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Are Christians scapegoats?

goat 380SXRegular columnist John Myhill has been reflecting on Leviticus 16, and feels that Christians have become scapegoats for the woes of the world.

 
Scapegoating within a group necessitates that in-group members settle on one specific target to blame for their problems. Scapegoating is also more likely to appear when a group has experienced difficult, prolonged negative events (as opposed to minor annoyances). When negative conditions frustrate a group's attempts at successful acquisition of its most essential needs, like spiritual food and group cohesion; then groups develop a compelling, shared ideology that, when combined with social and health pressures, may lead to scapegoating and even exclusion.
 
Scapegoating can also cause oppressed individuals to attention seeking behaviour; which in turn produces further attempts to exclude the scapegoat.   
 
This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are content that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. The keyword here is "content". Scapegoating serves as a temporary psychological relief for a group of people.
 
This is what happened to Jesus. He was both the goat who took the sins of the people away from them, and the goat who was killed, and whose blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant, making the old rituals unnecessary, (Hebrews 9:11-14).
 
In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, He is shown to be an innocent victim; humanity is thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken. Anyone who truly follows His way will find others following this lead, but when the swarm grows too large, those who hold power in the world of material consumption will feel threatened, and seek to make that leader a scapegoat for their failings.
 
The Christian church favours social institutions that emphasise the quality of community, human equality, individual well-being and the environment.  This goes against economic development driven by increasing consumption of energy and materials.  Thus Christianity is seen as at odds with free market economics of boom and bust, and the concentration of power in the hands of a few multi-nationals.  Worldwide we have seen Christianity used as a scapegoat, with individual Christians excluded or even killed. Blessed are the persecuted (Mathew 5: 11-12). Every time the market crashes, Christians are likely to be scapegoated, so that those in power can retain their positions and avoid accepting responsibility for the crash.
 
After the last market crash, it seems that our government focused on the poor and those unable to work as potential scapegoats for the gambling of the rich.  In the process of cutting back on essential health and financial support for the poor, those with nothing seek help from the churches.  This places a huge burden on Christians.
 
But it is worse than this.  If the churches successfully deal with the poor, governments can cut essential health and financial services even further.  But if the churches become overwhelmed and try to exclude those seeking help, we can be accused of scapegoating, of lacking compassion, of failing to live up to our beliefs.  Either way, Christians will be painted as failures, numbers will fall, and we will become more vulnerable to persecution by the state.
 
The Perfect Swarm” by Len Fisher and “Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems” by John H. Bodley may help, but it is all in Leviticus, the Gospels and Hebrews.

The goat image is courtesy of jens0815 from http://www.freeimages.com/
 



JohnMyhill450John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/

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