publisher’s Weekly

mclaren-the-great-spiritual-migrationMcLaren, Brian. The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. Convergent Books: September 2016. Cloth, 288 pages. “This is Brian McLaren’s finest book: a beautiful exploration of a hopeful, joyful, mystical, and just faith that invites Christians to move from fear to love.  On every page, he calls out to longing readers, ‘Don’t give up. A better world, a better way of belief is possible.’ And he is right.” — Diana Butler Bass

McLaren, Brian. We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation. Jericho Books, 2014. Cloth, 304 pages. “If I were to organize this website into a year’s worth of sermons presenting a comprehensive engagement with the basic Christian message, and all with the anthropology of René Girard in the background guiding the interpretation, I couldn’t hope for writing a book this good. It benefits from both Brian’s extraordinary gifts as a writer and his situation of being uniquely positioned as a spokesperson and leader in the Emergence Church. I am delighted and extremely grateful that Brian has written this book. I pray that it becomes a classic of Christian instruction and spiritual formation.” — Paul Nuechterlein

McLaren - Jesus Moses Buddha MohammedMcLaren, Brian. Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith Road. Jericho Books, 2012. Cloth, 288 pages. Mimetic Theory plays a key role in this excellent and important book on Christian identity. The pivotal move is to see what religions have in common: the tendency to shape identity in hostile ways to outsiders. McLaren argues that Christ came to redeem religion so that religion can shape identities in ways hospitable to others. He begins the task of exploring a redeemed Christianity in its history, doctrine, liturgy, and mission — with the work of Girard and James Alison making prominent appearances throughout.

Moore, Sebastian. The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as if It Mattered. Edited by Stephen MacCarthy. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007. Paper, 208 pages. “Sebastian Moore describes his book as ‘a passionate rather than rigorous theology,’ representing his enthusiasm for a theology based on a loving God, a saving Christ, and a church of friendship and discipleship.”

Myers - Say to This MountainMyers, Ched (with Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Stuart Taylor). “Say to This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996. Paper, 240 pages. Myers is a reader of Girard, but this book is on this bibliography as a brilliant example of a Girardian reading of Mark’s Gospel — in the sense of reading from the perspective of the victim of sacred violence, especially in its social and cultural dimensions. Myers and his team bring out the political dimension of Jesus’ ministry better than any other commentary on Mark which I’ve encountered. (Note: this book is a wonderful distillation for a wider audience, with an eye to faith practice, of Myers’ more scholarly commentary on Mark, Binding the Strong Man.)

Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Genesis of Desire. E. Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2010. [Originally published in French, 2007; translated by Eugene Webb.] Paper, 174 pages. From the book description: “How can a couple be saved when they have declared war on one another? By helping them realize that desire originates not in the self but in the other. There are strategies that can help, which Dr. Oughourlian has prescribed successfully to his patients. This work, alternating between case studies and more theoretical statements, convincingly defends the possibility that breakups need not be permanent.” Includes a lengthy, close reading of Genesis 2-4.

Pahl, Jon. Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence. New York: NYU Press, 2010. Hardcover, 288 pages. This book provides an insightful reading of how the Scapegoating Mechanism structures American culture, with chapters on the oppression of violence around youth, race, and gender; it concludes with a historical analysis of the 17th Century roots to our American version of sacrificial empire.

Pahl, Jon. Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009 (originally, Brazos Press, 2003). Paper, 288 pages.

Palaver, Wolfgang, Rudolph, Harriet, and Regensburger, Dietmar. The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths. Routledge: 2016. Cloth, 280 pages.

Palaver, Wolfgang, and Schenk, Richard, editors. Mimetic Theory and World Religions. MSU Press, 2017. Paper: 470 pages. “Insightful, critical, and wide-ranging, this is the book we have been waiting for on Girard and world religions. But beyond mining the mimetic theory and comparing religious traditions in its light, these essays also illuminate philosophy, theology, and the secular.” — Scott Cowdell

Palaver, Wolfgang, and Steinmair-Posel, Petra, editors. Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Paper: 528 pages. Essays and papers related to the 2003 COV&R Conference in Innsbruck.

Pfeil, Margaret R., and Winright, Tobias L., editors. Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: “They Shall Be Called Children of God”. Orbis Books, 2012. Paper, 242 pages. From the book description: “Approximately fifteen referred essays on the theme of violence and the sacred in the twenty-first century. The plenary speakers include Shawn Copeland and James Logan (Earlham College), Todd Whitmore of Notre Dame, and Bill Cavanaugh (De Paul).” Brian Robinette has an excellent essay, “Deceit, Desire, and the Desert: René Girard’s Mimetic Theory in Conversation with Early Christian Monastic Practice.” Elizabeth Vasko and Scott MacDougall are among the several presenters that make use of MT.

Rabe - Desire Found MeRabe, André. Desire Found Me. Lengthy subtitle: “Exploring the unconscious movements of desire — how they form us, connect us, shape our greatest ideas, mold our societies, influence human history and ultimately, how they are unveiled.” Andre Rabe Publishing, 2014. Paper, 346 pages.

