57: Jesus, Girard, and Economics with Jerry Bowyer

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Will Jarvis

What did Jesus really say about economics? What does Rene Girard’s teachings mean for violence in Modernity? How do we create a united vision of the future for America?


Will Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future. I’m your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com.

Okay. Well, Jerry, how are you doing today? I’m fine. Well, how are you? doing? Great. Jerry, thank you so much for hopping on. I wanted to get started and just ask a quick question, can you give us kind of a brief bio, and some of the big things you’re interested in

Jerry Bowyer 0:59
my bio or the things that I’m interested in? Because they aren’t always aligned? There’s always been some kind of day job. But then there’s also been some the zone of writing and speaking, etc. So what are you more interested in? Probably what you’re interested in? Yeah. I’m interested in big ideas. I’m interested in kind of the state of our culture, with a focus on politics and economics, but not isolated from the other subjects. I’m particularly interested in the sort of the biblical foundations of our social order. What happens when we go off of those foundations and how to restore that I work in markets, and I have most of my life, in one way or another. But I’ve always had a career that had a, you know, one, on one level, I was doing something with money, whether it’s an accountant, or, you know, working for an actuarial firm, or later money management, and in the other area, there’s a sort of a thought leader, scholar, media writer thing going on, that, to me, they’re integrated. They’re not different things. But from outside people kind of expect you to be one thing or another or the other. Right? And I just don’t, I those distinctions have never made a lot of sense to me, the economics, finance, politics, theology, literature, they’re different subjects in school, but they’re not different subjects in life.

Will Jarvis 2:34
Right? That makes a lot of sense. In what ways do you think they’re really connected? that exists? Are there some big central things that tie them together in your mind?

Jerry Bowyer 2:43
Well, I think the world is connected, it’s a universe. Right? So you need one verse that, you know, the idea of diversity. So I think this is this is the original problem in philosophy, the one in the many. And Plato said at bottom, everything’s one. And Aristotle said, well, bottom, not the one, this is an illusion, it’s not real. at bottom, everything’s many. And if we say that the ball is red, and if we say that the sky is red, they really don’t have anything in common. There’s no such thing as redness. So that kind of goes through Western civilization. And, you know, the the one versus the many, I think that problem is solved in the in the Trinity, both one and many at the same time. And so I think that we tend to cut up reality, because we tend to be a people whose big conversations have been driven by people who are out of the university system. And the university system, even though it’s Yuna. versity. When it lost its faith Foundation, it essentially became the multiversity with a completely siloed off departments from one another No, no unifying theme. So if we don’t have so if our major if our intellectuals are trained by institutions that don’t have unifying themes, we won’t have unifying themes in our conversation. And we won’t think in those terms. And so we’ll have different groups of people huddled around different topics, or different values, reflecting different tribes. And again, I think that’s that that I think that is the great problem of our time. I think the great problem of our time is we’ve seen every all the institutions kind of shattering, and it’s like, wow, it’s great in some ways those institutions deserved to have their credibility shattered. But without those brokering institutions without those honest brokers without without them. Were now shattered into tiny little identity groups at war with one another and rebuilding society. We’re both united and also individual at the same time, I think is the great challenge of the 21st century.

Will Jarvis 5:06
That’s, I think that’s really well put. I personally read that in 1960. But at any given Tuesday for recording on Tuesday evening, 30% of the population was watching the same TV show in the US. And isn’t that just like, just completely unthinkable? And like very surprising to even consider in such a short time period that has changed? What do you think like a unifying vision looks like for bringing everyone back together in some kind of robust way? Was that even possible at this point?

Jerry Bowyer 5:35
Well, I don’t think it I don’t think there’s a non religious version that’s possible. I think that’s always failed. So what what when we’ve had unifying visions for 1000 years, we had a unifying vision. In in Europe, it was Christendom, it was essentially Roman Catholic Christianity. It had its issues, it had its problems. And that’s one of the reasons it shattered, but that was a unifying vision. Rome had a unifying vision, but it was built completely on bloodshed and power. Right, right. It’s where the Romans were destined to rule because we can kill people better than anybody’s ever been able to kill people before. And if you get in our way, we’ll mail you to a cross and torture you to death. But for those of you who don’t get in our way, we’ll take care of the pirates. And they’ll be bread and circuses. And you know, there’ll be more trade, and you’ll be able to prosper and be protected and be safe. So that’s one way to do it. We have the European Union, which is essentially a kind of a secular utopia, right? It’s kind of like it’s kind of religious, but without any god. Right? And it’s a tower of Babel vision. In fact, look at the original designs for the European Parliament. It’s actually based on Peter Bruegel’s I’m painting of the unfinished Tower of Babel, it’s like I even met want to go back and read that story and see how it ends. Build your building that way. So what else? ethnicity? Right, right. You know, we’re the Germans, the Germans are the best. We are genetically chosen Darwinian Lee chosen to rule the world. So these are the things that pull people together. Power and bloodshed, utopian dreams, and European European Union is already falling apart. I mean, it’s really it had maybe 20, mediocre years, ethnicity, or something big enough to pull a community together, which is something bigger than any human institution, which is God, I don’t I so I think we those are the choices we have now. Right now, I feel like we’re shifting towards ethnicity. I feel like America’s more like work, like you’ve got racial identity is becoming probably the most powerful if it’s not the most powerful identic identifying characteristic. It’s the most on the rise. Right? In other words, I don’t know if it’s yet the biggest identifier, but it’s had a good few years, in terms of becoming the way that people identify themselves.

