READ What You Should Know About the New Michael Jackson Documentary (Joe Vogel, FORBES, January 29, 2019).

READ One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History (Charles Thomson, HUFFPOST, June 13, 2010).

READ The Truth About What Michael Jackson Had (And Didn’t Have) In His Bedroom (Raven Woods, HUFFPOST, July 8, 2016).

READ Leaving Neverland Exposed: The Devil is in the Details by Damien Shields.

Regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Michael Jackson in the television production Leaving Neverland,  people often conclude: “No-one who wasn’t there can possibly know what happened or didn’t happen in Michael Jackson’s bedroom!”

Actually, there is ample proof by now that significant parts of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse took place in non-existent beds of non-existent rooms on non-existent occasions.

At first sight, to believe that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile is one of the easiest things to do. It also seems the most rational, even most compassionate thing to do. Well, is it?

Those who believe in Michael Jackson’s guilt often point to his “unusual behavior” as circumstantial evidence corroborating that guilt. However, they do not consider the unusual as well as fraudulent behavior and proven outright lies of accusers like Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo, Víctor Gutiérrez, Diane Dimond, Dan Reed, Wade Robson and James Safechuck as circumstantial evidence that indicates Michael Jackson’s innocence.

Moreover, Michael Jackson’s accusers often refer to non-existent things as “proof” of Jackson’s guilt. Diane Dimond once enthusiastically referred to a non-existent videotape of Jackson molesting a boy. The videotape was allegedly owned by her convicted fraudulent friend Víctor Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez wrote a graphic pedo-fantasist book about the relationship between Jordan Chandler and Michael Jackson, based on a non-existent “secret diary” of Jordan Chandler. Despite being convicted multiple times for fabricating completely non-existent (pedophile) sex scandals against high profile figures, Víctor Gutiérrez for a long time remains an “expert” regarding Michael Jackson to (tabloid) media. Find out more about Gutiérrez by clicking here.

Víctor Gutiérrez even appears as “investigative journalist” in a 2007 UK television production on the late pop star. The title of that documentary is Michael Jackson: What Really Happened and it is produced by Channel 4. It is the same Channel 4 that, together with HBO, commissioned the 2019 film Leaving Neverland on Wade Robson’s and James Safechuck’s child sexual abuse allegations against the late Michael Jackson. Like the allegations by Robson and Safechuck, director Dan Reed’s “research” for Leaving Neverland seems primarily based on the pedo-fantasist fiction produced by Gutiérrez. Maybe this can be expected, as Reed clearly depends on the Gutiérrez based “information” of Channel 4. After all, in an interview for Slate’s The Gist podcast (with Mike Pesca, on March 1, 2019) Reed describes the origin of the Leaving Neverland film like this:

“At the outset, I had no special interest in Jackson. This project came about in a kind of random way and the timing is quite random.

I wish I could say I’d set out to make a big difference in the #MeToo movement. […]

[The project] came about through a casual conversation with a Channel 4 executive in the UK, and we were talking about what are the big stories out there that are slightly unresolved. […] I commissioned someone to do some research and they [sic] came up with this, I think it was like a foreign page reference to these two guys I’d never heard of, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.”

Dan Reed then goes on to say that he met each of them only once before recording their stories. Well, so far for the “research” of which the results are very similar to the pedo-fantasist fiction by Víctor Gutiérrez – watch:

James Safechuck in particular tells eerily similar stories about Michael Jackson as the ones found in the book by Gutiérrez and very convincingly claims, in Leaving Neverland, to have been molested numerous times in a 1988 non-existent train station.

James claims the abuse in the train station happened at the start of the abuse period, in the so-called “honeymoon period”. However, the train station opened in 1994, and by the time James could visit Neverland again with Michael Jackson present, it was already 1995. So molestation in that train station would have been, at the earliest, when James was 17 and significantly taller than Michael Jackson. After being confronted with this issue, Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed claimed that the abuse did take place in the train station, but that the time period of the abuse is wrong. This directly contradicts Safechuck’s own lawsuit in which he declares that the abuse began in 1988 and ended in 1992. It also goes against the whole narrative of the film that Michael Jackson was a veritable pedophile and lost interest in the boys once they reached adolescence.

Furthermore, Wade Robson and James Safechuck fail to mention Wade started “dating” Brandi Jackson thanks to her uncle Michael Jackson when Wade was about 9 years old. However, they do refer to Jackson’s non-existent jealousy regarding his alleged victims having relationships with girls. Related to this fact is the following claim by Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed (in an interview for !hit Australia, 12 March 2019). It is Reed’s attempt to discredit the testimony by Brandi Jackson. According to Dan Reed, Brandi only began seeing Wade after the majority of the alleged abuse (“hundreds and hundreds of times”, according to Wade) had already taken place:

“The intense period of Wade’s, it’s terrible to say it but sexual relationship with Michael Jackson was from the age of 7 to the age of 9. That was again, if you like, to use a dreadful word, the honeymoon period. The period when they were really seeing each other a lot and he makes it clear in the film he doesn’t really see Michael much after that.”

Exactly how the period of Wade being 7-9 years old could be the period when Wade and Michael “really saw each other a lot” will forever remain a mystery. At the time, the Robson family still lived in Australia. In short, Dan Reed is referring to a non-existent period of many Michael Jackson visits.

And so on. In any case, the reference to non-existent things as alleged “proof” are numerous in all the tales of Michael Jackson’s accusers. Exactly why these accusers should be believed despite their apparent lies, manipulations and fantasies is never quite explained by “believers” of Michael Jackson’s guilt.

It’s time to take a closer look. The testimonies (see below) of the potential victims of Michael Jackson reveal that the so-called circumstantial evidence accusers love to refer to is actually non-existent circumstantial evidence. Moreover, Michael Jackson rarely slept in the bed where children were sleeping alone, contrary to what many people believe.

Charles Thomson, an awarded investigative journalist (among others because of his work on a pedophile ring) and other journalists clarify key aspects of the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases which were omitted in Leaving Neverland. They reveal the absurdity of these cases:











According to a Vox/Morning Consult survey (published April 5, 2018),

“Women who supported #MeToo were actually more concerned than women as a whole about some potential ill effects of the movement. Sixty-eight percent of #MeToo supporters were very or somewhat concerned about false accusations, for instance, compared with 63 percent of all women.”


According to the same survey,

“Women’s concerns are often rooted in a desire for the movement to succeed.


It’s not surprising that women who were supportive of #MeToo were also more likely than average to have certain concerns, said Sarah J. Jackson, a professor of communication studies at Northeastern University who studies racial and gender justice activism. People who support the movement “understand the stakes,” Jackson said.

In her recent interviews with feminist Twitter users, she said, she found a keen awareness of the ways feminist causes can be undermined — an awareness that false rape accusations, for instance, can be portrayed in ways that harm anti-rape activism as a whole.”

Read more here: Why women are worried about #MeToo.


Brett Barnes, Karlee Barnes, Omer Bhatti (O-Bee), Aaron Carter, Eddie Cascio, Frank Cascio, Kevin Macaulay Culkin, Bela Farkas, Corey Feldman, Brandi Jackson, Taj Jackson, Sean Lennon, Harriet Lester, Emmanuel Lewis, William Ray Norwood Jr. (Ray J), Danny Oliver, Kelley Parker, Alfonso Ribeiro, David Rothenberg (Dave Dave), Anton Schleiter, Franziska Schleiter.

What do these people have in common?

Well, for one thing, they all got to know Michael Jackson up close and personal when they were young boys and girls.

Secondly, they have all publicly, repeatedly and emphatically denied that Michael Jackson ever approached them inappropriately when they were children. They have claimed the opposite, testifying to nothing but good memories about their experiences with the late pop star.

I will wholeheartedly admit that this doesn’t mean that Michael Jackson didn’t molest any other children. However, often the testimonies in defense of Michael Jackson are read in light of the few allegations of child sexual abuse against him by those who believe that he indeed was a pedophile. Some of the “believers” then go to great lengths to explain the psychology of the people who claim, as adults, that they were never molested by Michael Jackson while they might very probably have been molested. This is a patronizing, belittling and arrogant attitude to listen to people’s testimonies, to say the least.

I would like to propose the opposite approach without, however, “explaining away” the possibility of Michael Jackson as a child molester beforehand on purely speculative psychological grounds. So I suggest to interpret the few allegations in light of the numerous testimonies in favor of Michael Jackson, after which certain non-speculative facts can be considered in relation to the allegations.

Before I go on, some people might want to know if I’m a fan of Michael Jackson. The answer is that I am a fan of his music, although certainly more of his early work as an adult solo-artist. I grew up on his first three albums, but his music generally is not my pick of the day. My taste in music is quite broad, not only in the “classical” sections, but also in the pop and rock sections. Aerosmith, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Marc Cohn, DMX, Fleetwood Mac, King’s X, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Toto and U2 are among my favorite artists. One of my all-time favorite bands is Dan Reed Network, which is quite ironic since the director’s name of the controversial HBO-production Leaving Neverland is also Dan Reed.

I wanted to point this out because some people assume all kinds of things when you strongly defend the possibility that Michael Jackson wasn’t a pedophile at all. They assume that Michael Jackson must be your big idol, and that you belong to some sort of “crazy fan cult” that will deny the so-called truth about Michael Jackson being a pedophile at all costs, even in the face of “overwhelming” evidence or indications. I can honestly say that I would not have any problem admitting that Michael Jackson most likely was a pedophile if the evidence or circumstantial evidence would point in that direction. On the contrary, if that were indeed the case, then his victims would be welcome to receive my full support. However, in a world that is founded upon the so-called Age of Reason or Enlightenment, judgments should be made on the basis of facts and these facts point in the direction of false accusations. All the extremely thorough research done by legal and judicial authorities over the years, time and again exonerate Michael Jackson.

Dan Reed (the director of the HBO production Leaving Neverland) believes that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile, as is also claimed by Wade Robson. There are a number of people who clearly qualify as potential victims because they slept in the same room as Jackson and had a close relationship with him (Jackson could have “groomed” them). Other children, who visited Neverland Ranch under the guidance of tutors and as a group (often in the absence of Michael Jackson) less easily qualify.

The vast majority of people who qualify as potential victims have testified that they never experienced any abuse by Michael Jackson (see below for some of their testimonies). This does not fit the pattern of the serial pedophile Dan Reed and others want to establish so eagerly. 

Already in 1993, following the first case of allegations against Michael Jackson by the Chandler family, 40-60 children were interviewed by prosecutors (some sources mention up to 100 children). None of these children corroborated the story of the accuser’s side. So what about the exceptions, the people who did level allegations against Michael Jackson? Are their stories credible? It is time to take a closer look at the specific cases against the late pop star.


It is good to remember some important facts about the two cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) that were brought against Michael Jackson during his lifetime.

Regarding the Jordan Chandler case of 1993, people should consider the following facts. Jordan Chandler’s parents are divorced. His father, Evan, is a Hollywood dentist who wants to make it in show business. He becomes very disgruntled with his ex-wife June, his son Jordan and Michael Jackson when they don’t sustain the level of communication he expects from them. In a lengthy taped phone conversation between Evan and David Schwartz (Jordan’s stepfather) Evan reveals his plans to “destroy ex-wife June and Michael Jackson” if they don’t return to his desired level of contact. Evan Chandler suggests his plan is to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. If his ex-wife and Michael Jackson do re-establish contact with him, he promises not to go through with his plan. In other words, Evan Chandler clearly aims to blackmail Michael Jackson. Whatever really happens between Michael Jackson and his son is of no importance to him. When Michael Jackson resists Evan Chandler’s extortion attempts, Evan Chandler tries everything to force his son to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Jordan Chandler denies anything inappropriate ever happened between him and Michael Jackson multiple times, until he finally succumbs to the pressure of his father. Evan Chandler threatens to go public with the allegations if Michael Jackson refuses to pay a settlement. Michael Jackson indeed refuses, after which Evan seeks monetary compensations in an official civil case against Jackson. Michael Jackson and his legal team file for the criminal case to go before the civil case so he can clear his name, but to no avail. After the civil case is settled (for $15,331,250) in which an official document makes sure that this is not an admission of guilt on the part of Michael Jackson, Evan Chandler is no longer interested in pursuing criminal charges against Michael Jackson. The criminal case goes on, though, but is rejected by two different Grand Juries – in any case, Michael Jackson did not buy his way out of court!

Jackson’s legal team had advised him to settle the civil case so they could assure a fair upcoming criminal trial. Moreover, Jackson was mentally and physically exhausted by the turmoil at the time and huge financial interests of his employees were at stake (Jackson had already cancelled part of the Dangerous tour). As the Chandlers eventually didn’t press criminal charges, Michael Jackson would later consider the settlement of the civil case one of the major mistakes of his life.

After the whole circus winds down, Jordan Chandler no longer wants anything to do with his parents anymore and files for legal emancipation. At the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005, his mother declares that she hadn’t been in contact with her son for 11 years. Jordan at some point even obtains a permanent restraining order against the father who had forced him to level allegations against Michael Jackson. If there is one manipulative, abusive person in this whole situation, it is indeed Jordan Chandler’s father Evan Chandler. Not only other people become the victim of his behavior. Eventually Evan Chandler commits suicide, a few months after Michael Jackson’s passing.

Tom Mesereau, Jackson’s lawyer in the 2005 case, refers to Jordan Chandler and the 1993 civil case against Jackson in the following way (in a lecture for Harvard Law School, November 5, 2005) – Mesereau begins by saying that Jordan Chandler never showed up to testify in 2005:

The second case against Michael Jackson during his lifetime revolves around Gavin Arvizo, which culminates in the 2005 criminal trial. The Arvizo family turns out to have a history of (at times successful) extortion attempts. On August 27, 1998, when he is only eight years old, Gavin steals two school uniforms and two school uniform pants from a J.C. Penney Department Store. Strangely enough, the incident ends with a settlement between the Arvizo family and J.C. Penney in which the store pays the family $152,200. Janet Arvizo, the mother, claimed that she had been touched inappropriately by security guards. The file about the case clearly indicates her manipulative tactics.

Apart from the Michael Jackson and the J.C. Penney cases, the Arvizos get also caught being involved in fraudulent and manipulative activities against actor and comedian Chris Tucker, comedian George Lopez, television host Jay Leno and editor Connie Keenan. Mother Janet Arvizo also committed welfare fraud.

A very important fact is the changing of the timeline of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse by the Arvizos. The Michael Jackson Allegations website points out the consequences of this (see also below, Rolling Stone’s account of the same situation):

“Initially the Arvizos claimed that the molestation started as soon as they returned from Miami with Jackson, on February 7, 2003. This version of the story is also represented in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint, filed on December 18, 2003.

However, later they changed this story and said that Jackson started molesting Gavin after February 20. As you will see, this timeline change was not just a minor correction. It significantly changed the narrative of the Arvizos’ initial story.


According to the story that the Arvizos ended up with due to the timeline change, Jackson started molesting Gavin while the CPS and the police investigated, while there was a huge public attention on him and Gavin because of the Bashir documentary, and while his PR team was working overtime on damage control because of the public relations backlash resulting from the Bashir documentary. To believe the Arvizos’ story you have to believe that all the while this was happening (including a police and a CPS investigation), Jackson suddenly started molesting Gavin Arvizo, even though for three years he had not touched him and not even trusted him and his family. This is exactly the story that the Arvizo family ended up with after they were forced to change their initial timeline because of the discovery of the ‘rebuttal tape’ raw footage.

According to some people, Michael Jackson must have had tons of victims of child sexual abuse. During his lifetime, two cases came out. The first case turned out to be concocted by an overambitious, money hungry and abusive father. His son Jordan didn’t want anything to do with him anymore after he was forced to level allegations against Michael Jackson and after the case wound down. The second case was concocted by a family who had a long history of extortion attempts and who were caught lying on all counts during the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005.

