Over 30 years ago the now infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" took place. Currently I am about 50% of the way through "The Lucifer Effect" by Philip Zimbardo. Here is a link to the website of the study.
At this point I want to just share that it is a rather chilling book and experiment that took place. It really makes me consider how powerful different situations are that they can influence normally rational and "good" people to act in very evil ways. The systems are very powerful and often unseen or not understood. Rather these systems are seen as the norm and what is expected.
While I do not feel I need to give a book report on this, there are already tomes on that, I do what to share a connection I see with situational pressure and Girard's take on the power of the mob to find a scapegoat.
We live in a world that, I believe, is duped into believing the only way to get "real results" is to do so by way of force. So we bomb enemies. We kill the murders. We cast out the social deviants. We dehumanize those we project as "illegal" immigrants. We blame one person (the president) or one company (BP) when something goes wrong as having sole responsibility for the problem. Indeed we live in a world that has been duped into believing this is how you get "results" and "progress". These systems of victimizing, killing, blaming and casting out are what Girard might call "Satan" and Zimbaro might call it "Lucifer". I believe this to be the case as well.
This powerful Satan/Lucifer system is what allows people (who are created by God and called "Very Good"), to act in ways that are not of God and not "very good". It is this system that allows the Holocaust or the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or the killing of 'witches'. It is what will make people electrocute strangers to the point of death and beyond.
Do not underestimate the power of the situational forces, this Satan/Lucifer effect. Do be quick to think that you are able to overcome it on your own. Do not be quick to that you would not be like the guards at Abu Ghraib or the one who stood up for those accused of being witches. It is vital for all of us to remember that it is easy for us to "know" what we would do - hypothetically. But when it is only when we are "in the middle of" a situation that we actually know our response. And at that point, it may be difficult to see that you might be doing something very wrong.
This is one of the reasons why those of us who identify as Christian practice prayer. It is so that we can connect with those for which the power of Satan/Lucifer have not been able to overcome. It is in the act of prayer that we can begin to see how we might be caught up in a very violent act or participating in an act that is counter to our "Very Good" natures and destroying that which God loves.
A footnote in order to perhaps cut off a potential rabbit trail...
I know there are people out there who disagree that humanity is "very good" at the core. I know that you can cite scripture - as I can - for support. We can debate that topic another day. The point of this post is to invite all of us to consider how we may be duped into believing acts of violence are the "way to get things done". It is also an invitation to consider how we may be too quick to judge those who do "evil" as we truly do not know what we would do in the same situation until we are in that situation.