And that seems to be like a very big problem in a big, multiracial democracy, like the United States, if you know, everyone’s identifying their ethnic group, you know, it seems like a complaint itself, the factional politics. Yes. And that’s exactly what’s happening. And I think I happen to think Tom Wolfe was the greatest novelist of my generation, and part of the Vanities, Bonfire of the Vanities, on to I think his last book was back to blood, which was about the move, I think he spotted trends earlier than anybody. And it was set in Miami. And the idea is, we’re going back to ethnic identity. And that was, I don’t know, 10 years ago or so. And that seems to be playing itself out. So we have a kind of a Black Lives Matter thing, but then we have a white grievance politics that is in response to that. And then like even divisions within the ethnicities, you know, depending on, you know, if you’re if you’re married to someone from a different ethnicity, or people of color in competition with one another way, who’s most victimized. And so, I mean, it’s an ugly path. And what I would say is, would tell me something, give me something better than that. You have to give us something better than that. For a long time. It was 1776. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. It was essentially a kind of natural law. But we don’t hold these truths to be self evident anymore. Right. So that I don’t see how that can do it. At least half the country. The here’s the words of the Declaration of Independence, and they have a wretch reaction rather than a, you know, that kind of read. I mean, when I hear them, you know, I love them, but that they’re not a unifying force anymore. Right. So I just don’t know anything that’s ever been able to unify people other than power, or ethnicity, or God. So I’ll take God. Yeah, it definitely seems like the best option. It’s if you’re living in Western Europe, where you’re recording right now in western Pennsylvania, and I’m from rural eastern North Carolina, and now I live in a big Metro pull the triangle in North Carolina. And I find when I go back home to Eastern North Carolina, there’s this great urban rural divergence, like it’s just like, and it’s, you know, that people talk about it and the mainstream press and the Atlantic, but I think it’s still, they actually underrate how big the gap has gotten. And I every time I go back, and I come back home, I just think, man, like, you know, how do we bring this these, these people that have just diverged so greatly in their beliefs back together? So do you think religion is the answer that God is the answer to, to kind of reunite everyone?

Well, he did it before. I mean, Rome had that idea. Right? And it’s interesting, you know, you’ve heard the word pagan, right? What is pagan actually mean? pagan doesn’t mean non Christian. pagan means rural dweller. Oh, really, because in in early history, in early Christian history, and in Rome, Christianity went to the cities first. So the cities converted to Christianity. And they that that didn’t get out to the rural areas until later. Plus, in some sense, rural areas are more conservative, they change more slowly, right now, because America has a Christian heritage. What that means is cities when secular and rural stayed religious, right? But if you go back to the, like, the second century, that world is pagan. So the new thing is Christianity, and the old thing is paganism. So the pagans are like, I don’t know all this, this new God, this new this crazy, Jesus stuff, give me the old time religion, right, you know, Jupiter, and Mars. And so cities have always been places where the new thing happens. And, and so the new thing can be whatever, there’s a time when Christianity was the new thing. So that that, I think that division is throughout history. So I think what you need is something that can be new and old at the same time, to bring city and country together. And I think this is one of the areas where a lot of my Christian friends and brothers have gotten this wrong because for them Christianity is a kind of go back thing. I go back to the old things, right. But Christianity has always been a religion that behold all things have been made new. It’s always been kind of a religion, a religion out on the revolutionary edge, but keeping What’s good, right? So you know, I remember Jerry Falwell used to call his show the old time gospel our but you read the New Testament, it’s all new, new, new, new, you know, it’s just watching maximum claims. Wonderful. one man show of the Gospel of Mark. And yeah, and, you know, Jesus is talking about, you know, you can’t put you can’t put new wine in old wine skins, and you can’t, you know, you can’t use you know, a new patch to put on, you know, old cloth, right? new, new, new new, and the conservatives were his worst enemies, people wanted to keep things the same. So I think that the city versus country is a proxy for new versus old. Some degree young versus, you know, young versus old, like really not, not old, not retro, but older in age, and you need I think, in Christ. Um, and when I even when I say Christ, I know people get a reaction because they’re going to hear old time gospel, our southern angry am radio preacher, but Oregon rosenstock, who see this story and talks about this, that there’s a, that there’s a forward and a backward in him, and there’s an upward and a downward and there’s a right, and there’s a left, all these things are converging, you know, on him, he incorporates all of those things and reconciles them in himself. And so he can go around and Galilee, which is frontier, but he can also go to Jerusalem. He can go to the city and he can recruit recline a table or climate table means banquet for someone who’s wealthy, he’s able to move in and out of city and country. He’s that rich and poor. He kind of transcends those classes. So if we come back to that actual historical Jesus, then he, he is kind of a broker, a mediator between the different classes, but one classes said, Jesus is mine, and Jesus means white grievance, right wing, nostalgic politics, right? And then other people say they’re not all one of them. Right? Or some people say, No, no, he’s

mine. You know, he loves the foreigner that the Sermon on the Mount is peace. So he’s got, he gave away free health care. He’s dark skin, he’s mine. And the answer is, he’s not either of yours, you’re his. And he’s got a place for the nostalgic and the he’s got a face for the preserve, and the move ahead. He’s got a place for both because they both have a role. And I don’t hear a voice of that in our culture. And if I don’t hear that voice in our culture, then I don’t see how we can kind of bring together these divergent groups.

Will Jarvis 16:03
Yeah, that definitely someone needs to be talking about that. I’m curious, you read a book. Very good. It’s called the man named the makers of the takers. Is that correct?

Jerry Bowyer 16:14
Everyone gets that wrong? Yeah. Because there’s already a phrase the makers in the taker, right. And there’s already a book makers and takers. So I was trying, it was a complete failure in terms of choosing a title. But I was trying to kind of play off of that. Yes, there’s makers versus takers in our society, right. But what I was trying to say is that God ism is the maker of everything. Got it, and his son is that maker in human form walking on the earth. And so when he’s here on planet earth, He as a representative of the of the maker, he is socially associating with makers against takers. But if I have to explain it that much, then it is a failure as a title. So I mean, I, it’s my fault, I’ll take full responsibility, the maker versus the takers. Got it. It’s quite clever.

Will Jarvis 17:09
It’s quite clever. But if I have 10 minutes to explain, everyone’s on the show. You got it. So I, I’m curious, can you talk about the book a little bit, and the gist of the idea because I think it plays into into a lot of what we’ve been talking about so far.

