on aggression

Yesterday I was reading Konrad Lorenz's book, On Aggression, a study of aggression among members of the same species. A good meditation on the day we remember Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of the mob.

Interestingly, the book presents a strong case for the naturalness and even the positive value of aggression. How aggressive behavior in animals drives them apart, preventing overcrowding and exhaustion of local resources, thus improving chances for survival. And how aggressive "challenges" are used to establish hierarchy in a social group, which helps all members find their roles and know who to follow as the leader of the group. This makes sense to me.

Lorenz also explored how strong cultural customs (rituals and taboos) serve to control aggression within a social group. So these are considered very important, even sacred. When these are ignored or flouted, that behavior is seen as an act of aggression in itself.

This helps us understand the response when Jesus entered the scene and started reinterpreting Jewish laws and challenging social customs. He was seen as a threat. And attacked aggressively, for the (supposed) good of the society:

"If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." (Jn 11.48-50)
And it does seem quite reasonable to perceive Jesus' influence and teaching as a threat to the order of society, at least the order of any natural (hierarchical, survival-based) society.

So if such aggression is natural, and even helpful for survival, why would Jesus come challenging it, preaching another way? Why "love your enemy," "turn the other cheek"?

More tomorrow...