Surprise, surprise? Considering all the supportive testimonies of people who knew Michael Jackson when they were children, it is probably no coincidence that of all the alleged potential victims the only cases that came out were clearly non-credible extortion attempts. There is no avalanche of victims coming out of the closet, unlike the cases against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, for instance. On the contrary, people like Brett Barnes, Kelley Parker, Harriet Lester, Brandi and Taj Jackson and Anton and Franziska Schleiter are asking Wade Robson and James Safechuck to stop lying about Michael Jackson.


Concerning the cases of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the pattern to seek monetary compensations for alleged abuse repeats itself. This is a fact. Moreover, Robson and Safechuck were also caught lying on multiple occasions regarding their cases, not only by investigative journalists, but also by judges. This is a fact. It is no coincidence that their cases were already thrown out of court twice. The judge even reprimanded Robson, saying that “NO RATIONAL FACT-FINDER COULD POSSIBLY BELIEVE ROBSON’S SWORN STATEMENT.”

It is probably also no coincidence that Robson first made allegations when he was experiencing financial troubles and troubles regarding his career (he was not accepted as director for a Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tribute show). And it is probably also no coincidence that Safechuck “suddenly realized” that he had been abused by Michael Jackson only days after the Safechuck family business got sued for nearly a million dollars.

The HBO production Leaving Neverland, about the Robson and Safechuck cases, leaves out all the kind of above mentioned information. It is therefore an unethical piece of journalism for several reasons: it contains significant and proven lies; it profits from a deceased person’s bad reputation who can no longer defend himself; it offers a prosecution’s case veiled as a “testimony of child sexual abuse”; it unashamedly profits from the sympathy of victims of proven child sexual abuse during this #MeToo era. In short, Leaving Neverland is a mere “trial by media” – a witch hunt of increasingly low credibility value.

With Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed finds himself in the company of people like Diane Dimond and Víctor Gutiérrez and their stories about Michael Jackson. Both Dimond and Gutiérrez are tabloid journalists of the worst kind, the latter being convicted for blatantly lying and making up stories on multiple occasions, also regarding Michael Jackson.

Víctor Gutiérrez is a proven and convicted pedo-fantasist like Carl Beech. However, the (tabloid) media did not dismiss the NAMBLA sympathizer. Although he was convicted a first time in 1998 for his allegations of pedosexual fantasies against Michael Jackson, Gutiérrez was treated as a reliable source and specialist by the (tabloid) media in the wake of the 2005 criminal trial against Michael Jackson. It’s quite unbelievable, but it happened. Apparently, when it has to do with Michael Jackson, some “journalists” have no problem disregarding even the slightest minimum of rationality and ethics.

It is now proven that Wade Robson read multiple tabloid stories while he was preparing his (ammended) complaint. He mailed those stories to himself. Robson also declared reading books about the pattern of child sexual abuse, supposedly to make sense of his own experience. Whatever the level of truth in his own story, the tabloid stories and the books on child sexual abuse clearly helped Robson to put the pieces of his own story together. It is also proven that Robson knew about information from tabloid stories not being true, and yet he used that information in his (ammended) complaint (an infamous Charlie Michaels story about a certain Mother’s Day in particular). As for James Safechuck, many elements of his story are so comparable to the story that Víctor Gutiérrez concocted in Michael Jackson Was My Lover: The Secret Diary of Jordie Chandler (Alamo Square Distributors, 1996) that they seem copy pasted from that book.

The question to determine Michael Jackson’s guilt should not be whether or not the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck “fit the pattern” of child sexual abuse. The question should be whether or not the different elements of their stories, which constitute that pattern of child sexual abuse, are actual facts as opposed to lies.

An approach to reality that reduces reality to “correspondence to a pattern” is an externalization of what Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) calls “totality”.

A “pattern” is a way to approach reality. It is not reality itself. Knowledge of a pattern can be used by deceivers to “sell” a story as “truth”. Tabloid journalism excels in this respect. The testimonies below (see also the Open Letter by the Schleiter Family) challenge the standard “totalitarian” story of Michael Jackson as a textbook pedophile. 

The tabloid background and multiple proven lies (established by judges) didn’t help the cases of Robson and Safechuck (who contacted Robson and was eventually represented by the same legal team) regarding their credibility. Several victims of child sexual abuse were outraged about Leaving Neverland and spoke out against Wade Robson and James Safechuck once they knew more about the history of their cases.

Those who still manage to be intellectually dishonest by referring to the blatant untruths in Leaving Neverland as “unimportant details misremembered because of trauma” should realize that those so-called unimportant details are not presented as such in Leaving Neverland. They are presented as key elements in the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

In short, to minimize the untruths regarding those key elements as allegedly “being misremembered because of trauma” is ABUSE OF REAL TRAUMA:

CSA Victim Opposing Leaving Neverland Tweet


It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that people who knew Michael Jackson since their childhood only say nice things about him “because they remain under the manipulative spell of his pop star aura.” Let us listen to those testimonies first.

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that everyone who defends Michael Jackson “must be a fan.” Let us first find out if his ardent defenders are indeed all fans and if that is the main reason why they defend him.

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that big fans of Michael Jackson “would not admit that he was a pedophile even if the evidence pointed in that direction.” Let us first find out why many fans don’t believe that he was a pedophile – do they really have strong reasonable and plausible arguments, or is it mainly a rationalization of emotional impulses?

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the Santa Barbara County Superior Court would stand “no chance against the power and money of Michael Jackson.” Let us first find out what kind of investigations were conducted, how the raids on his Neverland ranch were done, how the police took photographs of his genitals and how he was treated when they arrested him.

I think it is important to move beyond those kinds of speculative assumptions because judgment based on assumptions ultimately damages the so-called #MeToo movement big time. The fact that victims have a voice is a breakthrough. As scholars have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian influence on the western world plays a tremendous part in this achievement – Gil Bailie, for instance (Violence Unveiled – Humanity at the Crossroads, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1995, p. 20):

“There’s plenty of truth in the revised picture of Western history that the young are now routinely taught, the picture of the West’s swashbuckling appetite for power, wealth, and dominion. What’s to be noted is that it is we, and not our cultural adversaries, who are teaching it to them. It is we, the spiritual beneficiaries of that less than always edifying history, who automatically empathize more with our ancestors’ victims than with our ancestors themselves. If we are tempted to think that this amazing shift is the product of our own moral achievement, all we have to do is look around at how shamelessly we exploit it for a little power, wealth, and dominion of our own.

The fact is that the concern for victims has gradually become the principal gyroscope in the Western world. Even the most vicious campaigns of victimization – including, astonishingly, even Hitler’s – have found it necessary to base their assertion of moral legitimacy on the claim that their goal was the protection or vindication of victims. However savagely we behave, and however wickedly and selectively we wield this moral gavel, protecting or rescuing innocent victims has become the cultural imperative everywhere the Biblical influence has been felt.

However, the perversion of the achievement to listen to “the voice of the victim” threatens to silence the voice of real victims again: people pretending to be victims murderously persecute others in the name of “the victim” in order to gain power and end up making ever more victims. As French-American thinker René Girard points out (Evolution and Conversion – Dialogues on the Origins of Culture, Continuum, London, New York, 2007, p. 236):

“We have experienced various forms of totalitarianism that openly denied Christian principles. There has been the totalitarianism of the Left, which tried to outflank Christianity; and there has been totalitarianism of the Right, like Nazism, which found Christianity too soft on victims. This kind of totalitarianism is not only alive but it also has a great future. There will probably be some thinkers in the future who will reformulate this principle in a politically correct fashion, in more virulent forms, which will be more anti-Christian, albeit in an ultra-Christian caricature. When I say more Christian and more anti-Christian, I imply the figure of the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ is nothing but that: it is the ideology that attempts to outchristianize Christianity, that imitates Christianity in a spirit of rivalry.


You can foresee the shape of what the Anti-Christ is going to be in the future: a super-victimary machine that will keep on sacrificing in the name of the victim.

The #MeToo movement should be about a concern for real victims, also victims of false allegations. The focus, time, energy and money of a society should go to real victims, not pretenders. That’s why the #MeToo movement should be concerned about false allegations. It should not lend itself to sustain the condemnation of people in a mere trial by powerful media, especially if those people are no longer here to defend themselves and were already acquitted on all counts during their lifetime. Regarding Michael Jackson, we should focus on what can be known for a fact before speculating and jumping to conclusions.

In any case, the people who have testified against Michael Jackson in a court of law were all caught on multiple and significant lies, while the people who testified in his defense were not (apart from Wade Robson, who claims to have lied in the only criminal trial against Michael Jackson in 2005). Also, many (if not all) people who testified against Michael Jackson sold their stories to the tabloids for big money. These are facts. It is also a fact that Michael Jackson was acquitted in 2005 and declared not guilty on all counts. Despite this declaration, many still had doubts about him and Michael Jackson would suffer the consequences of this trial mentally and physically. Michael Jackson never really recovered from the 2005 trial and was virtually destroyed. He would die four years later. The HBO production Leaving Neverland, true or not, further kills the reputation of an already dead man who can no longer defend himself “in the name of the victim”.

To get a clearer picture of the “regular” experiences with Michael Jackson, as opposed to the four exceptional cases of child sexual abuse against him (the Jordan Chandler case, the Gavin Arvizo case, and the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases), below are some voices of people who are speculated about a lot, but are rarely been listened to.


SEAN LENNON (son of the late John Lennon) in exclaim! March 6, 2019 – emphasis mine:

“I think that was a super strange time, but not in a dark way. In an odd way, in a unique way. It was odd because Bubbles was all dressed up in dandy outfits and we were all running around playing videogames with this chimpanzee. It was a surreal scene. It was kind of part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part Dr. Doolittle, and part, you know, ‘Motown’s Greatest Hits’ or something. It was a convergence of a lot of disparate universes that merged for a while. And that was a strange scene but it was really fun. I mean it was amazing to hang out with all those animals, but there was also something very eccentric about it, you know?


He was the coolest dude I’d ever met for sure. I mean people, you know, they have a lot of opinions about him and like anything else, my opinions can only be based on my experience. But he was super fun to hang out with. I mean he was like a big kid, you know?

Michael Jackson and Sean Lennon 1

So yeah, the time that I got to spend with him was – it was like Disneyland all day long. He’d set up water balloon fights and pie fights in basketball courts. Just really fun stuff where he’d like invite all his friends over and there’d be two teams and everyone would dress in garbage bags and throw pies at each other. It was like super high-level fun and it was orchestrated fun and insanity.”

Michael Jackson and Sean Lennon 2

ANTON AND FRANZISKA SCHLEITER, An Open Letter, Enough is Enough, March 4, 2019

(https://schleiter-family.com/) – emphasis mine:

“In 1995 we first met Michael at a German TV Show. That day, something that we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams happened. It was the start of a unique friendship. A friendship so normal yet so unusual and magical. One that would last until the very last day of Michael’s life and will continue forever in our hearts.

From the beginning we knew that what we were privileged to experience, was a treasure worth protecting. Especially regarding the world we live in, with media that wants to make up stories that sell, rather than seeking the truth and people who want to read shocking headlines rather than knowing the truth. Over the years we were offered over a quarter million of Euros for interviews, but no money in the world could ever materialize a value that would stand above the value of our memories with Michael. This is the reason why we have never spoken a word publicly about our friendship.

Something has changed our mind about speaking up lately. The utter shocking news of a new documentary that would portray Michael once again as a child molester. Even writing this sentence, putting his name and that word together, makes us feel sick to our stomach. Michael never behaved inappropriately towards us and we neither witnessed nor suspected him doing it to someone else ever.

We have been angry with the public treatment of Michael many times in the past, but we chose to stay silent – hoping the truth to run marathons and protecting Michael and his privacy.

And we had good reason to be angry, for example when Anton was falsely portrayed in a German tabloid as having a homosexual affair with Michael. We witnessed first hand how ugly the media can be and how they make up most terrible lies just to have a story. When our father denied to talk to an inquiring journalist on the phone, the story read something like ‘Father refuses to defend Michael’. Unfortunately scandals sell much better than anything else.

Michael Jackson and Anton Schleiter 1

Spending a lot of time with Michael, we experienced two-faced people more than once. When Michael was in the room, they acted most charming with seemingly good intentions, but once he turned his cheek they would become rude and you could sense that their intentions were not that good after all. In front of us, they didn’t care showing their real face. We were only the shy German family in the background, not worth paying attention to. But we were observing and slowly but surely we started to get a glance at the often difficult world Michael was living in. It was a world in which it was so very difficult to trust.

And yet Michael was kind to everybody he would meet and believed in the good so strongly. Some would call it naiv, to us it was just one of his character traits that made us look up to him. Giving everybody a chance, even if you’ve been fooled by people over and over, really is remarkable. And it makes us even more sad to know, that many took and still take advantage of this.

Being around Michael made us realize that everybody wanted a piece of him. We often wondered why, from all people, he would let us into his circle of trusted friends. Now we understand it was maybe the fact that we didn’t want anything from him and simply enjoyed being together. When he offered to pay for our education, our parents denied because it was too much of a gift. It was a no brainer for us then, but looking back on it now, it was probably something that Michael didn’t experience often.

Michael Jackson and Schleiter Kids

Those who wanted a piece of his fame or his money did not care about Michael as a person or about his kind heart and uplifting spirit. It is truly a shame and we almost feel bad for those people in a way, because blinded by money, they probably didn’t realize that they just had the honor to meet a person that has a uniqueness about him that the world would only witness every other century. His music, his message, his creative and genius mind was truly one of a kind.

While our friendship with Michael was very normal in a sense that we hung out, chatted on the phone, went to the movies just like friends do, it was also magical in the sense that Michael had a warmth about him that was captivating. You would immediately feel comfortable and safe around him. He was one of the most humble persons we’ve ever met, always putting the well being of others over his own.

There was never a single moment of doubt of his pure heart and intentions, which also led our parents to allow us to travel alone with Michael.

Though we’re speaking up today, we still want to protect and respect our personal stories. What we can say though, is that each and every time we had to say good bye to Michael, we all cried because we knew how much we would miss him. The times we spent together were the most fun. And while Michael was always up for a good water balloon fight, he was also a great mentor, teaching us about life and sharing his incredible knowledge. We can remember how excited he was to tell us about the Wright brothers when he learnt that we had never heard of them. He gave us books and movies of stories we could learn from and he was eager for us to develop our talents.

We understand that our story can only put a small piece of the puzzle together for those who are still in doubt of what to believe about Michael Jackson. To those who still doubt that he was innocent, we can only plea to simply do your own research. And if the fact that Michael had to endure every possible raid of privacy in his trial in 2005 and still was found NOT GUILTY on ALL CHARGES, if this fact is still not enough for you, then maybe you can simply listen to his music.

Meeting many of his fans over the years, we were astounded how much they ‘got him’ as a person, even though they never personally met him. Michael and his fans had a unique friendship of their own. He trusted them and it is no wonder why they continue to trust in his good heart. They simply listened to his music and to his words. If you listen closely you’d know all of his stories and you’d know what kind of person he was. You would know that his mission for his time on earth was not only to bring happiness in form of melodies and rhythm but also to change the world to the better.

Boy, how he could inspire us to be our best selves and to show more love and respect to each other! Yet people choose to blow up lies that threaten to overshadow all of the greatness this man has brought.

Enough is enough.

Today we speak up for Michael because he deserves better and because he was the best friend we could have ever imagined.

Anton and Franziska and our parents Marlies and Wolfgang

Michael Jackson and Schleiter Family


For CNN, Piers Morgan interview, October 28, 2013 – emphasis mine:

Well, Michael was the big brother I never had quite honestly. He was everything to me as a kid. He taught me so many things. He’s taught me about loving animals, vegetarianism, animal rights, environmental issues, caring about your fans, how to treat your fans, the fact that the moment that you meet your fans may just be a fleeting moment to you and something that you’re in the middle of things that you got to take time for. But to them – they’re going to remember this moment for the rest of their lives. So how important it is with that exchange and how you treat them a lot.


We discussed everything, you know what I mean, and it was literally like a big brother, little brother relationship where we’ve talked about everything, I would talk about the abuse that I endured in school which is also in the book, the abuse with my parents and also the difficulties of having to go to work everyday instead of being able to play. You know both of us shared that similarity.