Jerry Bowyer 17:26
Well, what I basically tried to do with the book is read the Gospel accounts very, very carefully, and not ignore things like place names and occupations, and then essentially, take the story of the Gospels as Jesus is walking around in different places in ancient Israel, and then take what we’ve learned in the past 20 or 30 years from biblical archaeology, and the archaeology of bones and the archaeology of Pope we’ve learned a lot Oh, really? Yes. Here’s the book. Okay, we’ve we’ve learned a lot you know, about parasites, for example, from that, and essentially create a kind of a mental map. So that when we, when the Gospels say that Jesus went to Capron, now them, or went to best cider, maybe and then later he goes to capper, Naum. And then later he goes to, to Judea, and then to Jericho, and then to Jerusalem. And then to Bethany, we are seeing what the like the under a kind of looking through that underneath. What are the economies of those places? What is the class structure, instead of just Jesus wasn’t a Bible, a sounding town and he went to the other Bible sounding town and said this and then he went to another Bible he sounding down, because all of these places Bethlehem had an industry, that every place on earth where people live and eat, there’s some kind of economic base, and it’s buried throughout the world. Every place he went, there was an industry or a combination of industries. And what we learn is, once you have that as a background, you can actually then when Jesus talks about things say, Oh, that makes sense. I see what’s going on here. He talks differently about economics and Galilee, which was more entrepreneurial, lower taxes, more egalitarian, more decentralized, then he doesn’t Judea, which is more state centered, more centralized, more of a powerful ruling class more economically exploitative and extractive. So Galilee to oversimplify but Galilee was mostly makers. Judea was mostly takers. And Jesus has no confrontations over wealth at all recorded in any of the Gospels in Galilee. Every single confrontation he has about wealth, rich young ruler As the key as the tax collector money changers, all of them occur in Judea in close proximity to the ruling class with a member of the ruling class. The takers. Oh, wow. So Jesus was raised in a culture of makers. And then he goes south to take our town, you know which Jerusalem was to the capital. And he sees a an economy built on taking wealth from people. And he says, You are devours of widows houses, and they kill him. Because he messed with their money, because he called out their economics. Up north, they got mad sometimes when he said some theological stuff that they didn’t like, you know, had their different sins. They didn’t like Gentiles. I mean, they were in entrepreneurship, but they didn’t like, you know, being unclean around unclean Gentiles. Right. So Jesus confronts them about that. But he doesn’t confront them about wealth. Why? He’s right. He’s right next to a city Nazareth was close to a city called Sephora. They have mentioned in Sephora, we’ve dug them up. So where’s Jesus? You know, why is he not turning up the head of a bank? Why didn’t he go there and turn over tables of money changers? Because it was our bank? Right? Because it was it was a marketplace institution, you, you could deal with it voluntarily. But when you go down to the temple, God says, you have to go to my temple, you have to offer sacrifices, but first, you have to go to this crooked ATM operator, who has a 100% upsell, or when you change your pagan money into into temple money, and that’s what he attacks. So that’s basically that’s what the book is about.

Will Jarvis 21:34
So really, it’s, it’s something like, you know, there are people that they you know, like Jesus father is carpenter and all these, you actually people that build things that make things and then there’s like rent seekers, there’s people who, you know, using proper methods to kind of gain wealth, and those things are very different.

Jerry Bowyer 21:52
Yes, rent seekers would be the right, you know, modern economic phrase for it. The suckiest is the tax collector. He’s a rent seeker, the rich young ruler is a rent seeker. How do I know that? Well, a couple of couple of reasons. One, it was endemic to the class. He was a rich young ruler, that’s our con in Greek. It was a corrupt, rent seeking class. That was the nature of it. Later, James Jesus’s brother writes a letter. And he talks to Christians in Jerusalem and Judea, is that interesting, who had been sort of sucking up to the ruling class and he said, Do that these rich men defraud you, and drag you before the judgment seats? So James is saying, in general, the wealthy Judean ruling class is fraudulent. By the way, same Greek word that Jesus uses when he has a conversation with a rich young ruler. Let’s let’s get into that for a second. It’s really interesting, the rich young ruler and people skip over the fact that he’s a ruler, they skip over the fact that this is in Judea, they skipped over the fact that he’s a ruler, and then they go right to the you know, the bit about the camel in the eye of the needle and the rich man, you know, as as if it has nothing to do with a specific person that Jesus is talking to. He says, Jesus looked at him, he’s talking about this man. So the demand asks how we want you to be saved. Jesus says, you know the commandments. And then Jesus lists the commandments. And in Mark’s gospel, he adds a commandment, the list he says, Do not the fraud opera stereo that do not to fraud is not part of the 10 commandments. So why is Jesus listing the 10 commandments and adding them in? It’s already covered with Thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not bear false witness. That’s what the frauding is stealing by bearing false witness, but Jesus kind of triples down on this with the fraud. And then later, Jesus’s little brother writes a letter in which he says the Judean ruling class are the people who defraud you. So Jesus is confrontation with this man? I think the the explanation that fits best with the details of the text is not because he’s rich, Jesus had wealthy friends that he doesn’t confront. It’s because he’s defrauding, which is why he ads do not defraud to the list of commandments.

Will Jarvis 24:21
Got it got. That’s, that’s super interesting. I love that. I love that.

Unknown Speaker 24:25

Will Jarvis 24:26
was there a particular instance that that made you think like, you know, someone needs to write this someone needs to, like, kind of actually break this down? Is it just like a realization you had over time and thoughts that came together? Or was there any like specific moment or something

