The Uncooperative Psalmist of Israel

“The victim who speaks in the Psalms seems not in the least ‘moral,’ not evangelistic enough for the good apostles of modern times. The sensibilities of our humanists are shocked . . . The display of violence and resentment ‘so characteristic of the Old Testament’ is deplored, and is seen as a particularly clear indication of the famous malice of the God of Israel. Ever since Nietzsche people have seen in the Psalms the invention of all the bad feeling infecting us, humiliation, and resentment. We are offered in contrast to the venomous Psalms the beautiful serenity of mythologies, particularly Greek and German. Strong in their righteousness, and convinced that their victim is truly guilty, persecutors have no reason to be troubled. The victim of the Psalms is disturbing, it is true, and even annoying compared with an Oedipus who has the good taste to join in the wonderful classical harmony . . . Our intellectuals are so eager for servitude that they formed their Stalinist cells before Stalinism was invented. How can we be surprised that they have waited fifty years or more before making discreet inquiries into the greatest persecutions in human history. Mythology is the very best school in the training of silence. We never hesitate between the Bible and mythology. We are classicists first, romantics second, and primitives when necessary, modernists with a fury, neoprimitives when we are disgusted with modernism, gnostics always, but biblical never” (Girard, The Scapegoat, pp. 104-105).

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