Michael Jackson and Corey Feldman

We were robbed of our childhoods. We weren’t able to just have sleepovers or go play at the arcade with other kids or take your bike down the street and do what you want. That didn’t exist for us. That wasn’t a reality. So instead we ought to, you know, go from meeting to meeting and, you know, sit in a room full of people all day and be judged and have people question you about everything that you do, again, life under the microscope, totally different, a very different perspective than most people ever have the experience of having.”

For HuffPost, November 2, 2013 – emphasis mine:

“I don’t know a lot of things that happened in the years I wasn’t around, but all I can tell you is remarking about the person that I know, the person that was my close friend, that was like a brother to me. Michael was not that guy.

He was a guy who was so innocent, so kind of sheltered, you couldn’t even swear around him. You couldn’t talk about drugs, you couldn’t talk about nude women, you couldn’t talk about sex. You couldn’t talk about anything, because he was a very religious man for much of the early stages of his life and career.

When I got arrested, I was afraid, to be honest with you, that he’d never talk to me again because he had such a clean image — that I really expected that he’d just be like, ‘see ya!’ you know? And that really showed me the value of what type of person he was.

The fact that when I did get arrested, even though his image was still squeaky clean and by all rights he could have stepped aside and moved me back, but he didn’t.

He called me. I got that message on my answering machine, which said, ‘Hi Corey, it’s Michael. Is everything ok? Call me if you need me.’ You know, he was a friend. He was supportive. And thank God for that.”

For NBC – The Today Show, Matt Lauer interview, October 30, 2017 – emphasis mine:

FELDMAN: “I told the police [the names of Hollywood pedophiles]. In fact if anyone wants to go back to 1993, when I was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Police Department. I sat there and gave them the names. They are on record. They have all of this information, but they were scanning Michael Jackson. All they cared about was trying about to find something on Michael Jackson.”

LAUER: “Who you said, by the way, did not abuse you.”

FELDMAN: “Who Michael was innocent. And that was what the interview was about with the pollice in 1993. I told them, he is not that guy. And they said, maybe you don’t understand your friend. And I said, no, I know the difference between pedophiles and somebody that is not a pedophile because I have been molested. Here’s the names, go investigate.”

KELLEY (KELLIE) PARKER, for RTL 4, Erik Mouthaan interview, July 6, 2009 – emphasis mine:

“I have nothing but amazing memories from the entire time that I knew Michael and was friends with him. I can’t say enough good things. He just had this unconditional love. He was so pure. And… I just have so many great memories.”

Kelley Parker on Michael Jackson Tweet

Michael Jackson and Kelley Parker


For CNN, Larry King Live, May 27, 2004 [also talking about the criminal trial back then, in which Macaulay Culkin would eventually testify on behalf of his friend Michael Jackson] – emphasis mine:

KING: “What happened at the house? That’s what all the things that people are concerned about.”

CULKIN: “That’s what’s so weird.”

KING: “What did happen?”

CULKIN: “Nothing happened. You know, nothing really. I mean, we played video games. We, you know, played at his amusement park.”

KING: “Did he sleep in the bed?”

CULKIN: “The thing is with that whole thing, oh, you slept in the same bedroom as him. It’s like, I don’t think you understand, Michael Jackson’s bedroom is two stories and it has like three bathrooms and this and that. So, when I slept in his bedroom, yes, but you understand the whole scenario. And the thing is with Michael he’s not good at explaining himself and he never really has been, because he’s not a very social person. You’re talking about someone who has been sheltered and sheltering himself also for the last like 30 years. And so, he’s not very good at communicating to people and not good at conveying what he’s actually trying to say to you. So, when he says something like that people – he doesn’t quite understand why people react the way that they do.”

KING: “Why do you think he likes young people so much?”

CULKIN: “Because the same reason why he liked me, was the fact that I didn’t care who he was. That was the thing. I talked to him like he was a normal human being and kids do that to him because he’s Michael Jackson the pop singer, but he’s not the God, the ‘king of pop’ or anything like that. He’s just a guy who is actually very kid-like himself and wants to go out there and wants to play video games with you.”

Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin (1991)

KING: “Did your parents encourage it?”

CULKIN: “They weren’t against it. It wasn’t like they encouraged it or pushing me upon it. I wanted to hang out with him and they were fine.”

KING: “What do you make of what he’s going through now?”

CULKIN: “Like I said, it’s unfortunate, and you know, it’s a circus.”

KING: “Do you think it’s a bad rap?”

CULKIN: “You know, I think so. Yes. Listen, look what happened the first time this happened to him. If someone had done something like that to my kid, I wouldn’t settle for some money. I’d make sure the guy was in jail. It just really goes to show as soon as they got the money they ran. I mean, that’s what really happened the first time. And so I don’t know. It’s a little crazy and I kind of have taken a step back from the whole thing, because it is a bit of a circus. And you know, if the same thing was happening to me, I wouldn’t want to drag him into it and vice versa. So I try my best to take a distance from it, but like I said he’s still a friend of mine.”

KING: “If they asked you to be a character witness, would you appear?”

CULKIN: “I guess so, but probably not. Like I said, it’s crazy, and I don’t really want to be a part of it.”

 KING: “You like him.”

CULKIN: “I like him and he’s a friend of mine. I’m not saying I wouldn’t. It hasn’t been brought up to me and I don’t think he’d want me to either. Just because, like I said, if the same thing was happening to me…”

KING: “What reaction has happened to you from all of this?”

CULKIN: “What do you mean?”

KING: “Do people inquire of you a lot about it?”

CULKIN: “Sometimes. You know, people always have their opinions. It’s funny. People always talk to me about him, because you know, I’m one of these people who will tell you anything about my life, really, to get me going. You know, so yes, I mean, I’ve openly and freely talked about him and stuff like that. But overall, you know, he’s just a good friend of mine.”

KING: “You wish him well.”

CULKIN: “Of course I do.”

On the Inside of You podcast, Michael Rosenbaum interview, January 15, 2019 – emphasis mine:

“It’s almost easy to try to say it was ‘weird’ or whatever, but it wasn’t, because it made sense.

He reached out to me ’cause a lot of things were happening big and fast with me. I think he identified with that.

[…] I think that’s one of the reasons also why we got along, is that everyone’s always thoroughly impressed by him. So the fact that somebody treated him like a normal person… It was that simple.”

EMMANUEL LEWIS, CBC Television, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, October 10, 2012 – emphasis mine (by the way: notice how the website “MJFacts” manipulated the following photo, adding bottles and changing a few other details):

Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis (original vs manipulated)

You know this guy is great. You know Michael’s got a heart of gold. You know that he wouldn’t do any of those things that people were talking about. Later on, of course, after he died, a few of those people came forward and said, ‘You know, it never happened, we didn’t do anything, was pressured by parents, by this or that; we needed money real bad…’ and they figured that was a way to get out. And there’s people out there in the press that actually came clean. But it’s a little late, you know. Thanks a lot, you know what I mean? You put him through hell.”

Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis 2 (Visit to Disney World, 1984)

EDDIE AND FRANK CASCIO, Oprah, December 6, 2010 – emphasis mine:

FRANK CASCIO: “We grew up with Michael, literally, since he was three and I was five, and so being around him was just normal.”

Michael Jackson with Cascio Brothers

EDDIE CASCIO: “He really just was so humble and then never really played off on the fact that he was, you know, Michael Jackson, you know. He was just Michael. He was just our friend.”

Michael Jackson with Frank Cascio

DAVE DAVE, Larry King Live, September 3, 2009 – emphasis mine:

“I believe that Michael was a great person. He has never hurt a soul and I am happy to have been his friend for all these years, and been a dedicated friend.”

Michael Jackson and Dave Dave


Michael Jackson and Brett Barnes (Photoshoot)

Emmanuel Lewis tweets a couple of times on behalf of Michael Jackson’s defense after the airing of Leaving Neverland, the HBO production containing new allegations against the late pop star. Already on May 8, 2013, after Wade Robson goes public for the first time with his allegations against Michael Jackson, Brett Barnes tweets in Michael Jackson’s defense:

“I wish people would realise, in your last moments on this earth, all the money in the world will be of no comfort. My clear conscience will.”

Brett Barnes Tweet on Wade Robson Lies

To this day he keeps defending his late friend.

Michael Jackson and Brett Barnes



In a taped phone conversation with David Schwartz (Jordan Chandler’s stepfather), Evan Chandler threatens to make allegations against Michael Jackson and his ex-wife if they continue to refuse communicating with him. Eventually, Evan indeed forces his son Jordan to make allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Once the allegations are made, Evan manages to make an appointment with Jackson and his lawyers. When he sees Michael Jackson on the day of the meeting, Evan walks up to him and amicably hugs the pop star – the alleged molester of Evan’s son Jordan. The hug is described by Evan’s own brother, Jordan’s uncle Ray, among others. Jackson refuses to settle for money at that point. Therefore, Evan goes public with the allegations.

Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly try to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which are rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allows the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lose four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceeding is completed. In other words, Michael Jackson is eager to go to trial to clear his name! The Chandlers, on the other hand, turn out to be only interested in a civil suit of which they want a settlement before any criminal proceedings.

Eventually, Jackson’s legal team advises him to settle the civil case for $15,331,250 so focus can be on the upcoming criminal trial. Jackson makes sure that an official statement is signed that this is not an admission of guilt. Michael Jackson’s legal team prepares for the criminal trial. The prosecution presents the case to two different Grand Juries, but the case is rejected twice. The Chandlers are not interested in cooperating with the authorities for the criminal case. Clearly they are not interested in a conviction of their son’s alleged molester.

Rolling Stone describes the end of the case as follows (January 29, 2019):

Jordan Chandler went on to attain legal emancipation from both of his parents. June Chandler testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial and said she had not spoken to her son in 11 years. Evan Chandler, who closed his dental practice in 1994, killed himself in 2009.”

People should make up their own mind about this whole matter, but to me this looks like an extortion plot set up by Evan Chandler, which destroyed his own family and the relationship between parents and son. It seems money was the driving force of the Chandlers, especially since they were not interested in pursuing criminal charges.


Rolling Stone, April 7, 2005 (Inside the Strangest Trial on Earth, p. 36),  summarizes the case of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson in 2005 as follows – emphasis mine:

“The prosecution’s case, seldom satisfactorily explained in the mainstream media, goes as follows. On February 6th, 2003, the Bashir documentary, in which Jackson is seen admitting that he sleeps in his bedroom with young boys, is shown on British TV. Among the children who appear in the video is his accuser in this case, a thirteen-year-old cancer survivor who had been introduced to Jackson during his chemotherapy treatments several years before.

According to the prosecution, Jackson had not molested the boy at the time the Bashir documentary aired, but he was sufficiently concerned that the boy might make such allegations that he and a band of Neverland courtiers entered into an elaborate conspiracy to “falsely imprison” the boy and his family for nearly five weeks (in luxury hotels, at Neverland ranch and other places), during which time they coerced the family into denying, on camera, that anything untoward had ever happened between Jackson and the boy.


At any rate, it was only after the filming of this so-called rebuttal video – which, incidentally, Jackson then sold to the Fox Network for $3 million – and after authorities had begun an investigation into Jackson’s relationship with the boy, that Jackson allegedly molested the child, in early March.

The prosecution’s case therefore boils down to this: In a panic over negative publicity, Jackson conspires to kidnap a boy and forces him to deny acts of molestation that in fact never happened, and then he gets over his panic just long enough to actually molest the child at the very moment when the whole world is watching.

It is a fantastic argument, a bilious exercise in circular prosecutorial logic: conspiracy to commit conspiracy, false imprisonment for the sake of it, followed by a sudden act of utter self-destructive madness. And none of it makes sense…

No wonder the prosecution’s case doesn’t stand a chance, and no wonder Michael Jackson is acquitted on all counts in 2005. And rightly so – justice is served.

Michael Jackson’s defense team catches the Arvizos lying, contradicting themselves and each other and changing their stories in significant ways.

Moreover, the Arvizos are not only caught lying in their case against Michael Jackson, they are also caught lying in other cases. They have a history of creating extortion plots.

Again, people should make up their own minds about this, but “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck”, then it probably is a scam – once more.  


Readers should take a look at the following link to understand how both of these cases fall apart and why they were already twice rejected by a court of law:


Both Wade Robson and James Safechuck continue to seek huge monetary compensations, although a company like HBO recognizes them as victims – well are they?

All the facts that have come to light since the HBO-production Leaving Neverland aired, indicate that these cases too are scams.


The apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he had been in fact a persecutor while he was under the impression that he was defending (potential) victims. Some people have a similar audacity and spiritual humility regarding the Michael Jackson case and admit that they were wrong in persecuting Michael Jackson. This is what “conversion” looks like, also from a Christian point of view – becoming aware of your own complicity in violence, and turning away from that violence towards love:

Damien Craig Carter on Michael Jackson

I guess we all need redemption from a world that is dominated by greed and lust for power.


Let’s get back to life. Back to reality.


It is weird how some people keep describing Michael Jackson as a “powerful man”. He is dead. He cannot defend himself against the accusations that are now leveled against him by people who are backed by powerful institutions like HBO and Oprah Winfrey. Many assumptions about Michael Jackson’s so-called “power” simply aren’t true.

Michael Jackson’s properties got raided several times by police forces, his computers were meticulously investigated by the FBI, he barely had any privacy, his genitals were photographed by the police, tabloids continuously sought to publish scandalous stories about him (paying huge amounts of money for whoever wanted to tell a story), and he constantly had people around who wanted to take advantage of him (as is also testified by the Schleiters in their Open Letter). In 1993, during the first of two cases leveled against him during his lifetime, Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly tried to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which were rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allowed the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lost four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceedings were completed. In other words, Michael Jackson was eager to go to trial to clear his name, but he didn’t stand a chance. That’s how “powerful” he was.

Even when Michael Jackson was acquitted on all counts in 2005 for a case that was actually too ridiculous to go to trial at all (see above why), he had to face the fact that many people still believed in his guilt. And (tabloid) media kept feeding that perception. Michael Jackson could never defend himself against the bulk of venomous tabloid vomit. Again, that’s how “powerful” he was. Some people keep thinking Michael Jackson was acquitted in the Arvizo case because of his power and money, without looking at the case itself and its ridiculousness. Leaving Neverland of course confirms that assumption (at first sight that is). And anyone who dares to consider even the possibility that Michael Jackson is innocent of the charges leveled against him, is arrogantly labeled “a crazy, irrational fan”. And yet people who are not a fan of Michael Jackson have spoken out against Leaving Neverland and have discredited the allegations by Robson and Safechuck.

If the #MeToo movement wants us to accept that emotionally manipulative and deceitful cinematic productions by powerful media, launched to the world for big money, are more important to determine a person’s guilt than the facts that are revealed through arduous investigative proceedings – selling the former as “rational” and the latter as “irrational” -, then the #MeToo movement will eventually be more about defending grifters than about defending real victims of (child) sexual abuse.

That is not a world that I want to be a part of. This world:



In a reaction on Facebook to this post, Leigh Fetter commented:

“Look at the recent acquittals of Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush, actor John Jarrett, the imminent quashing of the guilt verdict against Cardinal Pell et al. not to speak of Ms Amanda Knox and Raffaello Sollecito based on extraordinarily flimsy evidence in a time of moral panic. Accusations contagiously invoke the archaic bloodlust latent in crowds, by a drumming up crimes against the most innocent ‘victims’ such as girls and children. This enables a veneer of righteous indignation and sanctimonious fury, much like the blood-libel accusations of the Middle Ages, to shield the accuser from his own participation in the diabolical genesis of a sacrificial crisis and its desired catharsis, in the condemnation and putting away of the one called ‘diabolical; a predator’. As Girard has taught us, the existence of one voice of doubt destroys the blindness – and therefore the satisfaction and effectiveness – of the sacrifice. The number and intensity of these recent accusations speaks to a profound spiritual crisis at the heart of our ‘post-Christian’ societies and, I dare say, there will be many more victims who will be condemned as ‘rapists’, ‘homophobes’, ‘paedophiles’ etc like the terms ‘Christ killers’ and ‘kidnappers of Christian children’ that gave cover for the the fundamentally arbitrary persecutions in the Middle Ages.”