Unknown Speaker 24:42
like that? Well,

Jerry Bowyer 24:43
I’ve been, I’ve been probably studying this stuff for, I don’t know, like 30 years. Now more 40 closer to 40. I got a lot more serious about it maybe about five or six years ago, but I just studied it because I wanted to study it because I wanted to know, I didn’t have any thoughts about a book at all. I’m just resistant to the idea of a book, a friend of mine, who is a publisher who was working for a publisher came to me and said, I want you to do a book. He didn’t know what topic he said, I just want you to do a book with us, right? And he asked me what I’m what I’m working on. And I mentioned three topics that I had done sort of deep study. And this was one of the three. And he said, yeah, that’s the book. And I resisted that. Because, in my experience, people don’t seem to want things that shake them out of their comfort zone. Right? Right. So there’s, there was already a conversation about Jesus in economics, and it went like this. Hey, Jesus gave away free health care. Jesus said, Be nice. Jesus said, a rich man can’t go to heaven. Jesus is a socialist, right? Okay, here’s the answer. No, he’s not. He didn’t really mean it. He’s just talking about your heart. He’s just talking, talking about spiritual things. Jesus doesn’t say anything about economics. The only thing Jesus cares about is whether you have inner peace in God and you go to heaven, in economics is silent. He silent on the topic of economics, so we can safely essentially ignore anything Jesus says about economics just spiritualize it away, or like wait, like Bill Buckley used to say, well, I’ll pay attention to the, to applying the Sermon on the Mount, when the kingdom comes. So you kick it to the after the Second Coming. So the so that the left, took that Jesus stories about economics and turn them up to about one quarter volume and said, See socialism, and then the right panicked and said, No, turn it, turn it, turn that sound down, I don’t want to hear it. Because Jesus does kind of sound socialistic, if you’re not paying close attention. And I was really dissatisfied with that conversation. So what I tried to do is just in my own personal study, my wife and I just like lean in to the stereo, and turn Jesus up all the way, you know, turn off the tap, 10, or a spinal tap all the way up to 11. Even more, and really hear what he’s saying. And if it’s socialist, okay, I’ll be a socialist then. And what came out was something that I didn’t hear anybody else saying, and it’s my experience, when you have two groups of people who are in locked in a mimetic rivalry like that, right? Raise your art, then they can’t hear another point of view, they can’t hear something that says, you know, you’re both wrong, the details, a different picture emerges. And the picture that emerges is, Jesus is talking about economics. Jesus is very interested in social justice. He’s Prophet, priest, and King, if he’s a prophet, he’s got to have a social justice message. Otherwise, he would be less than a prophet. And he’s more than a prophet. But that social justice message certainly isn’t the Sandinistas or Bernie, or, you know, Stalin. It is a decentralized order in which were entrepreneurial, but we share. So freely sharing out of our productive games, and that, so I didn’t think anyone would be interested in the book. And I didn’t want to have my heart broken by putting a book out there that people would then not hear or write. So I didn’t want to do a book. And my friend just nagged me relentlessly. And so I finally wrote the book. Better than I expected, so I was wrong. But it hasn’t done great. And I don’t think it ever will do great. Because people already have their pre determined points of view. And they’re looking for things that buttress that. So even the people who are reading the book, they tend to be more than conservatives and like, see, Jesus isn’t a socialist, like, I didn’t write this book, just to say Jesus isn’t a socialist. I didn’t write this book to say what Jesus isn’t at all. I’m not interested in what Jesus isn’t. I’m interested in what he is. And what I have seen is that this book has been most well received by young people. Because they really are interested in a new conversation. Right? Yeah. So, so I’m so grateful for that.

Will Jarvis 29:16
Yeah, they really want to understand. Yeah, you know, and I’ve been, I found the book, really interesting and very helpful for the for much the same reasons. Like, I’m really curious, like, you know, everyone’s saying this and like, and what’s the truth? Like, what is actually going on, in your story about finding and finding this, this kind of finding this truth is very similar to how Gerard found, you know, a lot of his ideas because, you know, he said, you know, none of the Christian scholars wanted to look at myths, because they were afraid that if they look too closely, that you know, Christianity would be just any other myth. And it just gets ignored because of that. And then all the you know, scholars who are Christians are like, it’s clearly a myth. Yeah, it’s very much the same kind of

Jerry Bowyer 30:01
Yeah, I write it’s Dionysus. Right. That’s sort of the standard. Frasier a golden bow, you know that Jesus is just another corn God, as CS Lewis said, So,

Unknown Speaker 30:13

Jerry Bowyer 30:14
and the Christians were not willing to really for the most part take on that challenge. Like you said they were afraid. Now an example. exception would be JRR Tolkien, oh and Barfield and then later CS Lewis, right, because they were these were mythopoetic scholars. Right. But it’s interesting Barfield was a was a linguist. And I don’t think of Krishna at this time. And he says, you know, something really weird happens to all the languages around 2000 years ago, where, you know, before that languages, it’s it’s like, external participation. It’s kind of technical, but there’s like a turning point. And then He later said, something else happened 2000 years ago, right? And talking to studying these myths. And he’s saying, Wait, there’s this similarity to the gospel stories? Why is that going on? They are, he had to acknowledge that these myths are similar to the gospel stories before he could then see, of course, they’re similar to the gospel stories, in the sense that I would put it this way, a counterfeit is similar to money, because that’s its job, it’s trying to imitate it, or skeleton fee has to be similar to the key that these, these ancient thinkers are trying to solve the mystery of human life. And they’re going to come up with things that really kind of are similar to the actual mystery, because they have insight. So the fact that they’re like, converging on an account that’s like the Gospels is not an argument against the truth of the Gospels, when different groups are converging on a similar set of ideas. That’s usually, you know, evidence that there’s something real there, even if some of them have found it in perfectly. But Girard goes deeper. And I think Gerard did it. I think, in some sense, him being an atheist, was helpful to him, because he could fully plunge into the myth. Right and completely, you know, debunk it without fear that he’s debunking Christianity along with it. See a lot of the the world of Lewis and Tolkien they don’t want to debunk the pagan myths too much, because they’ve, they’ve emphasized the continuity between the Christian story and the pagan myth. Whereas the really, the continuity is almost like an inversion. They’re really, they’re similar in some ways, but they’re really unalike, because the gospels are essentially taking the pagan myth and shattering it from inside, right, the scapegoat mechanism shattering from inside, so Gerard could as if he had started out as a Christian, I don’t think he could have allowed himself to see it. But he starts out as an atheist. These pagan myths are all lies. And then it’s like, okay, now I’m going to go after the gods. But yeah, we’re going after the Gospels. Yes, that’s going to be scapegoating. There’s going to be human sacrifice. And he gets in there, and it’s mundu. You know, this is this, you know, these stories were here. 2000 years before my insights, whoever wrote these gospels, knew what I think I discovered, I didn’t discover they already did it. They’re unmasking the scapegoat mechanism. These are the first non myths in in ancient literature. Wow. So, but he had to like immerse himself in the detail. He had to be willing to go wherever the text took him. He had to be willing to sort of like, you just like, Alright, I’m going to slide along. And wherever it goes, it goes. And thank God he did, because I think he’s really unlocked cultural anthropology like no one else before except for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and john, who are essentially chronicling Jesus Himself. You know, subverting, say, all right, human sacrifice. Alright, go ahead, do human sacrifice, you know, you can do a human. I’m going to let you sacrifice me. Oh, boy. We’ll get you know, we’ll get the leftovers. We’ll take care of the Romans, we’ll keep our jobs, you know, right, get rid of this troublemaker. And that was the trap. You know that. It’s like, Oh, wait, he’s innocent. And odd. His and his disciples didn’t run away. I mean, they did for a while, but they come back. They write the account. He’s innocent, and then a resurrection. He’s innocent. Right? And what that does is it completely shatters all those power structures and it it robs the scapegoat mechanism on which all ancient societies are built of its power.