Rempel, Marcus Peter. Life at the End of Us Versus Them: Cross – Culture – Stories. Self-Published, forthcoming in 2017.

Redekop - From Violence to BlessingRedekop, Vern Neufeld. From Violence to Blessing: How an understanding of deep-rooted conflict can open paths to reconciliation. Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Toronto: Novalis, 2002. Paper, 408 pages. Sharing his extensive experience as one of Canada’s foremost leaders in conflict resolution, Redekop gets beyond the analysis of mimetic violence to suggest paths toward peace and reconciliation.

Reineke, Martha J. Sacrificed Lives: Kristeva on Women and Violence. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997. Paper, 232 pages. From the back cover: “…Reineke advances a theory of sacrifice, inspired by Julia Kristeva and René Girard, that attempts to account for violence in Western culture, the human proclivity for body mutilation and abuse, and women’s special vulnerability to violence.”

Robinette - Grammars of ResurrectionRobinette, Brian D. Grammars of Resurrection: A Christian Theology of Presence and Absence. New York: Crossroad, 2009. Paper, 444 pages. “A genuinely rich and dense account of Christ’s Resurrection and the way it opens out human understanding towards a re-imagination of Creation and of God’s beauty.” — James Alison This book is amazing in the breadth and depth of plumbing the best of contemporary theology and philosophy, and it gives a central place to Mimetic Theory as a key to pulling it all together.

Rohr, Richard. Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008. Paper, 238 pages. Since he borrows the title from one of Girard’s books, it’s a good clue that Mimetic Theory is a major influence in Rohr’s reading of Scripture. In general, Girard has been a major influence in Rohr’s later works, often making Girard one of the only citations of other authors — books such as Jesus’ Plan for a New World and Immortal Diamond.

rosenberg-the-givenness-of-desireRosenberg, Randall S. The Givenness of Desire: Human Subjectivity and the Natural Desire to See God. University of Toronto Press: forthcoming in 2017. Cloth, 272 pages. Rosenberg examines the human desire for God through the lens of Lonergan’s “concrete subjectivity.” Rosenberg engages and integrates two major scholarly developments: the tension between Neo-Thomists and scholars of Henri de Lubac over our natural desire to see God and the theological appropriation of the mimetic theory of René Girard, with an emphasis on the saints as models of desire.

Ross, Suzanne. The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things. Chicago, 2003. Paper, 215 pages. “It is a rare privilege as an artist to have one’s work explored in such a profound way. The Wicked Truth is a fascinating and valuable study of the ways we all wrestle with the wickedness within and without us and how we can combat it.” — Stephen Schwartz, Composer/Lyricist, Wicked. Available at the website: http://www.thewickedtruth.com/.

Ross, Suzanne. The Wicked Truth about Love: The Tangles of Desire. Chicago, 2009. Paper, 125 pages. Available at the website: http://www.thewickedtruth.com/.

Ryba, Thomas; Redekop, Vern Neufeld, eds. René Girard and Creative Mimesis. Lexington Books, 2013. Cloth, 348 pages. “For half a century René Girard’s theories of mimetic desire and scapegoating have captivated the imagination of thinkers and doers in many fields as an incisive look into the human condition, particularly the roots of violence. In a 1993 interview with Rebecca Adams, he highlighted the positive dimensions of mimetic phenomena without expanding on what they might be. Now, two decades later, this groundbreaking book systematically explores the positive side of mimetic theory in the context of the multi-faceted world of creativity.”

Ryba, Thomas; Redekop, Vern Neufeld, eds. René Girard and Creative Reconciliation. Lexington Books, 2014. Cloth, 424 pages. “The contribution of this book to the field of reconciliation is both theoretical and practical… Using a Girardian hermeneutic as a starting point, a new conceptual Gestalt emerges in these essays, one not fully integrated in a formal way but showing a clear understanding of some of the challenges and possibilities for dealing with the deep divisions, enmity, hatred, and other effects of violence.”

Salomon, Daniel. Creation Unveiled. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 1993. Paper, 297 pages. From the back cover: “Following in the tradition of Christian environmentalism, Creation Unveiled opens up the unique perspectives of Christian anthropologist René Girard.”

Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Banished from Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation. Gracewing, 2006. Paper, 200 pages.

Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Sketch of a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption. New York: Crossroad, 1999. [Originally in German, 1990; trans. by James G. Williams.] Paper, 245 pages. The scholarly companion volume to his Jesus of Nazareth, which substantiates the latter’s portrayal of Jesus through a systematic analysis of biblical research.

Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Jesus of Nazareth: How He Understood His Life. New York: Crossroad, 1998. Paper, 187 pages. [Originally published in German, 1991; trans. by James G. Williams.] Schwager takes the impulse from von Balthasar’s idea of Theo-Drama, and applies Girard’s evangelical anthropology, to provide a unique life of Jesus that asks a new question: how did Jesus himself come to understand his life, and experience his faith?