Also read Love the Enemy’s Side of the Story (Covington Kids vs Nathan Phillips).


Important strands of the Jewish and Christian traditions are particularly sensitive to phenomena like mob violence, victim blaming, sexism and racism. Those strands try to give “voice to the voiceless”, whether in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of a patriarchal group mentality or in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of the mass media crowd.

The Christian tradition interprets the concern for the voice of the voiceless as the work of the “Holy Spirit”, who is also called the “Defender”, “Advocate” or “Comforter” (see, for instance, John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”).

Therefore, from this perspective the Jewish and Christian traditions will be at once an advocate and a critic of the #MeToo movement, as the movement should represent the voice of the voiceless and not the voice of a blinded and blinding lynch mob.

The above article mainly focuses on the case of multiple child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson (although not exclusively) as a prime example of how the roar of the mass media crowd threatens the credibility of the #MeToo movement. That movement should be about giving “voice to the voiceless”.




Peter was the new kid in town. Still he felt rather confident at his new school since he knew at least one of his schoolmates beforehand, a guy named Jesus. What Peter didn’t realize, however, was the fact that Jesus was heavily bullied by Peter’s new classmates, although Jesus was in another class. When he became aware of the situation, Peter made a “wise” decision to battle his FEAR of becoming an outcast. To gain the approval of his new classmates, he disassociated himself from Jesus. He pretended not to know Jesus that well. By playing along with the crowd Peter protected his good reputation and HONOR (see below Matthew 26:69-74). It was also a good way to ensure his position within the group; playing along gave Peter control and POWER over what could have been a precarious situation. After a few weeks Peter felt pretty comfortable going to school. Being among his new friends gave him lots of PLEASURE as he enjoyed the WEALTH of their luxurious parties. The fact that his friends did not accept him but only the image he forced himself into did not seem to bother Peter too much. After all, wasn’t that kind of over-dramatically characterized “selling your soul” self-denial in reality but a small price to pay in order to gain this world of honor, power, pleasure and wealth (see below Mark 8:35-36)? Why respect yourself if the rewards of not respecting yourself felt so good?

To make a long story short, Peter’s new life went pretty well until he ran into Jesus one day. Jesus was severely beaten up by some of Peter’s classmates. From that day onwards, Peter made a decision that would have sounded “foolish” to his friends and to his former self (see below 1 Corinthians 1:20b-25). In the face of the victim of the world he had been a part of, Peter decided to abandon a life that was defined by the pursuit of honor, power, pleasure and wealth (see Matthew 5, 1-11). His whole identity was transformed by the love for the enemy of the group he belonged to (see below 1 John 4:16). The fear of being “dead” to his classmates and of “social punishment” changed into a fear of being the cause of the “murder” of others (see below 1 John 4:17b-18). Peter also no longer considered honor and pleasure as ends in themselves, but as possible consequences of a life in love. If taking sides with the marginalized other made Peter DISHONORABLE in the eyes of some of his classmates, then so be it. Peter chose non-violent conflict in his own “house” over the violent peace and unity at the expense of excluded others (see below Matthew 10:34-36). He did not want that kind of sacrificial peace. He desired a different kind of peace, not based on “sacrifice” (see below John 14:27).

If willing the good of someone who had every reason to hate him made Peter feel UNPLEASURABLE, then so be it. The LOVE that was discovered by Peter and that became the basis of his life did not depend on whatever outcome. He would still love others even if, for instance, their farewell or their suffering or death would make him sad and wouldn’t bring him any pleasure at all. Independent of whatever outcome, the love Peter lived by can be called all-powerful in a paradoxical sense. Even if his classmates and their world would hate him (see below 1 John 3:13-14), Peter wouldn’t avoid being vulnerable and eventually POWERLESS from the perspective of that world (see below John 15:19). He would not seek power to dominate others but as a means to serve them (see below Luke 22:24-27), at most. Equally, Peter would not seek wealth as end in itself but as a means to serve others, at most. His spirit would be POOR in worries with regard to his possessions.

If Peter felt worried and guilty at all it was no longer because he didn’t live up to the expectations of the world of his classmates, but because love informed him that he had hurt others. Peter no longer respected social rules and laws because they would gain him recognition, but only insofar as they would be helpful in the service of love (see below Mark 2:23-28; see also Mark 12:29-31 and Paul on “spirit of the law vs letter of the law”); neither would he transgress rules because it would grant him a new social status among “the cool dudes” (see below Matthew 5:17). Love detached Peter from the addictive desire for approval. He tried to no longer imitate a man-made social environment based on exclusion but tried to imitate the flexible ways of love (blowing like the wind, free from all the man-made attachments – see below John 3:8). Love became his “Creator”. In taking sides with Jesus and the marginalized victim of whatever group, Peter lost a “masqueraded” life that was defined by the attachment to honor, power, pleasure and wealth, and he eventually saved his self-respect (see below Mark 8:35-36).

In short, Peter’s story ends with his refusal to take part in the sacrifice of others and therefore he runs the risk of being sacrificed or crucified himself, although he of course hopes that the world is able to show “mercy, not sacrifice” (see below Matthew 9:13). Peter refuses to “crucify himself” to participate in the masquerade of the attachment to approval and therefore he runs the risk of “being crucified”. Peter is willing to run that risk because of his obedience to the demands of love, which is an obedience that allows him to accept the truth about himself as a former persecutor and which sets him free from the destructive “powers and principalities” often governing this world. Because of love, Peter is no longer dead to himself and others (see below 1 John 3:13-14).


Peter’s story is reminiscent of Mary’s story. Mary was the victim of a rape that made her pregnant and she was forced by her family to marry her “boyfriend(-rapist)” Saul. She was often beaten by her husband who could make her feel guilty about the beatings, as if she “deserved” them. In reality, Mary was a scapegoat. She was blamed for things she wasn’t guilty of. Sadly enough it took years for Mary to realize how badly she had been manipulated.

For years Mary lived in FEAR. She forced herself to be someone who would receive the approval of her husband, not his beatings. That’s where her HONOR lay, or so she thought. In trying to gain POWER over her husband’s behavior, however, she lost herself more and more. She was really hunting an illusion in her attempts to turn her family life into a comfortable environment of PLEASURE like the one of her best friend. Moreover, she worried about losing the WEALTH of her husband too. She thought that she would not be able to make a living of her own. It was only when her husband started beating her son too that she regained her self-respect: the love for this victim of the situation she had been part of, opened her eyes for the truth that she had hunted one illusion after the other, and liberated her from the addictive attachment to honor, power, pleasure and wealth.

Both the above stories of Peter and Mary show what the Christian tradition is essentially about. Christianity thus:

  • subverts any system (religious or secular) that originates from man’s attachment to honor, power, pleasure and/or wealth (attachments that are based on fear of death), even if that system calls itself “Christian”. Explanations on the origin of religion that rely on man’s attachment to honor, power, pleasure and/or wealth thus do not explain the origin of Christianity as such (but of perverted versions of Christianity). Explanations like the one proposed by Yuval Noah Harari’s (in Sapiens) should be evaluated from this perspective.
  • believes that love is a divine reality, which is not a sentiment or a feeling, but an active willing of the good of the other as other. This divine reality thus is not all-powerful in the sense that it controls everything, but in the sense that it is independent of any calculations about possible outcomes. Love gives itself, regardless of the question whether it is accepted or not. That’s why “grace” is what it is. God as “Creator” should be thought of as a loving dynamic that seeks to hold everything together, although not as an all-controlling entity (see Matthew 27:39-44).
  • shows the futility of many of the things we consider “meaningful” and thus opens up our eyes for a more comprehensive look on reality.
  • does not easily comfort because it challenges us to abandon our “comfort zone”.
  • is not “irrational”. On the contrary, it has a very sharp and clear view on the reality of human life and its absurdities, opening up a logic that could save human life from its absurdities.
  • testifies to a spirituality of “a love for reality because of reality itself, without ulterior motives” that can be found within other traditions as well.
  • is non-dualistic, as it does not seek the destruction of a so-called “evil world” but its transformation and fulfilment through love.
  • is not about “seeking the approval of God”, but is about the paradox of obeying the liberating demands of a love that needs no approval.

SUMMARY (click here for pdf):


To finish, some excerpts from the Bible on which all of the above is based:

Matthew 26, especially 26:69-74: Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), especially the Beatitudes (click here for more).

1 Corinthians 1:20b-25: Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 John 4:16: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:17b-18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Matthew 10:34-36: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'”

John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Matthew 9:13: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 8:35-36: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

John 15:19: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

1 John 3:13-14: Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

Luke 22:24-27: A dispute also arose among the disciples as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

Mark 2:23-28: One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

P.S.: THANKS TO James Alison, Robert Barron, René Girard, Emmanuel Levinas and many others for the inspiring insights into the reality of Christian life.


Petrus was net verhuisd. Toch voelde hij zich vrij zelfzeker op zijn nieuwe school omdat hij ten minste een van zijn medescholieren al kende: een jongen genaamd Jezus. Petrus realiseerde zich echter niet dat Jezus hevig gepest werd door sommige van zijn nieuwe klasgenoten, hoewel Jezus tot een andere klas behoorde. Toen Petrus eenmaal begreep hoe de vork in de steel zat, nam hij een “wijze” beslissing om zijn ANGST voor sociale uitsluiting te bezweren: om de waardering van zijn nieuwe klasgenoten te verkrijgen, nam hij afstand van Jezus. Petrus deed alsof hij Jezus helemaal niet zo goed kende. Het bezorgde Petrus de EER van een goede reputatie in de wereld van zijn klasgenoten (klik voor Matteüs 26, 69-74a). Door het spel van de groep mee te spelen en zich niet met Jezus bezig te houden, kreeg Petrus controle en MACHT over de nieuwe situatie waarin hij zich bevond. Gaandeweg verwierf hij zekerheid over zijn positie binnen de groep. Na enkele weken voelde Petrus zich helemaal comfortabel op zijn nieuwe school. Hij ervoer veel GENOT in aanwezigheid van zijn nieuwe vrienden en hij verdronk in de WEELDE van hun rijkeluisfeestjes. Het feit dat zijn vrienden niet hem aanvaardden maar alleen het imago waaraan hij trachtte te voldoen, deerde hem niet al te erg. Zelfverloochening leek helemaal geen dramatische “verkoop van je ziel” als je in ruil daarvoor een wereld van eer, macht, genot en weelde won (klik voor Marcus 8, 35-36). Waarom zou je jezelf respecteren als de beloningen voor een gebrek aan zelfrespect zo goed voelden?

Om een lang verhaal kort te maken: Petrus genoot met volle teugen van zijn leven totdat hij op een dag Jezus opnieuw tegen het lijf liep. Die was in elkaar geslagen door enkele van Petrus’ klasgenoten. Vanaf die dag nam Petrus een beslissing die “dwaas” zou hebben geklonken in de oren van zijn vrienden en van zijn vroegere zelf (klik voor 1 Kor 1, 20b-29). Geconfronteerd met het slachtoffer van de wereld waarvan hij deel had uitgemaakt, besloot Petrus zijn leven niet langer te laten definiëren door het streven naar eer, macht, genot en weelde (klik voor Mt 5, 1-11). Zijn hele identiteit werd getransformeerd door de liefde voor de vijand van de groep waartoe hij behoorde (klik voor 1 Joh 4, 16b). De angst voor “sociale afstraffing” en om “dood” te zijn voor zijn klasgenoten veranderde in een vrees voor de “moord” op anderen (klik voor 1 Joh 4, 17b-18). Petrus beschouwde eer en genot niet langer als doelen op zich, maar als mogelijke gevolgen van een leven in liefde. Als partij kiezen voor de gemarginaliseerde ander hem ONEERVOL maakte in de ogen van sommige van zijn klasgenoten, dan was dat maar zo. Hij was bereid om daarover te discussiëren. Petrus verkoos niet-gewelddadig conflict in zijn eigen “huis” boven de gewelddadige vrede en eenheid die parasiteerde op een gemeenschappelijke externe vijand (klik voor Matteüs 10, 34-36). Hij wou geen vrede die gebaseerd was op uitsluiting. Hij verlangde een ander soort vrede die niet op offers was gebaseerd (klik voor Johannes 14, 27).

Het goede willen voor iemand die meer dan genoeg redenen heeft om je te haten, levert GEEN GENOT op. Het voelt op zijn zachtst gezegd onwennig aan, maar dat hield Petrus niet tegen. De LIEFDE die hij had ontdekt en die de basis werd voor zijn leven, was niet afhankelijk van enig mogelijk resultaat. Petrus zou anderen liefhebben, zelfs als bijvoorbeeld hun afscheid, hun lijden of hun dood hem verdriet zou doen. Onafhankelijk van gelijk welk resultaat kan de liefde die Petrus draagt op een paradoxale manier almachtig worden genoemd. Ook als zijn klasgenoten en hun wereld hem zouden haten (klik voor 1 Joh 3, 13-14), zou Petrus niet ophouden om zich kwetsbaar en zelfs MACHTELOOS op te stellen vanuit het perspectief van die wereld (klik voor Johannes 15, 19). Als hij al een machtspositie zou aanvaarden, dan zou hij dat niet langer doen om anderen te domineren maar dan zou hij die macht gebruiken als een middel om anderen te dienen (klik voor Lucas 22, 24-27). Op dezelfde manier zou Petrus ook niet langer weelde nastreven als een doel op zich, maar opnieuw als een middel om anderen te dienen. In ieder geval zou zijn geest ARM aan zorgen zijn inzake zijn bezittingen.

Als Petrus zich al zorgen maakte en zich schuldig voelde, dan was het niet langer omdat hij misschien niet aan de verwachtingen van de wereld van zijn klasgenoten beantwoordde, maar omdat de liefde hem had geopenbaard hoe hij anderen had gekwetst. Petrus was niet voor of tegen de sociale regels en wetten die heersten (klik voor Matteüs 5, 17), maar terwijl hij vroeger voor of tegen regels was om ergens aanzien te verwerven, stelde hij zich nu de vraag op welke manier de regels het best de doelen van een liefdevolle gerechtigheid dienden (klik voor Marcus 2, 23-28). Met andere woorden, de geest van de wet werd voor Petrus belangrijker dan de letter van de wet (zie Paulus alsook Marcus 12, 29-31). De liefde bevrijdde Petrus van het verslavend verlangen naar erkenning. Liefde werd zijn “Schepper”: de identiteit van Petrus hing niet langer af van een door mensen gecreëerde sociale omgeving, maar van een liefde die, als een frisse wind wars van de bekommernissen om eer, macht, genot en weelde, relaties aanknoopte met al wie en wat zogezegd “geen betekenis” had (klik voor Johannes 3, 8). Door partij te kiezen voor Jezus en het gemarginaliseerde slachtoffer van om het even welke groep, verloor Petrus een onwaarachtig leven in functie van eer, macht, genot en weelde, en redde hij uiteindelijk zijn zelfrespect (klik voor Marcus 8, 35-36).

Het verhaal van Petrus eindigt, kortom, met een Petrus die weigert om nog langer te participeren aan een wereld die is gebaseerd op offers. De liefde heeft Petrus de waarheid omtrent zichzelf doen ontdekken: hij is een vervolger geweest, iemand die zijn medemens kwaad doet. Gehoorzamend aan die liefde wordt hij, paradoxaal genoeg, vrij van de “duistere machten en krachten” die vaak deze wereld beheersen. Omdat hij niet langer in de ban is van de duistere gehechtheid aan eer, macht, genot en weelde, is hij ook niet langer dood voor zichzelf en anderen (klik voor 1 Joh 3, 13-14).

