For his final talk for the CO All In Conference, Joe Rigney walks his audience through the fourth chapter of Genesis. Presenting an interesting twist on the story of Cain and Abel, Joe talks about the presence of “mimetic desire” between two individuals. Mimetic desire is a phrase used to describe the desire that one has for an object, based on the sole reason that a model (or another individual) desires it.
In its positive form, mimetic desire is a kind of bond that friendships can be based upon. The desire for the object is multiplied by the friend’s desire for it, and the friendship with that person grows. In its negative form, this kind of wanting usually has very little to do with the actual object, but the social stigma behind having the object.
Joe argues that negative mimetic desire is what Cain was displaying when he wanted God’s acceptance, did not receive it, and ultimately killed his brother, Abel, because of it. To further his point, he applies this to relationships within Christian community.
The challenge for us is distinguishing why we desire what we do. Are we wanting God because of the community we are in, or somebody else wants him? Are we content when good things happen to our friends or rivals? Through these challenges, we are reminded of the gospel, that God’s acceptance frees us from following suit to please others or desire things because of others.