Will Jarvis 34:37
That it it’s it’s a crowd It’s really incredible. And that’s a really, really well put Jerry you know, I remember reading Gerard for the first time I the first book I read is ice Satan fall like lightning, I believe, be really, really good. It’s about the New Testament. I really enjoyed it. You know how important it was Gerard for you personally, you your understanding of Christianity, you know, for me, it was it was transformational, but I’m not sure. You know, what was your feeling on that? Um,

Jerry Bowyer 35:09
I think I came to Girard pretty late. I was pretty foolish about this. Um, St. Augustine’s press sent me a review copy of theater of envy. And I looked and said, Oh, a French intellectual. No thanks.

Will Jarvis 35:30
And why is your aesthetic? Generally,

Jerry Bowyer 35:33
yes, in this case, but not in this because I just saw so so I left it on the shelf for a long time. And then I was listening to a lecture might have been James Jordan or Peter Lionheart, in which they positively mentioned Gerard, and his commentary on the book of Job. And then they started to talk a little bit about my thought there might be something going on here. Yeah. So then I kind of dug in to Gerard. And again, mundu what you know what a fool I was to ignore this, it really opened things up for me a lot. And that went on and read a good deal more. And he’s given me a lot of insight. Mainly personal guidance, insight, more even than sort of theoretical insight, just like how to live my life. And then I read a book by Peter teal, called zero to one. And I thought, Hey, I’m not seeing the word, the name Gerard here. But it’s this really feels similar. So then I interviewed Peter about that book. And we talked about drawing, it’s like, okay, that’s not my imagination. So essentially, like for him, yeah. But what’s really going on is, you know, he’s essentially applying Gerardi anism. Right out to the decisions and making decisions and not doing loads and loads of theorizing, you know, about Gerard. So that’s kind of what drives my free. What I can tell you what, what it meant for me in terms of life changes. I stopped going on TV. Oh, really? I used to be on TV all the time, primetime TV. Yeah, you know, the cable shows where people yell at each other. I was on three times a night, and it was combat all the time. And when I read Gerard, I said, Oh, I see what’s going on here that they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re monetizing mimetic rivalry. Right. And I saw ways in which it was distorting my own thinking. And I’m an economist, that’s my day job. Yeah. And I had been kind of optimistic for about 2002. I was taking the optimistic side of the economy 2001 because it turned out to be right, right markets. Well, the economy did well. And so I kind of got slated as the bull market guy or the economic optimist guy. So I was on speed dial to go on and say the economy’s doing well. And that was the mimetic rivalry thing, right? Like I was supposed to go up against the predator. Yeah, right. Bull versus bear. And I was on CNBC, and a lot on primetime. And they actually, they, they had this graphic, I think, they invented it, I think, for me, where, like, we start to debate and then these, like, these two boxing gloves would come together with a noise, like every time we got started. So that’s, that was like the model, I was supposed to punch the other guy, and these must be and I’m good at punching. And but what what happened is, I got locked into that. And so I was slower to see the problems in 2007 than I should have been if I were just data driven. And I looked at that, and I thought, why did I mean others? were later Okay, but I still was later than I was later than I should have been. And I looked at and I said, Why did I miss that? Because I was doing a lot of work with data. I should have seen it. I didn’t see it until like, late 2007. Or, like September, maybe. And I realized it was mimetic rivalry. Oh, I have distorted my thinking my job was to beat the symmetrical answer. Right. Then Obama becomes president and then conservative media doesn’t want optimism anymore once pessimism. Right. Right. So Obama’s president, so Fox News, once the everything’s terrible, all of a sudden, right. And I realize that mimetic rivalry was the model, right? And I struggled with this for years Can I be Can I engage and be involved with this without falling into the mimetic rivalry? And I concluded that I really couldn’t. So I basically got out of do I mean, I’ll go on TV, maybe like, twice a year now. Yeah. I’ll do this, because this isn’t a memetic rivalry model. But I won’t, I won’t do that anymore, or very seldom, so that that that was a big change for me.

Will Jarvis 39:54
Got it that I think that’s super wise. And it’s interesting how you know, rivalry like, like you said, can paint, you know, our beliefs. And it can really occlude things, right? Because you’re optimizing for something other than, like the truth or something like that.

Jerry Bowyer 40:12
Yes, you’re optimizing for it. That’s exactly it. You’re not optimizing for truth. What are you optimizing for? you’re optimizing for. First, you’re optimizing for the shared goal. That’s what the rivalry is about. And then you optimize for destroying the enemy based on earlier phases in the conflict. Right. So I so you and I want the same thing. Your your, well, Jarvis does a great podcast, I want to be like, well, Jarvis, okay. Well, I’m your biggest fan. So wait a minute, hold on a second, well, then, I don’t want to just admire you. I want to be you. I want to replace you. Right? You don’t want to be replaced. So now we’re in a fight. Right? Okay. So we’re in that fight, and I do something to you, and you do something to me, and I do something to you, and you do something to me. And at some point, we forget what it was originally about. And we’re we’ve got this cycle, you know, of escalating verbal and then even physical violence. Like if people had arguments no doubt with the spouse was like, the argument is about something. Right? Half an hour later, the argument isn’t about the original thing. It’s about 10 minutes earlier in the argument. Right? Right. My son, my son, Charlie likes to talk about the joy a Noel incident in in World War One. You know, they’re they’re fighting one another. It’s like, hey, it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s set aside our differences and sing carols. Yeah, year one. But he said by year three or four,

Will Jarvis 41:49
not having you killed Charlie.