Wie het opneemt voor wie wordt gepest, loopt evenwel het gevaar om zelf ook te worden gepest. Petrus weigert de “afgodendienst van het sociale succes” en weigert aldus iedere vorm van “zelfkruisiging”, maar loopt daardoor ook het gevaar dat hij zal “gekruisigd worden”. Natuurlijk hoopt hij dat de wereld in staat is om te kiezen voor “barmhartigheid en geen offers” (klik voor Matteüs 9, 13), alleen weet hij niet op voorhand of de wereld die keuze zal maken. Wie niet buigt voor het bedrieglijke, vernietigende verlangen naar totale controle (“de almachtige god die alle touwtjes in handen heeft”), maar wel leeft vanuit een God die liefde is, kan anderen redden maar zichzelf niet (klik voor Matteüs 27, 39-44). Als je het opneemt voor wie wordt gepest, leg je je lot immers in handen van anderen die zich al dan niet tot “de liefde” zullen bekeren. Voor hetzelfde geld word je ook gepest. Als er dan toch nog sprake is van “almacht” in deze context, dan ligt ze in het feit dat je zelfrespect niet afhangt van het respect dat je al dan niet van anderen ontvangt als je vanuit de goddelijke liefde leeft. De narcist is afhankelijk van de erkenning die hij van andere mensen krijgt voor een onwaarachtig zelfbeeld. De mens die zich door de liefde gedragen weet, kan de realiteit van en omtrent zichzelf en anderen op een completere manier beleven.


Het verhaal van Petrus doet denken aan het verhaal van Maria. Maria was het slachtoffer van een verkrachting waardoor ze zwanger werd. Haar familie had haar gedwongen om met haar “vriend(-verkrachter)” Saul te huwen. Ze werd vaak geslagen door haar echtgenoot. Hij slaagde er bovendien in om haar een schuldgevoel te geven over dat geweld, alsof ze de slagen “verdiende”. In werkelijkheid was Maria een zondebok: ze werd beschuldigd van zaken waarvoor ze niet verantwoordelijk was. Jammer genoeg duurde het jaren vooraleer Maria zich realiseerde hoezeer ze door Saul en haar familie was gemanipuleerd.

Jarenlang leefde Maria in ANGST. Ze dwong zichzelf om iemand te zijn die waardering zou krijgen van haar echtgenoot, en geen slagen. Daarin lag haar EER, dacht ze. Terwijl ze MACHT probeerde te verwerven over het gedrag van haar man verloor ze zichzelf echter meer en meer. Ze jaagde werkelijk een illusie na in haar pogingen om GENOT in haar gezinsleven te vinden. Daarbovenop maakte ze zich zorgen over het verlies van WEELDE als haar echtgenoot haar zou verlaten. Ze vreesde dat ze de eindjes niet aan elkaar zou kunnen knopen als ze er alleen zou voor staan. Alleen toen Saul ook hun zoon Stephanus in elkaar begon te slaan, herwon ze haar zelfrespect: de liefde voor het slachtoffer van de situatie waarvan ze deel uitmaakte, opende haar ogen voor de waarheid dat ze de ene na de andere illusie had nagejaagd, en bevrijdde haar van de verslavende gehechtheid aan eer, macht, genot en weelde.

Zowel Petrus als Maria keerden zich af van een leven in functie van een imago dat waardering moest opleveren. Petrus verheerlijkte zichzelf niet langer, waardoor hij respect kreeg voor zichzelf en niet langer op anderen als Jezus neerkeek. Maria verheerlijkte haar echtgenoot niet langer, waardoor ze zich bevrijdde van een minderwaardigheidscomplex en meer respect kreeg voor zichzelf. Bij beiden leidde het herwonnen zelfrespect tot meer respect voor (onderdrukte) anderen. Anderen werden niet langer benaderd als middelen die het onrealistisch zelfbeeld van Petrus en Maria moesten bevestigen, maar als doelen op zich.

Zowel het verhaal van Petrus als van Maria openbaart de bekering tot een levenswijze waarop de christelijke traditie in essentie doelt.


(klik hier voor pdf van het overzicht, en klik hier voor pdf inzake zaligsprekingen en voor post over zaligsprekingen en religieuze geloftes)



“Cutting off hands, Congo is ours!”

These words are sung regularly nowadays by certain young people across Flanders, Belgium. I heard them last year during a sporting event organized by the school I’m working in. The following is an example of a sticker found at my school:

Handjes kappen de Congo is van ons (sticker in SJC)

I also heard the racist chant on Congo more recently on a TV news report. Amateur footage showed how a young Belgian-Rwandese woman suffered harassment at a music festival from a group of young men. The men were singing “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” (“Cutting off hands, Congo is ours”). They of course refer to a horrible practice by colonists in former Belgian Congo: colonists sometimes cut the hands of workers who tried to escape oppressive labor conditions. In short, “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” is a very racist song, referring to barbaric aspects of western history and culture.

Leopold II and Congolese hands cut off

Apart from plain racist statements, nationalist claims are also a hype. “This is Flemish soil” are words which often come from the very same people who sometimes sing the Congo song, thereby jeopardizing the cause of those Flemish nationalists who want nothing to do with racism. At least at the already mentioned sporting event this was the case. “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” was uttered by students who write “Dit is Vlaamse grond” (“This is Flemish soil”) everywhere they can (on walls and desks, in notebooks, etcetera). It is quite ironic that people who claim to defend “the Flemish cause” associate themselves with a brutal practice of Belgium’s colonial past.

Godwin's LawIf the racist song is merely a self-proclaimed (however horribly misguided) “joke”, then the singers are really taking a basic element of a so-called politically correct framework as their moral reference point: racism should be rejected. If it is not a joke, then the singers truly reject what is often loathed as “political correctness”. In the latter case, the singers carry out Adolf Hitler’s worldview. Before going any further with this, it should be stressed that Godwin’s law is not at work here.

Claiming that “Flanders is for the Flemish” or, say, “Sweden belongs to the Swedes” on the one hand, and that “Congo belongs to the (Flemish) Europeans” on the other, is the same as claiming that some people have more rights than others. Apparently it is believed that Congo does not belong to the Congolese but to the Flemish.

Black Earth (book cover)To understand how those claims are connected to Hitler’s worldview it is recommended to read the work of historian Timothy Snyder (who was the first to deliver the René Girard Lecture at Stanford University, organized by Imitatio). Snyder explains Hitler’s worldview also in an interview with The Atlantic:

What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: races struggle against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try to take land.


It’s a very dark, empty universe. I mean, that’s how Hitler describes it to himself. There are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people. And so Hitler sees the only good thing as removing the Jews who pervert, as he says it, human nature and physical nature. […] Unnatur is actually a term that Hitler uses, and I think it’s a really telling term. […] He sees the Jews as being the thing which destroys the world, which infects the world. He uses the term “pestilence” in this sense—the Jews have infected the world. They’ve made the world not just impure in some kind of metaphorical sense—he really means it. And so the only way to purify the world—to make things go back to the way they’re supposed to be, to have a natural ecology, to go back to this struggle between races, which Hitler thinks is natural—the only way to do that is to physically eliminate the Jews.


I went back and reread [Hitler’s manifesto] Mein Kampf, and reread the second book, and read all the major Hitler primary sources, and I was really astonished at how clearly these ideas came out—that, in fact, Hitler’s quite explicitly an ecological thinker, that the planetary level is the most important level. This is something that he says right from the beginning of Mein Kampf, all the way through. And likewise, I was struck that Hitler explicitly said that states are temporary, state borders will be washed away in the struggle for nature. In other words, the anarchy that he creates was actually there in the theory from the beginning. Hitler says from the very beginning, what we have to do is destroy the Jews; strip away the artificial political creations that the Jews are responsible for; and let nature just take its course. And what he means by nature’s course is [that] the stronger races destroy the weaker races.


In short, the “natural order”, according to Hitler, is the struggle between races, whereby the stronger “races” take land from the weaker. And so it happens that people to this day can claim that “Congo belongs to the Flemish” (which means that the Congolese are seen as belonging to a “weaker race”). Also according to Hitler, the so-called “natural order” is “morally preferable”. The Jews, in Hitler’s view, challenge the idea of a direct causality between a so-called “natural physical order of things” and “what is morally preferable”. I think Hitler is quite right about the latter case.

The Jews eventually, in the course of their history, question any determination of human beings by the physical forces that govern our universe. In ancient “pagan” (in this context “non-Jewish”) cultures these forces were deified and worshipped as “gods” (or “the divine” – “the sacred”). They were the authors of human life, whose laws prescribed the ultimate meaning and destiny of that life. Hitler re-interprets those forces in a somewhat pseudo-Darwinian sense, likewise claiming that the goal of human life is necessarily determined by the “laws of nature” as he defines them (see above). By contrast, the God of Israel ultimately calls human beings to become the authors of their own life and to understand themselves as relatively independent of “the given order of things”. To “the given order of things” belong our spontaneous inclinations, which also do not automatically determine our behavior (and the very fact that we can choose to follow our inclinations or not proves that we are relatively free and not determined by them). Even allegiance to a family, to a “father” and a “mother” becomes something that is not naturally, automatically given in a Jewish sense: it becomes a revealed commandment in the Ten Commandments. This might encourage us to focus our attention on those people who truly are father and mother figures in our lives, those who are not necessarily our biological father or mother (see The Judgment of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28). Jesus maybe goes even further, as he invites us to question our attachment to our own family and culture (see previous post: Jesus Christ, Narcissist?) in order to love our neighbor and “love our enemy”. In any case, to many people, like victims of incest, it is probably a relief that abusive family members or oppressive cultural customs do not determine their identity.

What is ultimately at stake in the ideological battle between Judaism and, for lack of a better word, (neo)paganism is a question about what it means to be a cultural animal. Some people would say that the identity of every human being is determined by a particular culture and its history. In this case, any attempt to overcome our paradoxical so-called natural attachment to “our own cultural in-group” is perceived as a “perversion of nature” that is bound to tragically fail. From this perspective we are born into a culture whose given traditions, customs, norms and values we should deeply respect. It is also believed that history shows whose culture is “superior” to other cultures. Again paradoxically, it seems like an endless and necessary law that we are committed to deify our history and cultural heritage.

Contrary to the traditional pagan notions of identity, the Judeo-Christian influence on history instills us with the idea that we are also free individuals. In other words, our identity is not determined by any particular cultural group, history, sexual orientation or even gender we’re born into. As individuals we do not necessarily belong to any particular group except, paradoxically, to humanity. Thus Judaism indeed opens up the possibility to perceive the other as “other human being” (as Hitler would have it and detests it, see above), irreducible to the particular characteristics of any “group”.


To be a cultural animal from a (neo)pagan viewpoint means that a human being is born into a given culture that he naturally tries to maintain and develop.

[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by other cultures. This usually results in the exclusion or destruction of other cultures, understood as a “natural evolution” in the cyclical order of things. There is no goal in this context but the goal to “preserve” and “obey” the endless laws governing human history.]

To be a cultural animal from a Jewish or Judeo-Christian viewpoint means that a human being is born with natural gifts to adapt to and create any culture.

[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by the physical order of things, and to consider the possibility of the beyond, the revolutionary and truly new “meta-physical”; it is a consideration of a non-cyclical, linear future.]

Cyclical vs Linear

It is clear that Judaism warns against the deification of any particular culture or history. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one’s culture is “superior” leads to the oppression of “others” who are perceived as “less human”, and Judaism battles this inhumane outcome. In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to many far right identity politics. Ecclesiastes very nicely points to the futility of any human culture – generations and kings come and go (Ecclesiastes 1:11 & 4:14-16):

No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

On the other hand, Judaism also warns against the deification of individuality and human freedom. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one is “enlightened” and free from particular cultural traditions and historical influences unlike “backward others” leads to stores of rage and resentment from those others (who are merely “tolerated” but not really engaged in dialogue). In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to far left-wing and all too liberal identity politics, which feed the resentment right-wing identity politics thrive upon.

Levinas Quote on War

Jesus warns his fellow Jews against the illusion that they are not dependent on historical influences like their ancestors. To think that we would not have made the mistakes our ancestors made in their time, is to deny the inescapable historicity of our humanity, and again leads to a rejection of the other as “other human being”. Again we then show the tendency to reduce others to the particular characteristics of a “group” different from “us”. In the words of Jesus (Matthew 23:29-32):

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”

In short, Judeo-Christian tradition acknowledges that there are physical forces and cultural laws which precede our existence, but they are merely starting points. They do not determine the goals and destiny of our lives. We are called to live an existence as individuals who ultimately belong to no particular group but humanity. Thus we are called “to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Therein lies the essence of “human nature” in a Judeo-Christian sense.

P.S. 1 It remains to be seen if a young Flemish nationalist movement like Schild & Vrienden is also a racist movement. Dries Van Langenhove, leader of the movement, called the above mentioned racist Congo song “an edgy student song, sung at nearly every party”. I hope he doesn’t mean that it should therefore be accepted. The supposed racism of “other cultures” doesn’t in any way justify racism in one’s own quarters (although it might make it comprehensible). To be proud of your own culture means that you don’t imitate morally questionable practices of other cultures, and that you don’t take those practices as a reference point to justify your own practices. In the case of responding to the racism of others, we are responsible for our own behavior, and we shouldn’t blame others for the way we act – that would be hiding behind a scapegoat mechanism.

Anyway, here is an interview with Dries Van Langenhove by Lana Lokteff of Red Ice. It reveals some of the suppositions of Schild & Vrienden concerning “identity formation” and some of their views on what it means to be part of a cultural realm:

P.S. 2 For more on the word culture and its etymology click here for slides on Australian pop culture (assembled by Angela Ballas – Yaryalitsa). Or watch the powerpoint:

It is often said that René Girard is like “the Einstein or Darwin of the social sciences or the humanities”. According to Girard, however, the social sciences as such as they came to flourish in the West’s modern age, and his own contributions are only possible because of a “superior” knowledge revealed in Judeo-Christian tradition. Jean-Pierre Dupuy puts Girard’s claim this way in his book The Mark of the Sacred – which is in many ways a further development of Girard’s main ideas:

Only a madman or a crackpot, disregarding all the conventions of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, could make the following outrageous claims today: That the history of humanity, considered in its entirety, and in spite – or rather because – of its sound and fury, has a meaning. That this meaning is accessible to us, and although a science of mankind now exists, it is not mankind that has made it. [And] that this science was given to mankind by divine revelation. That the truth of mankind is religious in nature…

That madman is René Girard.

In this post I will try to give a glimpse of the way mimetic theory is able to foster a fruitful dialogue between different strands of thought in the humanities and how this dialogue indeed seems the result of Judeo-Christian influence in the Western world. I try to show that mimetic theory is a good starting point, able to connect and sometimes “correct” (or “ground” more fundamentally) basic insights of people like Thomas Hobbes, Sigmund Freud, Rudolf Otto, Jean Piaget, Jacques Lacan, Emmanuel Levinas and even a sociologist like Niklas Luhmann – among many others. But first I’ll give “the outcome” of my explorations, in a diagram (that was conceived for my book Vrouwen, Jezus en rock-‘n-roll).

From EROS (a mimetically mediated desire for recognition / a love for one’s self-image) to THANATOS (mental and/or physical “death”):

two potential destructive reactions following the confrontation with an (always mimetically) experienced difference between oneself and another (as an individual or collective entity).



Diagram Interdividual Psychology (Erik Buys)



Here are some text fragments from books I have been reading that led me to an even better understanding of my own diagram :). Three books are involved: Totalité et infini by Emmanuel Levinas, For René Girard edited by Sandor Goodhart et al., and When These Things Begin by René Girard. I have to mention especially that, apart from Emmanuel Levinas and René Girard, I was very inspired by the texts of Eugene Webb, Wolfgang Palaver and Michael Hardin in For René Girard. After the quote from Levinas, I also give some personal comments as a guideline to somewhat connect the different text fragments. [For more on Girard and Levinas, click here].

Emmanuel Levinas:

La philosophie occidentale a été le plus souvent une ontologie: une réduction de l’Autre au Même, par l’entremise d’un terme moyen et neutre qui assure l’intelligence de l’être.

Translation: Western philosophy has most often been an ontology: a reduction of the other to the same by interposition of a middle and neutral term that ensures the comprehension of being.

(Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et infini. Essai sur l’extériorité, Paris, Le Livre de Poche, Kluwer Academic, p.33-34).

