Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Still More - Scapegoating....

At the close of my last post I mentioned that many cultures and religions were started by a "founding murder" and I listed several examples.  If you are interested you can google any of them and get more information...

The articles I have been relying on to help solidify some of the thoughts in the churner from the far and wide, now and then, here and there reading I have been doing about Girard for the past few years talks about a specific example written by Gil Bailie:

Scapegoats then found, preserve, and unify culture. Countless examples can be found in antiquity; a graphic illustration is provided by Bailie’s in his examination of the decline of the Aztec God-king
Quetzacoatl, the feathered serpent whose reign ended soon after the arrival of a stranger (the god
Tezcatlipoca). “Like the Greek God Dionysus, the flamboyant behaviour of this strange and fascinating man plunged the society into social chaos. Eventually he was slain by the very crowd that had found him so intriguing (sounds familiar), a slaying that coincided with such a restoration of religious awe and social harmony that it was obvious to everyone that the one they had slain must have been a god. A cult dedicated to him arose and on its altars regular human sacrifices were offered.

Note that there are similarities there between Tezcatlipoca and Jesus....

The article goes on to tell more about the myth of Tezcatlipoca....how people followed him like a pied piper to the river  where they converged on a bridge....which collapsed under their weight

Like a bacchalian pied piper... Tezcatlipoca led his revellers out to the river. So great was the throng that the bridge collapsed under the weight and many people fell and were turned to stone.”

This is supposedly a mythical cover up for mob violence....

As Bailie notes, people who fall from a collapsing bridge don’t turn to stone. They are drowned or
crushed. “In many primitive societies, the most typical form of spontaneous violence involves the throwing of stones. Stones fly and people fall dead. When the mythological mind recollects the frenzy of a full-blown violent crisis, it muses (filters, enchants). Evidence of mob violence doesn’t always disappear, for if the myth is to serve as the ‘sound-track’ for future sacrificial re-enactments, these hints of violence cannot be altogether erased.”

After a number of incidents like the collapse of the bridge, the myth tells us that Tezcatlipoca spoke
to the community, now little more than a frantic mob, and tells them that to avoid future disasters
such as these, they should stone him to death (and they did). It was his presence he explains that caused such death and confusion. “Except in myth, people don’t ask to be stoned to death. In retrospect, the stoning of Tezcatlipoca would have been understood as having the god’s own warrant, for it is only in retrospect that the sudden peace that accompanied his murder had to be accounted for, and gods don’t die at the hands of mortals unless they want to.”(very prophetic)

Very prophetic, indeed.  In an article written by Mark Heim he asks the question:

Is Christ’s death unique? It is not, since it is crucial to the saving "work" of the cross to recognize that Jesus’ death is precisely the same as that of so many other victims. And yet by virtue of this identification it is unique because it is the one of all these deaths that have been happening from the foundation of the world that irreversibly shows us the sin in which we are every-where enmeshed and in which God has acted on the side of the victims.

So according to Heim, the circumstances of the crucifixion have to demonstrate all the major points of the scapegoating process so that we can easily identify them....so God, through Jesus, can finally repudiate this kind of sacrifice. In that way, the crucifixion is not unique.  In my next post, I will write more about the crucifixion and how Jesus mirrors other scapegoated victims down through the ages.  As Heim points out, it is imperitve that we make the connection...beyond any doubt....so that God can condemn the whole sordid process...... 

More tomorrow.....

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