Jerry Bowyer 41:53
Yeah, you know, you felt the crowd. You’ve killed Charlie, I’m going to get even. So the argument becomes about about the about the argument. So it so if so, that’s not you’re not selecting for truth anymore. It’s a cluding. You it’s reminding you, a droid says that your your clarity of sight is actually blinds you. You can see your enemies floss so well, that you can’t see anything else.

Will Jarvis 42:19
Well, that’s beautifully put. Yeah, it’s, well, actually, the

Jerry Bowyer 42:23
analogy is Jesus. All right. I’m stealing this from Matthew seven. So this is a little this a little bit challenge, but I want to try this. Okay. So let’s say that, um, you’ve got a speck in your eye. And I’m trying to take the speck out of your eye. So let’s just think about that. That’s become a dead metaphor to us. Right, right. Like almost all the gospel texts. Oh, this is the part where he says the thing about this Backman, but let’s think about this is if I’m tired of trying to take the speck out of your eye, a couple things going on one, you’ve got a flaw. Right. To I want to fix your flaw. But what is your flaw? Bad breath, hunchback? You know, heartbreak of psoriasis? No, what is it? It’s I’ve got a problem with your organ of perception. See, if if if I think you’ve got a speck in your eye. What I think is that you’re not seeing things. Right. Right. See, okay, that’s really good. So if I’m in here, taking the speck out of your eye, what are you seeing? You’re seeing me? Right? Right. So what do I think you’re not seeing? Right? I think you’re not seeing me, right? So if I’m taking the speck out of your eye, well, I mean, the metaphor strongly suggest I have a problem with your perception. I have a problem with the way you see something. And since I’m the one in your face trying to get the speck out. Here I am in deep in something to the podcast, people say you should never get this close. All you’re seeing is me. So I have a problem with the way you see me. Okay. So I’m reaching in here to fix you. Right, right. I’m gonna fix you. But the problem is, I’m looking at your spec. I’m focusing on your flaw. The only thing I can see is your flaw. That’s it. I’ve magnified your flaw. And so having magnified your flaw, I’m now obsessed with it. And blinded. The the plank in my eye is the magnified speck in your eye. See what I mean? Yep. So if you look really close to someone’s eyes, what did you see? You see a reflection, right? If I looked really close in your eyes, I would see my face. And if you’ve got a speck, I would see my face distorted right? So I think this is the end, we’re all all day, every day. We’re just staring at each other specs. And you watch Fox News. Fox News is playing footage of CNN, talking about Fox News. And cnn is playing footage of Fox News. Talking about CNN. It’s Matthew seven. It’s just that spec. I don’t like the way that you think of the I don’t like, see me, I’ve got to fix you. Because again, the only thing I can see I can’t see you. I the only thing I can see is your distorted view of me and it’s like some kind of like infinity mirror from hell. And it you know, what does Jesus say step back here Stop looking at a speck. Right? It’s not important. It’s a no and then if you stop looking at a speck, then your your plank is gone. But if you don’t obsess over his flaw, you might actually make some progress. Right? But if I’m, if I mean all conservative news all day, every day levels are hypocrites, liberal and liberal news all day, every day, the trapeze are hypocrites. They say they’re pro life, but they put kids in cages and all day, they’re just like doing moat monitoring. Yeah. And, you know, Jesus gives us a way out of that. But we have to give up an addiction.

Will Jarvis 46:18
Right. And it does seem like an addiction at some level, because it you know, I think, especially in the context of Christianity, and Christian story, and Jesus, it’s somewhat, you know, we can sit here on this third party perspective and understand how crazy this is. But when you’re right on top of it, it’s very, it’s so vivid, you know, like the conflict?

Jerry Bowyer 46:41
Yes. Which is why I can’t go on TV because I know I’d get caught, I get pulled into it to get right back into it. Like, I’m not saying that I’m cured, right, from mimetic rivalry. I’m, I’m in recovery. I can’t go into the I can’t go into the bar anymore, right. And so, I mean, if you and I started an argument I’d be right now I go, I’d start looking at your spec, that’s gonna come out. Look at the way you I don’t like the way he looks at me. I don’t like this perception of me. I mean, I get I can get the end of that in a moment. So I think what Gerard said is that, you first of all, be aware of the pattern, right? Second of all, you kind of withdraw it from it, and then do things that slow things down. Like the rules of evidence, the laws of logic institutions, right, like when a mob gets going, they want to kill somebody. Okay. Well, let’s have a trial. And there are risks for trials, which is what happens in john chapter eight, the mob wanted to kill the woman. So what does Jesus do? Let’s have a trial. Wait, what? Yeah, let’s have a trial. Um, you know, because when you say, Hitler, he was without sin cast the first stone. That is trial stuff. The witnesses were the ones who were supposed to cast the first stone. Gotcha. So he’s, he’s saying, okay, you want to try this isn’t a trial, you’re saying you want the Moses says we should kill someone like this. But Moses says, You stop at trial. So you want to you want to do Moses, let’s do Moses, let’s have our witnesses. Oh, by the way, without sin, because under the under the Torah, and some of the traditions, if you were yourself guilty of a serious sin, then you couldn’t be a witness in a trial like this. So he’s saying, Okay, well, I let’s have the call for witnesses, we’re gonna you know, we do that now, with juries. Let’s choose them. We choose the right jurors. So I want everybody who’s not guilty of a serious sin to step forward so that you can be the witnesses who pass the first stone. So he, Jesus taps into legal institutions and traditions and still had some respect to slow things down. And then it’s like, oh, wait, this isn’t going to work. We’re not a woman. Yeah, we’re, we’re thieves and adulterers. And everybody knows it. So we can’t really be witnesses that get now Oh, wait a minute, you’re talking about my sins now? Right? Like, if I pick up the stones, I’m just gonna say, wait a minute. Wait a minute, Nathaniel, I know you. I know the things that you’ve done. You can’t be a witness. Right? You know, so um, so I think those institutions slow us down and help weaken the scapegoat mechanism. But in the end, the thing that really destroys the scapegoat mechanism is to know that Jesus was murdered under the scapegoat mechanism and that he was the perfect man. And therefore, the scapegoat mechanism, its credibility is utterly destroyed.