Personal comments (also to the texts mentioned below):

It is important to note that Levinas speaks of a “reduction”. Whenever traditional Western philosophy thinks of what the kosmos is essentially made of, it always posits an “ideal”. The whole of reality then should be understood as a striving towards the manifestation of that ideal (Aristotle‘s entelechy), or at least as an attempt to manifestly distinguish the “eternal, ever-present ideal essence of reality” from “what reality sometimes seems to be but is not” (Plato‘s or Socrates‘s maieutics). The ideal essence of reality brings about an order (out of “chaos”) that actually is sacrificial, a “peace” that rests on the oppression of what seems to contradict the ideal. Hence one could say, together with Levinas, that the ideal – whatever features it gets in a particular philosophical system – reduces everything that is other than itself to itself. However, what enables this reduction precisely is the fact that there indeed really is something “other” to reduce to begin with! So one could say that whenever some ideal is postulated as “the essence” or “the being itself” of reality, the “fuller” or “more true” being of reality is “forgotten.” Being is reduced to a goal oriented movement from an incomplete world (the subject of movement) toward a “perfect” world (the object of movement).

Martin Heidegger identified the subject-object dichotomy as the Seinsvergessenheit (forgetting of being) of traditional Western metaphysics. He tried to “go back”, beyond the order of clearly defined dichotomies (the law of non-contradiction of course being one of them) towards a thinking inspired by the poets – who remain much closer to the unresolvable ambiguities of reality. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, by leaving the unavoidably sacrificial peace of a so-called ideal world order and philosophy behind, Heidegger’s philosophy at first could not resist the temptation of glorifying and unleashing the powers of violence as part of the “revelation of truth” (see his interpretation of the Greek aletheia). In a profound sense he continued the philosophical project begun by Friedrich Nietzsche, without however “moralizing” his ontology (in a renewed sacrificial hero-cult).

As far as I interpret and try to understand both Heidegger and Levinas, Heidegger considers violence (understood as the “struggle or concern for being”) as the basic answer to the ever-present possibility of death, while Levinas points to another possibility as far as human beings are concerned: the encounter with the Other (my fellow human being, my neighbor). In encountering the Other I discover my own struggle for being (against the fearful possibility of death) as a potential threat to the life of the Other. In other words, I get to know my own being as a potentially violent being. It is the “disinterested connection” to the Other – in other words “love without ulterior motives” – that both limits and opens up my struggle for being to a “being for the Other.”

Speaking with René Girard, it’s our mimetic (i.e. imitative) ability that connects us to the Other and that also allows us to discover the irreducible nature of the Other. True, it’s our mimetic ability that allows us to empathize with the Other, to “feel one” with the Other (to be able to “pretend” that we are the Other and to imagine what he feels, expects or desires we have to be able to imitate him). But on the other hand, the process of mimesis is only possible because of a distance, an insurmountable gap between myself and the Other, that is discovered precisely in the act itself of mimesis!

Because we are mimetically connected to each other, we are able to adapt ourselves to an image that we think would answer to the expectations of the other. When this becomes our main preoccupation, we reduce each other to mere means to fulfill a mimetically generated desire for recognition. Let me try to explain this a little better.

The originally disinterested connection to the Other (upon which all “interested” connections are – “parasitically, satanically” – dependent) might be corrupted when we imitate each other’s desires. It’s because you are (mimetically) able to identify yourself with the desires of others that you, first, might discover yourself as an object of (their) desire and, second, that you might discover someone else as well as object of (their) desire. Because your desire imitates (and is thus engendered by) the desires of others, your desire towards yourself as the object of the desires of others will generate admiration or envy towards that other who seems to be also desired by others. You’re not only mimetically able to identify with the desires of others to discover yourself as an object of desire, but you’re also able to mimetically identify yourself with an other who seems to posses the desire (and thus recognition) of others. What happens, time and again, is that we develop a desire to be like an admired / envied other. This implies that we cannot love ourselves anymore, but it also implies that we can no longer love the other. We often desire recognition, not for ourselves, but for the prestige we have constructed in jealously comparing ourselves – not to others, but to what we imagine about others. We, as human beings, don’t just want what we need, we want what seems desirable by others as well (the BMW instead of…), and this grants us prestige.

GoetheSee this insightful quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in his The Sorrows of Young Werther: We are so constituted by nature, that we are ever prone to compare ourselves with others; and our happiness or misery depends very much on the objects and persons around us. On this account, nothing is more dangerous than solitude: there our imagination, always disposed to rise, taking a new flight on the wings of fancy, pictures to us a chain of beings of whom we seem the most inferior. All things appear greater than they really are, and all seem superior to us. This operation of the mind is quite natural: we so continually feel our own imperfections, and fancy we perceive in others the qualities we do not possess, attributing to them also all (those talents) that we enjoy ourselves, that by this process we form the idea of a perfect, happy man, — a man, however, who only exists in our own imagination.

The Sorrows of Young Werther Goethe quote

As René Girard shows in discussing the presence of mimetic desire in groups of primitive humans, the mutually (mimetically) enforced competitive desire for prestige – mimetic desire, in short – might spread throughout individuals of the same group in such a way that the group finds itself in a veritable crisis wherein all differences disappear and each rival resembles the others more and more. The solution to this crisis might be the mimetic unification against one rival. Indeed, my (or another’s) rival might become the enemy of all if everyone imitates my enmity against that rival. The war of all against all becomes the war of all against one, and a new difference – a new foundation for further differences and order – is established. When the common enemy is banned from the group or even beaten to death, the scapegoat mechanism sets in. The group experienced turmoil as long as their victim was around, while, on the other hand, it experiences a renewed stability when the victim is no longer around or alive – the victim is present as dead. According to Girard, groups of primitive humans gradually projected their own violence unto the victims of group violence, wrongfully experiencing these victims as responsible both for crisis and the resolution of crisis.

Also gradually, primitive communities will associate new situations of disorder with the resurgence of a former victim of group violence. In other words, they experience a person who is not visibly present anymore, but whose presence is ‘felt’ in situations of turmoil. In other words still, one of the former victims of group violence has become a ‘ghost’ or a ‘god’. At the same time, primitive human societies also ‘learn’ that killing someone apparently restores order. So together with the belief in ghosts and gods considered responsible for all kinds of possible violent disasters, the belief originates concerning the effectiveness of sacrifices to restore, renew or keep order, life and stability in human society. If primitive societies would have seen that the victims of group violence are no more responsible for violence than other members of the group, they would not have developed these beliefs. Violence became something sacred because the victims of group violence were considered exclusively responsible for the violence they were associated with. Those victims were, in other words, scapegoats. [For more on Girard’s account on the origin of religion, click here].

Girard argues that all other associations regarding ‘the sacred’ rest on this first association between violence and divinized victims of group violence. Everything that can be associated with violence had the potential to become sacred or divinized as well. Sexuality became sacred. Indeed, sometimes males fight over females. Food became sacred. Indeed, people fight over food sometimes. Territory  became sacred. Indeed, people go to war sometimes because of territory. Nature as a whole became sacred. Indeed, natural disasters are ‘violent’ and provoke violence if they cause lack of food and water… And so the world and the experience of man became sacred. The ambiguity of the erstwhile victims of group violence also explains why gods have a ‘dual’, ‘ambiguous’ quality.They’re good and bad… Good aspects of the gods can be allowed in rituals, while bad aspects of the gods are forbidden and taboo. For instance, sacrifice is a form of ‘good’ (controlled) sacred violence to be distinguished from ‘bad’ sacred violence, which is to be avoided and is taboo…

Religions came and went, but the age-old associations regarding the sacred were transmitted down the generations, albeit in varying forms (human sacrifice becoming animal sacrifice, for instance). The Greeks still had Ares, god of war, as they had their goddess of love, Aphrodite. The Romans copied (indeed, ‘imitated’) the Greeks and spoke of Mars and Venus. Asked why they perform their rituals and sacrifices and why they respect their taboos, primitive societies always answer: “Because our ancestors did it, and because we have to respect the ghosts and the gods in order to sustain our community…”

The image or model for the cultural order in a particular society – with its particular taboos and rituals that have to be respected – rests on the wrongful perception of the victims of group violence. Human culture can be understood as the continuous attempt to justify the violent death (murder or suicide) of one (monstrous and/or heroic) member for the salvation of (the order in) a whole group. Christianity, however, undermines this justification. Christ is a victim of the same sacrificial system which grounds human culture, but he is said to be innocent! This allows human beings to discover the true origin of violence and crisis. It is not something “alien” that comes from the gods and is demanded or justified by them, it’s something that comes from (mimetic) interactions between human beings themselves. Hence the possibility of a “true” psychology, sociology and anthropology. The Christ event also allows human beings to (re)discover their own responsibility before each “Other” and to part ways with the justification of a sacrificial order – whether expressed in mythology or philosophy. In a paradoxical way, Christ invites us to imitate him and to sacrifice our sacrificial identity. Instead of just imitating and accepting a given order, we should ask ourselves at what (or better, whose) expense we continue this order.

One final remark. The abandonment of sacrifice to ground a given order is, as Girard has shown following Judeo-Christian revelation, deeply ambiguous: it allows for new types of competition, rivalry and even violence between human beings as it also allows for “Love born out of freedom” for each Other (true Love that is, not out of fear of not having an admirable “self-image”).

In short, the image of an ideal world – in whatever context of human life – results from mimetically mediated desires between human beings, and is, as we have said already above, essentially sacrificial. It does not only “forget” the “otherness” of the Other, but also the “otherness” of myself. To escape this mimetically generated tendency to (mentally and/or physically) “kill” myself and the Other in favor of the idol of “an ideal”, we should redirect our mimetic faculties to their origin: the mysterious, disinterested connection to the Other – Love. Historically, the Christ event unleashes the possibility of this redirection in a fundamental way.

Emmanuel Levinas Qote on Faith

Eugene Webb:

Lacan proceeded more directly from the tradition of Freud than did Girard, and he uses the imagery of sacrifice in a more positive way, but both can be interpreted as revisionist figures in the Freudian tradition. For both, desire tends to have a mimetic character, in that it is closely tied up with the perceived or presumed desires of others. Also for both, desire tends to be metaphysical, in that it generates a falsely conceived self. For Lacan, the false self is any object (a person or an image) in which the ego tends to lose itself through identification, but it is especially the objectified image of a self that forms in what Lacan termed “the mirror stage” of development, the child’s “jubilant assumption of his specular image.” Out of this enchantment by one’s own objectified image evolves what Lacan called l’imaginaire: a fundamentally narcissistic fascination that tends to draw all relationships into an unrealistic and futile striving for identification with an objectified “other” – one’s own self-image, or the mother, or some other object – in a sort of “fusional cannibalism.” In this process, the individual confuses his and the other’s desires, seeking to see himself as the object of the other’s desire and, by imaginative identification with that other, to desire himself with that same desire, so as to believe in his own reality as an object. Put concisely, the fundamental human temptation is to avoid the risk of being an actual subject by becoming an imaginary object. […] Despite Girard’s distrust of the language of sacrifice, there is a sense in which the transcendence Girard seeks of the self generated by mimetic desire could also be described as something like the sacrifice of a false self for the sake of discovering a new, true life animated by the spirit that was in Christ.

(Sandor Goodhart et al. (editors), For René Girard. Essays in Friendship and in Truth, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture Series, Michigan State University Press, 2009, p.151).

Wolfgang Palaver:

It was Eric Voegelin‘s comparison of Hobbes and Augustine that… opened my eyes and made me realize how far Hobbes had departed from Christian tradition. Voegelin’s insight – that Hobbes’s description of human nature is nothing but a description of pride, a “passion aggravated by comparison” – helped me to connect this departure with mimetic theory. Whereas Augustine distinguished the love of self (amor sui) from the love of God (amor Dei), Hobbes “threw out the amor Dei and relied for his psychology on the amor sui, in his language the self-conceit or pride of the individual, alone.” Christianity, in accordance with the biblical Revelation, always emphasized the human orientation primarily toward eternal or heavenly transcendent goods – especially the love of God – to avoid the lethal trap of mimetic rivalry following the soul’s longing for temporal goods. Both Augustine and Hobbes were aware how much human violence is rooted in mimetic rivalry. But it was only the Church Father who realized that there is a way out of this deadlock – namely, by searching first for the kingdom of God. This is the same insight that is expressed in the Ten Commandments. We are only able to follow the tenth commandment – the rule against mimetic rivalry – if we obey the first commandment and overcome idolatry.

(Sandor Goodhart et al. (editors), For René Girard. Essays in Friendship and in Truth, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture Series, Michigan State University Press, 2009, p.192-193).

Michael Hardin:

At the Cross, our god concepts die. The New Testament writers and early Church Fathers called this death of the god concepts the conquering of the satanic powers, the powers that rule human life. In the Cross of Jesus, the horizon of the kingdom of God’s love and forgiveness is opened and our self-understanding is transformed, as we relate no longer to the gods of this world but to the Creator of heaven and earth. […] We become those who no longer imitate the desires of the world, the kosmos structured on a dysfunctional logos (1 John 2:15ff), but instead, like Jesus, become those who seek God and God’s rule with a singular focus. This transformation does not remove us from the world but enables us to be active agents of the transforming character of the love of God in all our relationships. […] The New Testament writers perceived the great power behind the imitation of the love of God expressed in Jesus. To desire as Jesus desired is to desire the transcendent in the immanent neighbor, to recognize that love of God and love of neighbor form a unity that cannot be broken. Rather than separating theology and ethics, mimetic theory grounds each in the other in the redemptive event of the Cross.

(Sandor Goodhart et al. (editors), For René Girard. Essays in Friendship and in Truth, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture Series, Michigan State University Press, 2009, p.267-268).

René Girard in conversation with Michel Treguer:

MT: What do you think of the famous “death drive” introduced by Freud?

RG: It’s a good example of pointless complication. In my view, the death drive exists, but it is entirely linked to mimetic rivalry. Mimetic desire makes you into the rival of your model: you fight with him over the object that he himself pointed out to you. This situation reinforces desire and increases the prestige of the obstacle as such. And the supreme obstacle, of course, is death, it’s what can kill you. The death drive is the logical outcome of this mechanism. But Freud is unable to link this paradoxically narcissistic desire for a biological, inanimate state to the other phases of the process; nor even, to use his own concepts, to link it to the Oedipus complex, for example, even though he’s perfectly aware of the latter’s mimetic nature. He contents himself in some sense with adding an extra drive. This motley assemblage inspires awe in the credulous, but if it can be simplified, we have to simplify it.

MT: This is the question that comes to mind as I listen to you: “death drive” or “drive to murder”?

RG: [A pause] It’s the same thing! And eroticism tends toward both. Just think about the symmetry of the processes at play. Take Romeo and Juliet, who are defined perfectly by Friar Lawrence: “These violent delights have violent ends” (Romeo and Juliet, II, vi, 9). It’s always forgotten that Shakespeare starts by showing us the young Romeo madly in love with a woman who wants nothing to do with him. Shakespeare’s plays always contain things that contradict in specular fashion the conventional – and stubbornly romantic – image that, in spite of everything, we have of them. The cult of the obstacle drives human beings from their human condition toward what is most against them, toward what hurts them the most, toward the non-human, toward the inert, toward the mineral, toward death… toward everything that goes against love, against spirit. The skandalon that the Gospels speak of in relation to covetousness is the obstacle that is increasingly attractive the more it pushes you away. You want it because it rejects you. This seesawing back and forth between attraction and repulsion cannot fail to be mutually destructive and destabilizing at first, before leading to utter annihilation. Refusing God is the same thing because God is the opposite of the skandalon. God died for human beings. Remaining blind to God while going for the first super model who comes along – that’s what human beings do.

(René Girard, When These Things Begin, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture Series, Michigan State University Press, 2014, p.106-107).

In het tv-programma Reyers Laat van 2 mei 2013 werd speciale aandacht besteed aan… de Liefde.

