The Babylonian Captivity of the Gospel, Michael Hardin
Presented to Theology and Peace, May 31-June 2, 2011 in Baltimore, MD
I would like to suggest an outline for what a North American Protestant Christian theology informed by the mimetic theory might look like. Specifically I hope to validate an observation by Rene Girard that the anthropology of mimetic theory and the orthodox structuring of Christian theology are eminently compatible. After a brief introduction concerning the relation of the gospel to human culture or what I call “The Babylonian Captivity of the Gospel” there are two sections. The first explores the metaphor of the gospel’s imprisonment and examines the nature of the “guards” which attempt to keep it walled in and impotent. Second, I will sketch a paradigm of what a Christian theology looks like when the problem of violence is addressed honestly and the radical solution of love and forgiveness is taken seriously. In short I am hoping to be able to integrate the two components of this conference, theology and peace, as an example of the theme of this conference, Transforming Christianity.
On the Fall of the Church
There has been a lot of debate on what occurred at the time of Constantine in relation to church/state relations. Some Girardians, e.g., Robert Daly would argue that pre-Constantinian Christians were no less violent than their contemporaries and that the “Constantinian turn” was not a real change at all. Others, like myself, would argue that something decisive took place in and around Constantine that would alter the way the church perceived issues of nonviolence. As I see it, Daly wants to suggest that marginal references to Christians in the military before Constantine amounts to the wholesale rejection of a nonviolent or pacifistic early church. This is to engage in the kind of revisionist history associated with Walter Bauer, who contended that evidence for minority heterodox groups amounted to their suppression as actual majority groups by an ‘orthodox’ minority, a hypothesis that has not been without its critics. Early Christian history is not a linear movement from pacifism to acceptance of violence as a means to control violence (just war theory). It is a time of travail much like Girard sees Jewish history before Jesus as it struggles to become free from pagan myth.
 Two recent Protestant theologies that I recommend, although neither uses the mimetic anthropology, are Douglas John Hal, Professing the Faith: Christian Theology in A North American Context (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1993) and Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).
 “Mine is a search for the anthropology of the cross, which turns out to rehabilitate orthodox theology.” The Girard Reader, edited by James G. Williams (New York: Crossroads, 1996), 288. I am not speaking specifically to how mimetic theory would shape a Roman Catholic theology inasmuch as the agency of authorization is different. Roman Catholics must deal with the teaching magesterium and the authority of the papacy while Protestants must wrestle with the authority of Scripture.
 Robert Daly “Violence and Institution in Christianity”, Contagion Vol. 9, Spring 2002, 4-33.
 “Rene Girard: Violence and the Recovery of Early Christian Perspectives” Brethren Life and Thought Vol. 37, No 2, 1992; The Jesus Driven Life (Lancaster: JDL Press, 2010).
 Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, edited by Robert Kraft and Gerhard Krobel, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971). A trenchant critique of the Bauer hypothesis is Thomas Robinson, The Bauer Thesis Examined (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1988). Some of the effects of the Constantinian turn are documented in Robert Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1990). Peter J. Leithart criticizes Mennonite scholar John Howard Yoder’s historiography of the Constantinian era in Defending Constantine (Downers Grove: IVP, 2010). Yoder is one of the principal exponents of the Constantinian fall of the church. Leithart wants to argue that the primary issue is not church-state relations and the co-opting of the gospel but rather infant baptism. I think Yoder is more correct to notice that it is the issue of violence/nonviolence that plays a more substantive role in emergent fourth century theology.
 Robert Hamerton-Kelly, ed. Violent Origins (Stanford: Stanford, 1987), 141.