Jesus as Scapegoat by Richard Rohr


Jesus on the cross echoes three healing images: the Passover lamb, the “Lifted-Up One,” and the scapegoat ritual. The third symbol deserves a deeper exploration because it is central to understanding how Jesus resets the pattern of history. We’ll spend this week looking at Jesus as scapegoat before we move on to the promise of resurrection.
Humans have always struggled to deal with fear and evil by ways other than forgiveness, most often through sacrificial systems. Philosopher René Girard (1923-2015) saw the tendency to scapegoat others as the primary story line of human history in every culture. [1] Why? Because it works, and it is largely an immediate and an unconscious egoic response. The scapegoat mechanism was ritualized by the Israelites, as we’ll see tomorrow (see Leviticus 16:20-22).
If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness!
Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at the immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good, the worthy, the pure, the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. At this level, they export the natural death instinct onto others, as though it’s someone else who has to die.
As long as you can deal with evil by some means other than forgiveness, you will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. You will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within and “weeping” over it within yourself and all of us. The longer you gaze, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling you are on higher moral ground. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other; I must access God in myself; and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “Enforcer.”

References:

[1] I highly recommend James Alison’s exploration of René Girard’s work, particularly Alison’s four-part study series Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice (DOERS Publishing: 2013), http://www.forgivingvictim.com/.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 193-194.

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Richard Rohr: “Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation” | Talks at Google

Father Richard Rohr visits Google to speak on his new book, Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation. Father Rohr highlights his unique ideas on how to have a relationship with God in the modern day and how religious people can be respected for having a “mystic worldview” in a scientific world. If you can’t find the time to watch the full version – forward to the final 10 minutes for an awesome summation.

 

On Human Creeds and Such…

All creeds are human attempts to capture in human words the experience of the divine. The words we use to describe the divine will differ in every generation. There is no such thing as an unchanging universal language. No one can be bound by the words of a generation that no longer exists and that includes the words of our creeds. God is a living experience and talking about that experience will take different forms in every generation. None of those forms will ever be ultimate nor will any of them ever capture truth for all time. Words like infallible and inerrant have no place in the Christian vocabulary. – Bishop John Shelby Spong

Thankful

This song by Carole Bayer Sager was sung as a solo on Christmas Eve. What a perfect song for this special night. It not only spoke to me but also to my teenage daughter. Making it all the more special to me. I hope it does the same for you.

Somedays we forget
To look around us
Somedays we can’t see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Look beyond ourselves
There’s so much sorrow
It’s way too late to say
I’ll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
It’s so long overdue

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And every day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Even with our differences
There is a place we’re all connected
Each of us can find each other’s light

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more

There’s so much to be thankful for

Songwriters: SAGER, CAROLE BAYER / FOSTER, DAVID W. / PAGE, RICHARD J.