Reyers LoveAls godsdienstleraar vind ik het interessant om te zien hoe een aantal inzichten die behoren tot de kern van het joods-christelijke denken ook aanwezig zijn in een seculiere context. Dat is niet zo verwonderlijk. Het gaat in de Bijbel, zoals in iedere grote spirituele traditie, om een zoektocht naar de uiteindelijke bestemming van mens en wereld, en die zoektocht vertrekt vanuit een karakterisering van “de mens”. Blijkbaar komen de pogingen van de Bijbelse auteurs om de mens en zijn voornaamste problematieken te karakteriseren overeen met de pogingen van hedendaagse menswetenschappers die hetzelfde doen. Bovendien verwijst psychiater Dirk De Wachter naar Emmanuel Levinas, een Franse filosoof inderdaad, maar vooral ook een joodse denker (ook bekend om zijn lezingen van de Talmoed). En dan is het natuurlijk al helemaal niet toevallig dat een Bijbelse antropologie doorklinkt in het spreken van dokter De Wachter. Het bleek voor de leerlingen uit de 6GRWIb, 6LAWIb, 6ECMT1, 6ECWI en 6ECWE aan wie ik vandaag lesgaf helemaal niet moeilijk om de overeenkomsten tussen de boodschap van de evangeliën en die van Clara Cleymans, Kristien Hemmerechts en Dirk De Wachter aan te duiden. Dank aan Reyers Laat voor het onverwachte didactische materiaal :)! Klik aan:


En voor wie wil weten hoe een godsdienstleraar een en ander over de liefde beschouwt vanuit het Nieuwe Testament, is er volgende link – een inkijk in mijn lessen :), jawel – klik aan:


In mijn boek, uitgegeven bij Averbode in 2009, worden deze thema’s verder uitgewerkt – klik hier voor meer informatie over Vrouwen, Jezus en rock-‘n-roll.

sacrificial peaceTot slot geef ik nog enkele citaten uit het gesprek. Wie het pdf-document gelezen heeft, zal merken dat de nieuwtestamentische opvatting over vrede aansluit bij de karakterisering van de liefde in het gesprek uit Reyers Laat.

De Jezusfiguur van de canonieke evangeliën heeft het niet zo begrepen op een “vrede” of “harmonie” die gebaseerd is op offers, op geweld. Hij heeft het niet begrepen op een slaafse gehoorzaamheid of blinde loyauteit aan een eigen “(familie)clan”, waarbij “de vijand” van die clan automatisch de vijand wordt van eenieder die ertoe behoort, zonder dat de vraag gesteld wordt of de clan het wel bij het rechte eind heeft.

I did not come to bring peaceDe Jezusfiguur uit de canonieke evangeliën plaatst een vraagteken bij relaties waarin conflicten niet op een vruchtbare wijze aan bod kunnen komen. Mensen kunnen pas “thuis” zijn bij elkaar als ze ook het verschil tussen zichzelf en anderen een plaats kunnen geven – en verschillen in opvattingen en persoonlijkheden zullen onvermijdelijk spanningen teweegbrengen; de kunst is om er op een creatieve manier mee om te gaan. Jezus brengt “het zwaard”, maar het is wel duidelijk dat hij dit niet letterlijk bedoelt als een oproep tot geweld – zie Mt10,34-36: “Denk niet dat Ik op aarde vrede ben komen brengen. Ik ben geen vrede komen brengen, maar een zwaard. Want Ik ben gekomen om een wig te drijven tussen zoon en vader, tussen dochter en moeder, tussen schoondochter en schoonmoeder; ja, huisgenoten worden vijanden.”

Put away your swordKortom, de Jezusfiguur uit de canonieke evangeliën pleit vóór de mogelijkheid van conflicten (als vruchtbare spanningen voortkomende uit het verschil tussen mensen), maar is tégen gewelddadige conflicten.

Enkele citaten uit het gesprek in Reyers Laat ‘Reyers Love’ (2 mei 2013)

Dirk De Wachter: “Mijn stelling is dat de duurzame liefde – niet de verliefdheid of het hormonale gebeuren – bestaat uit het erkennen van de ander als ander. Dat juist in het verschil, het onoverbrugbare verschil, de continuïteit zich stelt. Dat is een theorie die ik niet zelf heb uitgevonden, maar die komt van de Franse filosoof Levinas. Dus: de ander als ander, de ander niet willen veranderen; de ander niet willen maken tot wat ge zelf zou wensen, tot uw eigen beeld of verlangen, maar de ander ‘laten zijn’.

Hoe kan men de ander beminnen zonder hem of haar tot zijn bezit te maken? […] De geliefde wordt vandaag vaak beschouwd als een soort consumptieproduct – als iets dat men zich kan aanschaffen en dan naar zijn verlangen kan modelleren, en dan ook opzij zetten als het niet meer echt voldoet aan dat wat men zo graag zou hebben.

Het is bijna een noodzaak. Het is omdat de ander anders is dat er steeds een verlangen blijft. Het is in die onvervuldheid dat we steeds blijven doorgaan. Dat is de paradox.”

Clara Cleymans: “Liefde stoelt altijd op eigenliefde. Daar wil ik niet mee zeggen dat liefde zich zou baseren op egoïsme of narcisme, want dat staat daar natuurlijk haaks tegenover, maar wel dat ge uzelf moet respecteren en uzelf ergens moet graag zien om de juiste partner te vinden of om ‘juist’ lief te hebben.”

Dirk De Wachter: “Dat is zeer juist. Als de ander moet dienen om u goed te voelen, dan zit ge met een probleem. Maar als ge u goed voelt, en de ander kan ook zichzelf zijn, dan is er duurzaamheid – niet gegarandeerd want dat bestaat niet – mogelijk.”

Clara Cleymans: “Als ge uzelf niet graag ziet, dan kunt ge ook heel moeilijk alleen zijn, en dan vlucht ge vaak in iemands armen; en als liefde een vlucht wordt dan houdt het op om liefde te zijn. […] Ik denk dat elke relatie mis kan gaan bij een lage eigenwaarde, omdat het zo een lelijke symptomen heeft. Ge wordt vaak heel jaloers, ge wordt heel bezitterig, heel hebberig… Ge laat helemaal geen vrijheid naar uw partner toe. Maar ook, als ge uzelf niet goed voelt, dan bouwt ge soms een hele dikke stugge muur rondom u, en dan kunt ge niet in een relatie stappen want een relatie is juist een hele intieme vorm van communicatie – waar ge iemand toelaat in uw meest intieme, hyperpersoonlijke ruimte, en ge hebt een soort van openheid nodig daarvoor.”

Kristien Hemmerechts: “Je mag niet afhankelijk zijn van iemand. Je moet je eerst goed in je eigen vel voelen voordat je een relatie kan aangaan. Want anders ga je die ander gebruiken om dat gat in jou te vullen, om die leegte in jou te vullen.”

Als mensen elkaar niet herleiden tot een louter middel ter bevrediging van bepaalde behoeftes en verlangens, kunnen ze het onuitwisbare verschil tussen zichzelf en anderen op het spoor komen dat liefde mogelijk maakt als respect voor de ander als ander. Christenen herkennen daarin de werkzame tegenwoordigheid van de Geest Gods, die uit de gespletenheid van het verschil het scheppende Woord baart dat een mens tot zijn medemens spreekt.


“The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.”

Freeman John Dyson (born 1923).


I don't need youLast week, one of my pupils said something what countless others already said before him, and what countless others will repeat after him – it’s a cultural thing foremost, in our so-called secularized Belgian society:

“I don’t need any theological speculation. I’m an atheist. I don’t need God! I don’t need to go any further than psychology and the social sciences…”

In the same week, on Monday (April 15th, 2013), I read an article in the newspaper about a young professor who had tampered with data and search results (read the article here, in Dutch; for more information in English click here). He allegedly committed large-scale fraud, investigating the causes of epilepsy.

One might ask what one observation has to do with the other. Well, for one, it’s clear that the young scientist was especially interested in the things he needed to promote his career. His desire for recognition and for prestige became more important than science itself. He used scientific research as a means to another end, to satisfy his pride. In the end, he accomplished exactly what he was trying to avoid. Instead of promoting his career and his own future in academia, he ruined it. Jesus points to the tragic nature of attempts like these:

It is a strange desire... (Francis Bacon)For whoever wants to save their life will lose it… What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24a-25).

But there’s more. According to Christian tradition, whenever we are guided by pride we not only tend to ruin ourselves. We also tend to ruin our surroundings. Indeed, the young ambitious scientist violated the scientific truth in order to protect his self-image, next to endangering the career of his co-workers. Once again, the Christian tradition is spot-on: the person who cannot love himself, and seeks comfort in the creation of an admirable image, cannot truly love others, for he is primarily interested in others insofar as they are useful for developing and recognizing that image. Our desire for mutual, social recognition – understood as the ultimate goal of our efforts, which is vanity – often gets in the way of our capacity to perceive what is actually happening. This truth is retold in a magnificent way by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Precisely because we very often approach reality from the perspective of its eventual usefulness, and from the question whether we need it or not, we remain blind for a fuller understanding of reality. This one’s for my pupils:



For instance, if we only focus on the aspects of another person that seem useful to us, we might miss out on other aspects that can actually turn out to be more fundamental than the ones we’re focusing on. More generally, we might get a better picture of reality if we not only focus on purely scientific questions and explanations, but also deal with more philosophical issues and questions.

Rationality should not be restricted to scientific rationality. Actually, we never do this on a day-to-day basis. For instance, scientific rationality might explain why we become jealous sometimes, but we need the more philosophical rationality of ethics to discuss whether or not and to what degree jealousy is a good thing.

Ian Hutchinson on ScientismAnother example: scientific rationality might explain how the universe came into being, but we need philosophical rationality to deal with the question whether or not there is an ultimate purpose of “all that is”, whether or not there will be some “perfection” of the universe. Scientifically speaking, there is none, but it’s logically very debatable that the scientific answer is the only meaningful or true answer to this question. The belief that only scientific claims are true or meaningful is known as scientism, which is problematic. From The Skeptic’s Dictionary: “Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful. Thus, scientism is either false or meaningless.”

Again, in order to understand reality more fully – in its ethical, aesthetic, and mysterious (non-manipulable) aspects -, we might have to go beyond merely scientific concerns, and also go beyond our immediate “needs”. We might even have to pose theological questions. Moreover, it’s not because we can scientifically explain why we pose certain questions that these questions themselves can be answered by science. To “understand” reality is to contemplate it in all its aspects.

Science is but an image of the truth (Francis Bacon)It is no coincidence that, from a Christian point of view, there are prayers like the one ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi, containing the words:

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand…”

Although some consider it to be a sign of freedom to be able to approach reality from the perspective of their supposedly very own needs, desires and interests, this is actually a sign of enslavement…





“Need” is a complicated affair when it comes to humans.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) became famous for mapping our needs in a veritable Hierarchy of Needs – a five-stage model, originally. Once physiological and basic survival needs are met, other needs come to the fore. It is interesting to notice that Maslow characterizes the stages we normally associate with “human freedom” as “needs”. Although we might have the impression that we are free to choose whom we want to belong to, we didn’t choose the need to belong to a group or a person. The same goes for the two highest stages of human needs. We can seemingly choose the things that bring us self-esteem, status or prestige, but we can’t escape the desire for these matters. The biggest paradox, of course, is Maslow’s characterization of self-actualization as a need: we are bound to be free. In other words, reminiscing the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and other existentialist philosophers, we face the command to develop ourselves.

Several questions arise here, namely, how do we know who we are, who we want to be, how to gain prestige and self-esteem? René Girard’s answer is quite simple: we imitate others in modeling our desires, ambitions, and sense of self. More specifically those others we’ve (mimetically, i.e. imitatively) learned to appreciate and whose appreciation we’ve (again, mimetically) learned to desire.

As Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) pointed out time and again, we tend to approach reality as a whole and fellow human beings in particular from the perspective of our needs. We’re often interested in other people basically because they are experienced as “useful” one way or the other (as friends, as suppliers of security and/or happiness, as financial support, etc.). In fact, we tend to reduce others to their “usefulness”, and to apply this as a criterion to decide whether or not someone or something is valuable. Utilitarian ethics are actually an attempt to found morality on the tendency to focus on our needs. For instance, we should help the poor, not necessarily because we love them, but because not helping them could ultimately cause problems to ourselves. We “need” to help them because we – or the majority of human beings – benefit from it. On a collective level, helping the poor could be one of the roads to a more secure and safer world. On an individual level it could perhaps be a way to gain some status or prestige as “hero”.

Levinas fundamentally criticizes the utilitarian approach to reality. The Other, our fellow human being, our “neighbor”, transcends our needs and desires. If we reduce the Other to the question how he can be useful to us, we will never get to “know” anything about the Other. Moreover, before we can reduce the Other to his usefulness, the Other is simply there, and he might in no way answer to the demands of our actual needs and desires. On the contrary, the Other might reveal himself as a burden or even an enemy to our interests.

The same applies to reality as a whole. It is even said that “reality hits us” whenever we are confronted with aspects of it that we don’t need at all! Reality often reveals itself in shapes we failed to foresee or manipulate according to our needs.

The search for truth therefore begins with the question whether or not we can free ourselves partially from our immediate needs, and from the tendency to control our environment. Are we able to honestly face reality in all its fearful as well as promising possibilities? This is especially challenging in encountering the reality of other persons. For only if we become relatively free from our own needs, anxieties, interests, and prejudices, can we allow the other to freely approach us as “Other” – meaning that we don’t mold him according to the contours of our self-image and our desire for recognition.


It’s important to notice that, although Christianity reveals the pitfalls of our desire for recognition, it is not about sacrificing this desire. It’s about giving it the right place. I often explain this to my pupils by describing two basic types of students:

  • Student A is basically motivated by the desire to get good grades, because he believes these are his “ticket to paradise” (i.e. recognition by his parents and teachers, and all kinds of “rewards”). In other words, student A is only interested in his courses insofar as he can use them to gain an admirable self-image – which is his ultimate goal. He is guided by his pride. He has lost the capacity to enjoy many of the things he is doing, and that’s why he generally needs to be compensated for what he’s done. Kneeling to the idol of an admirable self-image, student A is no longer capable of loving himself, let alone love others (it’s the kind of student that will pay his teachers some respect because he expects some reward, but who will also tend to get angry if the reward is not granted – which means that his self-image is stained). He finds solace in the recognition for his good grades. However, while focusing on “getting to paradise” (or, in other words, while focusing on the desire to “save his life” and “get into heaven”), he’ll find himself less and less able to study properly, and his grades will go down (he’ll “lose his life” and “get into hell”).

G.K. ChestertonIn the words of the great and late Christian writer, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the situation of student A can be characterized as follows:

“The moment men begin to care more for education than for religion they begin to care more for ambition than for education. It is no longer a world in which the souls of all are equal before heaven, but a world in which the mind of each is bent on achieving unequal advantage over the other. There begins to be a mere vanity in being educated whether it be self-educated or merely state-educated. Education ought to be a searchlight given to a man to explore everything, but very specially the things most distant from himself. Education tends to be a spotlight; which is centered entirely on himself. Some improvement may be made by turning equally vivid and perhaps vulgar spotlights upon a large number of other people as well. But the only final cure is to turn off the limelight and let him realize the stars.”

  • Student B is basically motivated by the desire to know and understand his courses. As a consequence, he’ll often get good grades (“get into heaven”), but this never was his primary goal. Precisely because he considers his courses as ends in themselves, he’ll eventually get and enjoy recognition. Of course, being proud of an achievement is not a crime. It becomes malicious, though, when it is the goal and not the consequence of one’s actions.

Whenever Jesus talks about heaven or hell in the Gospels, he presents them as possible consequences of one’s actions and not as goals. He even says that we shouldn’t do good and help our neighbor in order to gain some kind of heavenly reward and to avoid hell, but that we should help our neighbor because of our neighbor (as end in himself). Then we’ll get “heaven” as a quite unexpected reward, as a logical consequence. The same reasoning applies to his approach of reality as a whole.

gun lobbyFalse prophets or false messiahs (in religion, politics, health care, etc.) are people who try to tell us what we need to get to paradise (a nice house, a good career, a healthy body, a safe but entertaining life etc.), and also scare us with the evil dangers that could send us to hell. They are doctors who constantly produce the disease they supposedly liberate us from. But, of course, they never really liberate us, for they are dependent on the disease to be able to manifest themselves as “liberators” or “messiahs”. They produce one self-fulfilling prophecy after the other. For instance, the more a gun lobby convinces us that we should protect ourselves with weapons to keep safe in an “evil, ugly world”, the more people will get killed because of gun fire, the more we will feel unsafe, the more the gun lobby will be able to convince us of “the unsafe world”, the more we buy guns, etc.