Will Jarvis 49:32
Right? It doesn’t, if you know about it, it just in some sense just does not work as well. As I almost feels like we still try it. Like we still try maybe we can’t help from but for trying, I don’t know, like in the modern world. Well, what’s

Jerry Bowyer 49:49
your what’s your rod said is that we killed the old pagan scapegoat mechanism, right? And now what we have is what’s he call it Ultra Christianity. Oh, interesting. So progressivism is ultra Christianity. So in the in the ancient world if someone said, Hey, wait a minute, I’m a scapegoat. Roman soldier would say, Tam right here,

Will Jarvis 50:16
buddy. Here we go. Yeah.

Jerry Bowyer 50:17
All right, good. I’m glad we’ve settled that. All right, get the hammer get the nails right. But because of the power of the Gospel story, what to be identified as a scapegoat or a victim was now to be to be declared innocent. We sided with the Gospels, siding with innocent victim. But in the modern form, that becomes not the victim might be innocent. That becomes victims are always innocent, which becomes victims are by the status of being victims automatically, morally superior, which becomes I’m a I’m more of a victim than you are. Give me the victim power. And so then what Gerard says is that we escaped until says this as well. We scapegoat the scapegoat. So everyone’s going around saying, I’m a scapegoat. You’re right, and birch means, which means I’m the good. I’m the goodie. Right. And so for progressivism like that big Ultimate Evil is Trump. So I’m, I’m a clearly Trump tried to scapegoat immigrants. There’s no doubt about it, but it didn’t succeed. Instead, what happens is not he scapegoating immigrants, so we’re going to scapegoat him on behalf of the victims. Right. So what Ron says is we want but we won’t kill anybody. So we don’t have the we don’t have the mechanism that we had in the ancient world in the ancient world, we’d kill the Mexicans.

Will Jarvis 51:44
Right? But right, it would actually happen, like we

Jerry Bowyer 51:46
would actually happen. And then there’d be always now everything’s peaceful. Right, right. And then we would turn them into Gods. And then every year, we would reenact the killing of the Mexicans. And we would say they were guilty. They did all that thing, we would lie about them, right? So that would be in the angel, or maybe in the other side, you know, you would kill Trump. You know, he’s an evil Nazi. We’ve killed them. And now we can all come together. You know, and but but now we don’t actually kill them. We don’t actually scape we’re too Christian. To kill the scapegoat, unable to. So we can’t purge rat way. So we just keep keeps rolling around. So droid says we’re Christian enough to care about victims. We’re not Christian enough to forgive. And that’s where we are now. At least that’s what he says. And right. Sure, sure. Looks like what I’m seeing out there. Now. It does say,

Will Jarvis 52:34
do you think do you think we’ll be able to get to forgiveness? I mean, this is, or, you know, in some sense, it feels like, you know, you go on Twitter, it’s just like, this is just gonna run around forever. It just gets more and more vicious. But it’s all virtual. It’s not really real. You know, it’s very bizarre how it’s, it’s like, it feels so real. But it’s not at the same time.

Jerry Bowyer 52:56
I don’t know. That’s exactly right. And you look, look, when you look at what’s any I checked Twitter every day, I look on the right to see who the scapegoat is. But we never kill them. Right. So, you know, there’s not you know, we’re not going to get a resolution there. Someone’s someone’s trending on Twitter. Some people want to kill them. Right. Right. I mean, it’s almost never a good thing. Oh, it’s so Tucker or law because it’s Twitter is liberal, then it’s a conservative, right, trending on on over there on the side who they want to, yeah, they want to kill, but they don’t actually kill them. So Twitter is like frictionless mimetic contagion, but no ability to complete the ritual, right through human sacrifice. I’m glad that Twitter doesn’t, thank God, it doesn’t have actual kill buttons, right? Wasn’t our Star Trek episode, you just have someone on there and you push the button and they die. If that was over in the mirror universe, a lot of Gerard and wonder if Roddenberry read some early Gerard. But no, but we don’t have that we don’t have a red button on Twitter. So we just like kill their reputation. Yeah. And so that just keeps going on, then Gerard was afraid that that would just go and go and go and end with nuclear warfare. I’m more optimistic than that. I think that one of the ways to stop that process is to describe it just like the way to stop the scapegoating process, right was to see it, understand it, describe it, and therefore be freed from it. The way to end the reverse scapegoating process is to see it, describe it, understand it and escape from it. Make sense? But we’re early in that right? And also we’re addicted to it.

Will Jarvis 54:42
We really love it but

Jerry Bowyer 54:43
the pagans were addicted to blood. The pagans were addicted to killing gypsies or Jews or that old woman, you know, from out of town who who lives outside the village who does herbs, she must be a witch. I mean, they were addicted to that right. And Christ broke that addiction. So I think you can break this addiction to

Will Jarvis 55:04
definitely, definitely. It’s, in some sense does this explain? Do you think this explains how there’s been this realm? You know, you read like Steven Pinker or something like better angels of our nature, there’s been this relative decline of violence, like we don’t have these big wars anymore. Like in World War Two or the Civil War, it is massive conflicts, like they’re much less it’s all like, smaller, you know, guerrilla stuff and weird stuff. Do you think that that has some effect there?

