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André Rabe on Mimetic Theology

I was extremely skeptical the moment I opened the package and saw the book.

desire-found-meFor some reason I signed up for Mike Morell‘s Speakeasy program. It’s one of those programs where bloggers can get free books in exchange for reviews. I don’t know what possessed me to sign up. I don’t need any free books — I have far too many already. And, I don’t review books on this blog — though I often mention books that I’m reading.

I guess my thought was that the Speakeasy books might occasionally be interesting — who knows. I didn’t lose anything by signing up, and I might occasionally be alerted to something offbeat and interesting. So, I started getting the Speakeasy emails — adding that to the growing clutter in my email inbox.

I responded to one of the offers one day. Quite a while later the book arrived. The book was Desire Found Me by André Rabe. It looked self-published to me from the moment I laid eyes on it. A note in the opening pages says that the cover art work was produced by the author’s wife Mary-Anne. My first thought: “Oh, no, I just got a book from some crackpot.” My second thought: “And I’ll have to write about it on my blog to stay in the Speakeasy program.” (“Oh well,” I thought, “small loss if I don’t.”)

I’ve been engaged in Internet conversations for too long, I guess. I know that any one — including (and especially) crazy people — can have their own web site. With the money, they could also self-publish. I’ve learned to be skeptical.

André & Mary-Anne Rabe

André & Mary-Anne Rabe

The book contained very little biographical information on the author. So, I went to the web site to see if I could find out a little bit about him. The web site is here: Always Loved. The biographical information was very sketchy. André and Mary-Anne met and fell in love while doing mission work in South Africa. André has studied computer science and programming. Both of them have been engaged in independent study of  theology. Mary-Anne is an artist and records music. They have written several books — which, I presume, are also self-published.

But, let me say a word about why I requested the book. The email I received from the Speakeasy program described this book as a good introduction to the thinking of French anthropologist René Girard as it relates to the Christian faith.

And, that got me interested.

René Girard

René Girard

I’ve encountered people on the Internet who speak of the value of Girard’s thinking — and I often appreciate what they are saying in a general way. But I really don’t get it. Girardians have their own language. They talk about “mimetic” desire, and, “sacrifice” and the “scapegoat” — and I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on René Girard to see what I mean. In particular, the concept of “mimetic desire” has always been pretty opaque to me. But, my suspicion has always been that Girard’s ideas probably do have value for Christian faith — I just don’t now what or how much.

And the Speakeasy email said that André Rabe’s book was a good and readable introduction to Girard’s thinking, and its relationship with the Christian faith.

And, in spite of my initial skepticism, it is. Desire Found Me is not only a good book, it is a very good book. I would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the thinking of Girard, or to anyone who is interested in a novel and interesting take on the Christian faith.

I am now about a third of the way through the book and it is very insightful and intriguing. André has read widely and has reflected deeply on the Scriptures and the Christian faith. The theories of Girard have given him fresh insight. The footnotes in the book, and the Recommended Reading in the back guide the reader to further learning on the topics discussed. For each chapter there is a list of books for further study.

And André’s explanation of “mimetic desire” is clear and masterful. For the first time, I think I understand it. André relates “mimetic desire” to the way that babies learn from interacting with parents and others. We pick up our desires from others. We learn by imitating. This is what makes so many of our desires “mimetic” — they mirror back what we see in others. André’s explanation of “mimetic desire” is well worth reading and takes up the first four chapter of the book.

Subsequent chapters relate these insights to the Scriptures, and then explore in more depth the themes of God, sacrifice, atonement, the paradox of evil, the history of Satan, and the expectation of a coming Messiah.

André Rabe

André Rabe

André writes:

Mimetic desire has huge implications, for it means that desire is not produced individually but rather has its origin in relationship. Desire constantly moves in the spaces between us, and by its very movement, carves and energizes our characters. Desire is not created by self, but rather self is formed by desire. That means that you are not the sole source of your desires but rather you have your origin in the desires that formed you. Self is therefore not and independent substance or reality that exists by itself, rather it is a self-of-desire. Self is constantly deconstructed and reconstructed — a dynamic construct that is deeply dependent on realities beyond itself. As such I need a reference beyond myself to know myself.

As I say, I’m about a third into the book at this point and still intrigued. Often before, I have found discussions of mimesis and the theories of Girard confusing and frustrating. André Rabe makes it accessible and interesting.  If these ideas sound interesting at all, it would be well worth your time to purchase this book and explore these ideas. You can find his other books at the Amazon André Rabe page.

I may be talking about this book more as I go along.

 

 

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