Jesus, on the other hand, points out that “Satan cannot cast out Satan”. We cannot free ourselves and the world if the means we use to make this world a better place actually (and tragically) continue the diseases we try to cure the world from. Contrary to all kinds of false prophets, he advises us – as a fundamental attitude towards life – “not to be afraid” and “not to worry” too much.

I guess he is right, also in the case of the two types of students.

In short,

  • Student A becomes a SLAVE of an ambition he has learned to aspire for himself. The system of “getting good grades” is more important to him than anything else in class. Everything, including himself, is subjected to this GOAL. Student A might become a scientific investigator who uses scientific research to promote his career and thereby satisfy his pride.
  • Student B remains FREE. The system of “getting good grades” is not important in itself. It is a means to check whether or not the studied courses are sufficiently understood. Student B might become a scientific investigator who really gets a better scientific understanding of reality, and therefore gets his academic career going as a logical CONSEQUENCE.

Student B imitates Jesus’ approach to all kinds of laws and regulations (more specifically the Mosaic Law in the case of Jesus). Jesus says that he didn’t come to abolish the Law just like that, but that he came to fulfill it, meaning that rules should always be relative to the end they help to accomplish. A system of rules and laws should never be an end in itself. It should be considered a means to another end. What counts for Jesus is love for one’s neighbor, and if rules become obstacles in accomplishing this goal, they should be adapted or even suspended.

Student B uses the grade system to get more information on his knowledge of the courses he’s presented with, because he tries to respect what the courses are saying (without, however, automatically agreeing with their statements). This indeed is analogous to Jesus’ approach of the Mosaic Law. Jesus tries to create mutual respect between fellow human beings, thereby constantly evaluating if regulations allow others to live fully. Jesus criticizes any use of the Mosaic Law that justifies the sacrifice of others to satisfy one’s (or a group’s) pride or self-image.

Mark 2:23-27 puts it this way – and I’ll leave it at that:

Jesus Lord of Sabbath (grainfield)One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

A while ago I had a conversation with two atheist colleagues of mine at the school where I’m teaching religion. I asked them the following question:

“Do you believe that things become valuable only if people accord them some value, and, on the other hand, that they no longer possess any value once people stop according them value?”

My colleagues answered: “Yes, we do…”

I went further: “So, if no one grants an individual any respect at all, including the individual himself, that individual actually doesn’t have any value? He’s worth nothing because no human being acknowledges him?”

They said: “Yes, of course…”

I’m sorry, but I cannot believe this. I cannot believe that the weight of what’s valuable and what’s not in the universe rests on our tiny, petty little shoulders. It’s too heavy a burden to be carried by mere mortals, who appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. I don’t believe that someone is worth nothing if he’s considered worthless by the human community, including himself. In short, I don’t believe, unlike the old Greek philosopher Protagoras, that “man is the measure of all things” in these matters.

Sir Thomas Browne on judging people

A person’s worth cannot be determined solely by human perception and judgment. Man is not simply the child of a “social other”, i.e. the product of a man-made social environment in which he gains or loses a sense of (self-) worth. He’s also, following the thoughts of people like James Alison and Emmanuel Levinas, a child of “the other Other”, and we should postpone any final judgment on other people and ourselves.

Theologically speaking, this kind of “eschatological reservation” is quite liberating, not just for ourselves, but also for our neighbors. The lurking alternative seems human totalitarianism, meaning the aspiration of man – on an individual or collective level – to have total control in determining what and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless. I’d say we better accept the limitedness of our existence, and leave the perfection of the world to “the Infinite One”, you know, “God”.

Unlike my atheist colleagues, I don’t believe we should try to occupy His kind of place. This unbelief makes me a believer, I believe… And indeed: “Every finite spirit believes either in a God or in an idol” (Max Scheler, 1874-1928). Right on, Max!

don't judge

“I hate all this philosophical mumbo-jumbo! It just doesn’t make any sense!”

I’ve experienced reactions like these from my students quite often while trying to teach them some philosophy. They express the normal frustration people get when they just don’t seem to succeed in mastering the issues they’re facing. To be honest, I more than once imitated their feelings of despair by getting frustrated and impatient myself about their inability to understand what I was trying to say. The story of students blaming teachers for not explaining things well enough, and of teachers responding that their students just don’t try hard enough, is all too familiar. But, at the end of the day, having worked through some negative emotions, I somehow always manage to sit down at my desk and try to improve upon my part of communicating. I can only hope it stays that way.

The writings of Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas are not always easy to understand, let alone agree with. Roger Burggraeve, one of my professors at the University of Leuven, has proven to be an excellent guide to introduce me to the philosophy of Levinas (click here for an excellent summary by Burggraeve). But explanations at an academic level are not always easily transferable to a high school level. Regarding Levinas I’m faced with the challenge to explain something about his thoughts on “the Other” and “the Other’s face”. Although Levinas’ musings often appear to be highly abstract for someone who didn’t receive any proper philosophical training, his thinking springs from very “earthly”, even dark realities and experiences – especially the experience of the Holocaust. Levinas’ response to the threat of totalitarianism is actually very down to earth, but because it wants to be “fundamental”, I can imagine it indeed sometimes comes across as mumbo-jumbo to sixteen year olds.

Luckily enough for me, as a teacher, an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (season 3, episode 12 The Cold War) can help to make clear what “the encounter with the Other” could be like in a particular situation. Moreover, it also serves as a good way to connect René Girard’s mimetic theory with some of Levinas’ main insights. Here’s the story:

Will and his nephew Carlton have a crush on the same girl, Paula. Carlton had been the first to date Paula, but after introducing her to Will, she also becomes Will’s object of interest. Will imitates the desire of Carlton and, upon noticing this, Carlton in turn reinforces his desire for Paula by imitating his new rival Will. This is a prime and archetypal example of what Girard has labeled mimetic (or imitative) desire, which potentially leads to mimetic rivalry. Will and Carlton become each other’s obstacles in the pursuit of an object (in this case a person, Paula) they point to each other as desirable. They become jealous of each other and try to out compete one another. They both fear the other as a threat to their self-esteem and independency. Ironically however, as they try to differ themselves from each other by unwittingly imitating each other’s desire, they resemble each other more and more. In fact, their sense of “being” becomes truly dependent on the other they despise. They end up dueling each other in a pillow fight, trying to settle the score.

At one moment, near the end of Will and Carlton’s fight, something happens which indeed illustrates what Levinas means with “response to the Other’s face” (click here for some excerpts from Levinas’ Ethics as First Philosophy). Will pretends to be severely injured (“My eye!”), whereon Carlton totally withdraws from the fight. Carlton finds himself confronted with Will’s vulnerability, and is genuinely concerned for his nephew’s well-being. The Other he was fighting turns out to be more than his rival, more than the product of his (worst) imaginations. Indeed, before being a rival the Other “is simply there“, not reducible to any of our concerns, desires or anxieties. Carlton is not concerned for his own sake: he doesn’t seem to fear any punishment, nor does he seem to desire any reward while showing his care for Will. He abandons all actions of self-interest “in the wink of an eye”.

This is an ethical moment, as Levinas understands it. It goes beyond utilitarianism which, as it turns out, justifies itself as being “good” by arguing that self-interest (i.e. what proves useful for one’s own well-being) eventually serves the interest (well-being) of others as well. Putting forward the effect on the well-being of others as justification for utilitarianism is telling, and shows that utilitarianism in itself doesn’t seem to be “enough” as a foundation for ethics. Moreover, utilitarianism serves the interests of “the majority”, which threatens to overlook what happens to minorities “other than” that majority. Sometimes sacrificing a minority might seem “logical” from this point of view. By contrast, in what is “the ethical moment” according to Levinas, one fears being a murderer more than one’s own death. In other words, provoked by the Other’s “nakedness” and “vulnerability” (the Other’s face which lies beyond our visible descriptions and labeling of the Other), OUR FEAR OF THE OTHER IS TRANSFORMED IN FEAR FOR THE OTHER. The mimetic rivalry between Will and Carlton is thus interrupted until, of course, Will reveals he was only joking about his injury… and the pillow fight continues.


Eventually, Will and Carlton quit fighting and start confessing their wrongdoings towards one another. They no longer imitate each other’s desire to assert themselves over against one another, but they imitate each other in being vulnerable and forgiving, recognizing “each Other”. They imitate each other’s withdrawal from mimetically converging desire and rivalry. It is by becoming “Other” to one another that they paradoxically gain a new sense of “self”, as an unexpected consequence…

Enjoy that grand twist of humor in Will Smith’s unexpected philosophy class…


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Al te vaak berichten de media over verregaand en ontoelaatbaar pestgedrag in onze samenleving. Ik vind het dan ook belangrijk dat zeker het pedagogische veld blijvend aandacht schenkt aan dit fenomeen en het ook aanklaagt. Voor het maandblad van onze school (Sint-Jozefscollege, Aalst) schreef ik onlangs een artikel over pesten waarin ik tracht te achterhalen welke visie op mens, samenleving en – soms ook – god ten grondslag ligt aan deze eeuwenoude, schijnbaar onuitroeibare menselijke kwaal. Tegelijk stel ik een aantal vragen bij dit mens- en maatschappijbeeld, en ik laat mij daarbij inspireren door de joods-christelijke traditie, meer bepaald door de bijbelse geschriften. Deze traditie, dit ‘christelijk verhaal’, klaagt onder andere de vanzelfsprekendheid aan waarmee het lijden van mensen wordt gerechtvaardigd als ‘een noodzakelijk iets’, en daagt mensen uit om zich niet zomaar neer te leggen bij hun ‘lot’ of hun (maatschappelijke) ‘rol’.

Aan daders van kwaad vraagt het christelijk verhaal om vrij te worden en om de verantwoordelijkheid op te nemen voor hun eigen daden. Ze zouden zich voor hun misdrijven niet volledig moeten verschuilen achter goedkope excuses als ‘ik ben nu eenmaal zo, ik kan er ook niets aan doen…’. Daarnaast worden ook de slachtoffers van kwaad door het christelijk verhaal geappelleerd op hun vermogen tot vrijheid, om zich niet langer te laten definiëren door het kwaad dat hen overkomt.

Kortom, het christelijk verhaal wijst de mens op zijn mogelijkheid om te groeien en om zijn lot in eigen handen te nemen. Dat uit zich ondermeer in een gevoeligheid voor het lijden van slachtoffers en in een aanklacht tegen allerlei ‘rechtvaardigingen’ van dat lijden – zowel tegen louter religieuze als tegen maatschappelijke of ‘wetenschappelijke’ rechtvaardigingen.

Om het met de woorden van René Girard te zeggen, de grondlegger van de zogenaamde ‘mimetische theorie’: het christelijk verhaal keert zich tegen het ‘zondebokmechanisme’ waarin slachtoffers de schuld krijgen van het lijden dat hen overkomt. De ontmaskering van het zondebokmechanisme is één van de belangrijkste uitingen van een Liefde die mensen drijft voorbij min of meer spontane (en even vergankelijke) gevoelens van empathie (met vrienden en ‘bondgenoten’) en afkeer (tegenover zogenaamde ‘vijanden’).

Uiteindelijk geloof ik dat ‘het Laatste Oordeel’, de finale lotsbestemming van ieder mens, bij die Liefde ligt. Een Liefde die slachtoffers, eens gepercipieerd als ‘(zonde)bokken’, rehabiliteert als witte ‘lammeren’ die eindelijk het verhaal van hun ‘eigenlijke’ leven kunnen schrijven…

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Over oordelen en laatste oordelen bij de dood van een moegetergde jongen

(LEES HET BIJGEVOEGDE ARTIKEL – klik op Kanttekeningen bij een ideologisch atheïsme)

Gisteren, dinsdag 29 maart A.D. 2011, mocht ik als godsdienstleraar deelgenoot zijn van een deugddoend, inspirerend en hoopgevend gebeuren. Sinds kort komen enkele leerlingen van onze school, uit het laatste jaar van de humaniora, om de twee weken samen om van gedachten te wisselen over een vooraf gelezen, korte filosofische tekst. We bespraken, gisteren op onze tweede bijeenkomst in het licht van een eerste lentezon en op het nog bedauwde gras in het stadspark van Aalst, een tekst van de Duitse filosoof Max Scheler (1874-1928).

Grote denkers laten steeds een glimp zien van de potentieel humaniserende kunst van het filosofische vragen. Bij Max Scheler is dat niet anders. Het fragment uit zijn Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik, in een Nederlandse vertaling weliswaar, wees ons op het onherleidbare en ‘transcendente’ karakter van morele waarden. Tegelijk waarschuwde Scheler in zijn tekst voor de verleiding van een totalitarisme – waarbij ‘het goede’ onterecht vereenzelvigd wordt met een bepaald systeem, of zelfs met een bepaald persoon.

In de woorden van Scheler zelf: “Wanneer men de zedelijke waarden goed en kwaad bindt aan dingen buiten de wereld van de waarden, zoals bijv. aan een aanwijsbare lichamelijke of psychische toestand, of aan het lidmaatschap van een stand of een partij, dan spreekt men over ‘de goeden en gerechtigen’ als over een objectief definieerbare klasse. Op die wijze vervalt men steeds in een of andere vorm van farizeïsme. Het identificeert de dragers van ‘het goede’ en hun groepskenmerken met de waarde zelf van het goede, ja zelfs met het wezen van de waarde als zodanig ofschoon zij in feite enkel als dragers van de waarde fungeren. De uitspraak van Jezus: ‘Niemand is goed behalve God alleen’, is juist tegen ‘de goeden en gerechtigen’ gericht. Hij wil niet zeggen dat er geen enkel mens goed is, in de zin van: er bestaat niemand met goede eigenschappen. Hij wil enkel zeggen dat het goede zelf nooit kan bestaan in een begrippelijk bepaalbare eigenschap van een mens.”

Onze bijeenkomst gisteren motiveerde mij om een tekst te herwerken waar ik sinds vorige week aan schrijf. Naar aanleiding van het voorstel van Patrick Loobuyck om de confessionele keuzevakken op school te vervangen door één ‘neutraal’ vak levensbeschouwing, ben ik wat dieper gaan graven naar de vooronderstellingen van een bepaald atheïstisch discours. Ik denk dat in dergelijk discours de transcendente, onherleidbare, ‘oncontroleerbare’ en ‘niet zomaar in categorieën in te passen’ dimensie van de werkelijkheid vaak vergeten wordt. Als zodanig wordt dit discours dogmatisch en ideologisch.

Vandaag heerst vooral de neiging om alles te herleiden tot iets dat marktwaarde heeft. Niet alles is echter onmiddellijk nuttig, nodig, of ‘te managen’. Af en toe mag het verwijlen bij de onzekerheid van onze zekerheden ons, vanuit dit bewustzijn, op het spoor van een ‘belangeloos’ genieten zetten waarin de dankbaarheid heerst. De bijeenkomst van de leerlingen gisteren beschouw ik als een kleine, stille en vreedzame revolte tegen het vertoog in onze samenleving dat de stem van de reflectie vaak afdoet als ‘overbodig gezwets’, en dat alles wat niet direct efficiënt is gemakkelijk waardeloos acht. Een verdere uitwerking van het specifieke discours waarbij vraagtekens geplaatst worden, is te lezen in het bijgevoegde artikel – zie bovenaan deze post of klik hier de titel aan:

Kanttekeningen bij een ideologisch atheïsme.

Ik dank Ilias, Bert, Alexander, Freija, Jonas, Tijs, Matthias, Dries, Elly, Siemen, Astrid en Willem alleszins voor hun inspirerende impulsen.