The Scapegoat


Sometimes a line leaps from the page to arrest me.

“Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor.”

Sitting in the pew the week following the horrors of Charlottesville, this line from the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving of the sacrament of holy communion begged for deeper reflection.

Who were the outcasts, sinners, and sick people on the streets of Charlottesville? Who were the outcasts, sinners, and sick watching the news, tweeting, texting, yelling, screaming, retreating, turning off, tuning out? Who were the poor waiting good news?

Surely, I’m not poor. Am I? I love the outcasts, the sinners, the sick, don’t I, Jesus? I am among the counter-demonstrators, the despisers of white supremacy, the champions of racial equality, the scorners of the KKK and their white supremacist and white nationalist cousins. My anger boils over watching these sick people turning back the clock.

Preparing for the bread and cup, I am aware of my poverty, my thirst for good news. Failing, or refusing, to see the faces and listen more carefully to the shouting of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, I have cast them out as hopeless sinners: the outrageously sick representatives of white supremacy, America’s original sin.


“Christ of St. John of the Cross” – 1951, Salvador Dali 

I consider not receiving communion today.

Then I recall René Girard‘s work on the crucified Jesus as the scapegoat whose life, death, and resurrection dismantles the scapegoat mechanism of religion and society.

“Everywhere and always, when human beings either cannot or dare not take their anger out on the thing that has caused it, they unconsciously search for substitutes, and more often than not they find them.”
René Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes

I ponder the ways capitalism turns us against each other: privileged and poor, insiders and outcasts, scapegoaters and scapegoats, sheep and goats — the company of sinners in need of the better news that there is, in reality, no division among us.

I remember Salvador Dali’s painting of the cosmic Christ and read again the lines of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving:

“Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor.

“He [the Scapegoat] yearned to draw all the world to himself, yet were heedless  of his call to walk in love.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 23, 2017

8 thoughts on “The Scapegoat

  1. This is very involved, it seems to me. The Nazis, white supremacists, etc. are scapegoating many, including POC, the educated, the lying media, Democrats, liberals, you name it. I start by blaming them directly — it’s all their fault! Then I think again. What group may well have thought, “How can we keep people credulous enough to believe we are helping them when all we want is tax breaks for ourselves?” A single answer to both: cut back education dollars to give more tax breaks to the extremely wealthy. Neat, isn’t it? Now, am I scapegoating again? I really don’t know. I *do* know that alternative facts are the devil’s work, though see below on my difference between truth and fact. If we could get really good public schools, or even just decent public schools back that might help. We also need to recognize and teach a truth I more or less discovered for myself, though I’m sure far better minds than mine discovered it long ago. There can be a difference between truth (some would say belief) and facts. The best example I know is the story of creation/evolution. (Here I digress: Go back all the way to the ball variously described as the size of an orange, a grapefruit, and a soccer ball, and probably other sizes that contained all the energy/matter in the universe as we understand it, and exploded in the “Big Bang”. I ask where did that ball come from? The only answer I have heard is “That is unknowable.” “Very well,” I answer, “then among other vague possibilities it is possible that a creative force I call God set it there”. End of digression, I hope.) So the creation story in Genesis may not be factual, but for me it states a clear truth: God created. If we could return to anything like a people that can both listen/hear, and say what they think/want/need…… so little hope for this. I am more and more afraid that we are headed for anarchy.
    Cheerful, aren’t I?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is, isn’t it, Carolyn. Very complex. Confounding. The Jesus story combines prophetic engagement with the powers of government and religion that combined to get rid of him, on the one hand, and the magnanimous outreach to those his society rightly viewed as the “despicables” (think Zacchaeus). Tyrants are well-schooled in use of the scapegoat mechanism. They use it to herd us into the collective, the mass of us against the “them”. But the same scapegoating happens among the best of us, the dismissal and objectivication of “the other” however we define it.


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