Friday, April 9, 2010

And Yet More About Scapegoating....

This is my third attempt at "reiteration"....but somehow through a fluke in computer technology, I  lost both previous attempts. Truthfully, I'm pretty sure both involved human error...I forgot to save one attempt.  Duh.  The other, I was dinking around with a new (to me) program, Mozilla's scrapbook, and somehow erased what I had written.  I try to tell myself that God did the erasing for one reason or another but it still pisses me off.  So I'll try for the third time to "reiterate."  It will either be "the third time is the charm" or "three strikes and you're out."

So, again...societies/cultures/religions are often (always?) founded by a violent act spurred on by the collective rage of a group caught up in the frenzy of mimetic rivalry. It is at the point when conflict has escalated to a fever pitch and the survival of the group is in jeopardy that the scapegoating mechanism is triggered. The all against all becomes all against one. The attention of the group focuses on a scapegoat. Usually the scapegoat is killed...sometimes  banished....sent away.  And it works.  Peace reigns, the scapegoat is deified. The founding myths of most cultures hide the violent act but it cannot be completely covered up.  It is however, hidden, glossed over, reworded, downplayed.  It is instinctively hidden because once scapegoating is acknowledged for what it is....once the participants see the truth it no longer works.  They must "know not what they do" in order for scapegoating to bring (a fragile and temporary) peace.

And while the origin of many societies/cultures/religions are based on a founding myth (act of scapegoating) there have been countless....COUNTLESS...."smaller" acts of scapegoating down through the ages and also in our day to day lives.  We all do it to some degree or another. And with today's advanced technology truly making it a  "small,small world" there is mimetic rivalry and scapegoating taking place on a planetary scale. Girard's latest book paints an ominous picture of what will happen to mankind if we don't wake up and see what is right under our noses. 

We are the ones steeped in sacrifice. Every human culture down through the ages has instituted sacrifice...taking it to heinous degrees....even sacrificing their children.  I don't think Girard's theory is the end all, be all explanation to this inclination within us but it is a huge chunk of the puzzle and helps us to see the dirty little secret hidden in mankind's collective closet.  Our inclination to sacrifice another to bring peace to our turmoil, to assuage our appease the angry deity (who, by the way is us.  We are the angry deity) 

And according to Girard, the Bible stands alone as the only sacred writing that holds the mirror up to our blood streaked faces and forces us to see the truth...a truth we would rather not see. A truth we refuse to see.  So scapegoating goes on to this very day....all around us, at home, at work, in our our cities, in our states...around the globe.  I will delve into this day to day, nitty gritty aspect of scapegoating at some point but in this post I want to focus on the bigger picture and how scripture stands alone in its progressive revelation and condemnation of sacrifice.  In a news article written about Girard the following quote caught my eye

"The first culture which rebels against that system is the Jewish culture," Girard said. He explains that the Bible is actually counter-mythical. Over a period of centuries, the books of the Old Testament begin to catch on to mankind's scapegoating mechanism. While they describe and even celebrate violence, they gradually begin to question and fight it as well.  

We can clearly see this back and forth condemnation/celebration of violence and sacrifice in the Old Testament.  Mixed in with the celebration of violence and the commands surrounding sacrifice is the condemnation of those same practices through the voice of several of the prophets as they express God's disgust with the sacrificial system.  This back and forth between the two points of view is what I think Girard means when he talks about "text in travail."  I think the detailed "who, what, when, where, how and why" directives in the Old Testament concerning sacrifice were not God's way of instituting sacrifice, but rather a step in the process toward eliminating sacrifice. 

The many rules and regulations laid out in the OT (Leviticus especially comes to mind) were to limit sacrifice..not initiate it.  It was not as easy to grab a dove or a lamb (or first born child) and drag it to the altar with so many requirements and sacrificial red tape! 

And again...the Bible stands alone in its progressive dogged determination to expose sacrifice and scapegoating for what it really is. While the Bible does not provide its truths in Sparks' Notes bulleted summaries that hit all the talking points, the truth is there.  And this particular truth was spoken through the Psalms and repeated by Jesus himself. 

I will proclaim what has been hidden since the foundation of the world. – Matt. 13:35

That is Jesus rephrasing Psalm 78 a bit

Listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—

Mimetic rivalry and scapegoating are as old as time....hidden since the foundation of the world.

At least that is how I see it.  Some might argue this point, but I think we all pick and choose which Bible verses to believe... by.  You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say and support whatever pet doctrine you might hold near and dear simply by focusing on the verses that fit your particular theology.  This, of course, includes me...

More pn all of this in my next post.....

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