Violence interrupted: A video course on Jesus as forgiving victim

The old saw “No more laughter, no more fun, Bible study has begun” certainly does not apply to James Alison’s introduction to scripture and Christianity. Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice is witty, earthy and accessible. The course of study is presented in videos (available online at forgivingvictim.com) which show Alison speaking to a small group, accompanied by a series of four books (published by Doers, sponsored by the Raven Foundation).

Alison is a highly regarded, if eclectic, Catholic theologian. Well versed in sacramental and liturgical theology, he presents his own highly original reading of scripture and tradition as entirely orthodox. An openly gay theologian, he has also developed a theology of sexuality. He is best known, however, for developing René Girard’s concepts of mimetic desire and scapegoating and for applying them to biblical narratives. The Girardian interpretive lens is central to the course, as the title indicates: Jesus is the “forgiving victim.”

Though informal and colloquial in style, Alison makes no attempt to simplify or play down the complexity of faith. He opens biblical passages to multilayered readings, providing historical, cultural and anthropological background. His main theme is that the perpetuation of violence, particularly through the creation of scapegoats to justify human sacrifice, must end. This is the theme of scripture as well, he thinks. His aim in the course, he says, is “to restore to the Christian life the wonder and transformative power of discovering not some new biblical fact or church doctrine, but that you are loved far more than you know.”