Schwager - Must There Be ScapegoatsSchwager, Raymund, S.J. Must There Be Scapegoats? Violence and Redemption in the Bible. Forward by Robert J. Daly, S.J. New York: Crossroad, 2000, 1987. Paper, 264 pages. [Originally in German, 1978; trans. by Maria L. Assad.] The first attempt by a biblical scholar and theologian to read Girard’s theories through all of Scripture. (Published in 1978, the year of Girard’s Things Hidden, the first time Girard himself wrote extensively on Scripture.)

Smith, Theophus H., and Wallace, Mark I. Curing Violence: Essays on René Girard. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1994. Paper, 352 pages. A fine collection of essays from early participants in COV&R.

Sung, Jung Mo. Desire, Market, and Religion. London: SCM Press, 2007. Paper, 174 pages. Sung draws heavily on Girard as this book description indicates: “Where ancient idolatry had visible altars, the modern altar of the ‘global market god’, is invisible, but still demands human sacrifices in the name of ‘objective’ desires. Here Sung recovers theology’s relevance for a world where the most dangerous idols – those that sacrifice millions of people upon the altar of wealth – have for too long been ignored by theology.”

Swartley - Covenant of PeaceSwartley, Willard M. Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in the New Testament Theology and Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. Paper, 542 pages. Publisher’s Description: “In this comprehensive yet accessible book Swartley explicates virtually all of the New Testament, relating peace — and the associated emphases of love for enemies and reconciliation — to core theological themes such as salvation, christology, and the reign of God. No other work in English makes such a contribution.” A participant in COV&R Swartley makes significant use of Mimetic Theory, especially in Chapters 13-14.

Swartley, Willard M., editor. Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking. Response by René Girard and Foreward by Diana M. Culbertson. Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2000. Paper, 343 pages. The marvelous fruits of a 1994 conference hosted by the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN. Contributors include Charles Mabee, James G. Williams, Sandor Goodhart, and Rebecca Adams.

Trestad, Marit, editor. Cross Examinations: Readings on the Meaning of the Cross Today. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006. Paper, 320 pages. Michael Hardin recommends this book as “a powerful book of theological reasoning and an ally in deconstructing the false power of the logic of sacrificial theology” (p. 15) — and as a womanist balance to the majority male perspective of the Stricken by God? volume. In addition to S. Mark Heim’s contribution from a Girardian perspective, contributors to this collection include: Rita Nakashima Brock, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Susan L. Nelson, Alicia Vargas, Delores S. Williams, Douglas John Hall, and Jürgen Moltmann.

Wallace, Mark I. Fragments of the Spirit: Nature, Violence, and the Renewal of Creation. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002. Paper, 237 pages. “Fragments of the Spirit is a confrontation between Christian theology and radical nihilism.” — René Girard. Note: Mark Wallace has two subsequent books on ecojustice with a framework that omits explicit reference to Mimetic Theory but still of great interest to Girardians: Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature [Fortress Press, 2005], and Green Christianity: Five Ways to a Sustainable Future [Fortress Press, 2010].

Warren - Compassion or ApocalypseWarren, James. Compassion or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of René Girard. Christian Alternative, 2013. Paper, 380 pages. Brian McLaren writes not only a strong endorsement for this book but also for the importance of Girard’s work: “I’m convinced that the seminal work of René Girard is the single most promising and productive contemporary resource capable of stimulating fresh readings of the Bible, constructive critical thought about Christian theology and practice, and incisive inducement to productive activism. Several scholars are engaging productively with Girard’s thought, but James Warren has written the best popular introduction and overview — substantial and thorough yet accessible and delightfully written.”

Williams - The Bible Violence and the SacredWilliams, James G. The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred: Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence. Foreword by René Girard. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007 [originally published by HarperCollins, 1991]. Paper, 288 pages. The second major work by a biblical scholar to read Girard’s theories through a large portion of Scripture. (James Williams was an originating member of COV&R and long-time officer on its Board.)

Zahnd_A Farewell to MarsZahnd, Brian. A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. David C. Cook: 2014. Paper, 208 pages. This is a wonderfully written story of a conversion from a conservative evangelical way of reading Scripture that endorses militarism to reading it as a compelling call to faithful discipleship of the Prince of Peace. Girard’s work is among his most frequently cited. His reading of Matthew 25:31-46 is stunningly fresh, as a true judgment of nations in history, rather than of individuals in the afterlife. “A Farewell to Mars is provocative, prophetic, and pastoral. Zahnd hits it out of the park as he shares his personal journey toward the path of peace. This small book is packed with insight and liberating good news. It is simply the best book I have ever read on Jesus’s way of peace.” — Michael Hardin

Zahnd, Brian. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News. Waterbrook, 2017. Paper, 224 pages. “I know we’re a bit too quick to say things like ‘This will change your life!’ these days, but seriously: this book will change your life. Brian’s new book is one of the most beautiful, truthful, and compelling visions of God as revealed by Jesus I have ever read. I can’t shut up about this glorious, necessary, healing book: it is a must-read for every Christian.” — Sarah Bessey

Print Friendly, PDF & Email