Jerry Bowyer 55:33
Oh, absolutely. pinker doesn’t understand it. I mean, pinker thinks it was the enlightenment. Right, right. We got science, and then we stopped burning witches. Whereas, Gerard argues, and I think historically demonstrates, no, we stopped burning witches. And that’s how we got science that we had to we had to kind of get rid of the medic rivalry to some degree, we had to get rid of that old paganism and that kind of freed up cultural energy. Because otherwise you’re going to if you scapegoat witches, then you’ll scapegoat and scientific innovators. Right as well. Right? Because actually, they’re more dangerous than witches. Witches don’t do which is don’t actually do anything. But an entrepreneur with a great scientific idea. ruins incumbent models. So you know, so if you have a scapegoat mechanism, you know, the guy with a better business model gets thrown on the pyre before the witch. So you had to get to you just stop killing witches, and then you can have innovation. Steven Pinker thinks that was just the enlightenment. Okay, why do we get why did we happen to get the Enlightenment around the time that we get an explosion of biblical literacy? You know, why didn’t we have an enlightenment? There were people who had Steven Pinker’s philosophy in 300 BC, right. And in 101 100 ad, you had lucretius. You know, who was a naturalist who didn’t believe in the gods yet? epicureans yet stoics. So basically had a God who was the laws of the universe, you already had people with Steven Pinker’s philosophy around, right, but we didn’t get any of those good things we got them did have when Christ took hold in certain places, and I think Christianity tried to freed itself, it really freed itself more from its from its paganism. Now, it’s interesting. In an interview I did recently with with teal, he said, You know, he mentioned pinker and he said, you know, the violence has declined, and he said, but we have 10,000 nuclear missiles pointed around another. So the, the pinker story about being post violence can’t be the whole story. And I think cause, right? And right, we have less kinetic violence, but we have massively more potential violence,

Will Jarvis 57:43
right? And that’s really concerning, like maybe learning about all the volatility, but then when things do they do so in a very magnificent and terrible manner.

Jerry Bowyer 57:53
And that’s what that’s what Gerard said in, I think, his last book battling to the end, he was pointing seriously to the idea that essentially what we see in the book of Revelation, and we see in Matthew 24, is essentially, once the gospel, it can no longer get rid of the scapegoat mechanism, because we’re in a kind of scapegoating. The scapegoat is where we have mimetic violence without the reset mechanism of human sacrifice, that humanity has not has to, but looks like it’s going to destroy yourself, probably through nuclear warfare. Again, that’s not where I come down. I’m going to defer with the master on this one. I think that, that that can be avoided. But we don’t avoid it by saying every every day in every way, Western civilization is getting better and better. Because those missiles can do more damage than, you know, all of those petty wars of that would call them petty wars of the princes in the Middle Ages. With I’m glad we got rid of those, but we have great potential violence out there.

Will Jarvis 58:55
Definitely. Yeah. The potential is very, very scary. And I think the scariest thing about it is no one really talks about it very much.

Jerry Bowyer 59:04
No, no one’s talking about the nukes. Yeah. You go back, like in the 1950s and 1960s. There was talk about them. Yeah. Right. But now, it’s I don’t know why we don’t talk about them, because we haven’t gotten rid of any of them. We still have, they can still destroy the world. So maybe we should talk about the US. I think it’s probably because we’re so caught up in our more petty mimetic rivalries, where we, you know, when we don’t want to talk about the nukes, we want to talk about really, really important stuff like whether Simone de Lyles is a weakling for not participating in an Olympic event. Right? That’s, I mean, we got to deal with the real stuff,

Will Jarvis 59:44
but the really important things here. No doubt. Well, Jerry, we’re coming up to the top of the hour. I want to have you on again, if you’re willing, I’ve got a boatload more questions. I’ve really learned a lot today and I really appreciate it. It’s my pleasure. Do you have any parting thoughts? And where should people get started with? You know, your work? And then maybe Gerard to if you have any pointers? Well, I

Jerry Bowyer 1:00:12
think you’re I think you started in the right place. I saw Satan fall like lightning is right. I think that’s the, that’s the great. That’s the book to start with. I found Cynthia havens new collection of interviews, which are art, but yeah, to be very helpful in that she did two books, and I mixed up the titles, but I think it’s Rene Girard profit of envy. But there’s also one that I don’t remember whether that’s the biography or not, but Cynthia haven HIV, and she has two good books on it. I think zero to one, once you get the sorority and model then you can see zero to one, essentially, as applied. Gerardi nism I wrote an obituary for Gerard real Forbes. So you just go forbes.com. And you can read that obituary? It’s like, I don’t know. It’s about 2000 words. So it’s kind of starts as though you have no knowledge of Gerard. So in terms of following my work, I don’t have like a personal brand thing to do. But I’m easy to reach on social media. And if people when people have real questions, not social media, mimetic conflict, I’ll block you quick, who has time and energy. But for like real conversations, I try to actually answer people’s questions on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even the dreaded Twitter. So just remember, Bo wy, er, I would be remissed. My wife is pointing to this, ISIS. Now this is like, Gerard is kind of in here, but not in here. I didn’t want to make this book about Gerard because then that’s like a whole thing. Yeah. Like someone said, Well, I read about him, and he’s no good. He’s a body, right? And then you have to kind of get through, it’s like, oh, you’re talking about something he said in the 60s that, that he, you know, you know, that he disavowed or this is something that someone said he said, and there’s all this mimetic rivalry around Gerard, because there’s a left Girard group, which is the early Girard group, and the Gerard likes is like that, wait a minute, that’s not me. Right. So I kind of left Gerard out in terms of it, I think I mentioned in the acknowledgments, but you can. Anyone who understands the draughty and model when they read this book will see obviously, the influence where Jesus is attacked by the Sadducees and Pharisees, right. So these two groups are mimetic rivalry with one another, right? They hate each other. They disagree about everything, except one thing. There’s one thing they can agree on. This Jesus of Nazareth has to die. Right? That’s the one thing they agreed on. And it’s the most wrong thing could ever have done that could have ever have done. And that’s the nature of things. Also, I have my own podcast meeting of minds, which

Will Jarvis 1:02:56
is excellent, by the way. Oh, thank

Unknown Speaker 1:02:58
you. Hopefully, point link in the show. All right. Well, I appreciate that. So those are the ways to interact. And well, I’ve really enjoyed this. Thank you very much for your thoughtful questions. Awesome. Thanks, Jerry. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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