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THE MOB AND THE VICTIM IN THE PSALMS AND JOB Robert Hamerton-Kelly Woodside Church IrecaiI a passage from Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, where, looking at the frail body of a young boy writhing on the gallows—his body weight was too light to kill him outright when he dropped through the trap door—someone asksthe narrator, "Where is nowyourGod?" This question is often on my mind, not least because for the last seven years ofmy tenure at Stanford I studied ethnic conflict and filled my mind with the most discouraging images. I found myselfsaying on occasion that I felt ashamed to be a human being, which was only a slight exaggeration. I noted with wry amusement that a few years ago it was reported that the wolves were fleeing from the Caucasus in great numbers because ofthe human violence there, a sad irony in the light of Thomas Hobbes' motto, Homo homini lupus. I had long suspected thatthat was an insult to wolves, and now I had the proof. Lately we have Philip Gourewitch's new book on the Rwanda holocaust of 1994, where they killed one million people in ten weeks, not with weapons ofmass destruction butwith machetes and clubs primedwith six-inch nails, and Rwanda is a Christian country. The voice ofconscience cries out, "Where is our God?" in all this; why does He spend his time causing statues to ooze oil in suburban Massachusetts rather than defending the children of Kosovo against depraved nationalists.1 It is some comfort that the psalmist cried the same question and thus provides a convenient way into a meditation on violence in the Psalms. It occurs first in 42,3: "I have no food but tears / day and 1I refer to the phenomena reported in connection with the comatose teenage girl, Audrey Sosa, who is believed by some to be a channel for miracles. 152Robert Hamerton-Kelly night:/ and all day long men say to me,/ Where is now your God?" and again at 42,10, "Nearly breaking my bones / my oppressors insult me / as all day long they ask me / Where is now your God?" In 79, 10 it occurs in a national lament, "Why should the pagans ask, Where is their God?" and this recalls two prophetic oracles, in Joel 2,9, "Spare yourpeople Yahweh!/ Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations./ Why should it be said amongthe nations,/ Where is their God?" and Micah 7,10 "When my enemy sees it (my vindication)/ she will be covered with shame,? she who said to me: Where is Yahweh your God?" So there are two classes of such sayings, one by an individual and one by the nation. Much ink has been spilled on the questions, Who is the victim?, and Who are the enemies? The answers have canvassed all the possibilities from the lone individual beset by spiritual temptations, or David himselfin his days and nights as a fugitive, to the nation beset by rival nations.2 The victim surrounded by persecutors is clearly a major category in the Psalms, present in two thirds ofthe collection; one hundred out ofthe one hundred and fifty explicitly or implicitly refer to a victim surrounded by enemies.3 Let me cut to the chase and recall that according to René Girard's mimetic theory, which I take as a point of departure, the situation of the victim surrounded by a mob ofenemies is a structural not an historical situation.4 The deep structure ofhuman history is a victim surrounded by the mob, a lamb slain since the foundation ofthe world. This deep structure controls the shape of emergent history but that emergence conceals its deep structure by turning history into myth. Myth covers up the blood stains and stifles the voice of the victim, myth accuses the victim, presents the victim as guilty or willing and the persecutors as innocent. To this day much that claims to be history is really myth. History happens only when the voice ofthe victim comes to word, and for that reason the gospel is irreducibly history and not myth. The 2Raymund Schwager (53ff) gives the following information...


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