“Why is this (scapegoating) dynamic so dominant? Here I go back to one of the great intellectual players in the 20th and 21st centuries, namely Rene Girard, the French literary theorist, who uncovered this dynamic (of scapegoating and human sacrifice). He did it through his study of Dostoevksy and Shakespeare and many others. He discovered what he called the “scapegoating mechanism.”
In a word, tensions arise within human communities rather naturally. What do we do to solve the problem? By this mechanism- and that word suggests it’s largely unconscious. In this mechanism, we choose someone to blame, someone to isolate, someone to ostracize, at the limit someone to kill. And we discharge our anxieties, our tensions, our fears onto that person or that group. In that process, Girard says, we come to a kind of peace, which is precisely why this activity is sanctioned so often by the state and religion. Why there’s a religious overtone. Think the Aztecs and the Romans as good examples. The movie, “The Lottery” too. Think of religious sacrifice to the gods.
Girard said that’s why it’s given this sanction. But then he discovered something else. He was born and raised a Catholic, but then lost it. But he rediscovered it when he read the Bible. In the Bible he saw- yes, indeed, this whole dynamic is on display. But the Bible also shows the way out. Because at the heart of the New Testament revelation you find indeed a scapegoated victim.
Caiphas says: “Wouldn’t it be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to be destroyed?” There’s the voice of scapegoating violence from ancient times to the present day.
But in the Bible, God is not sanctioning that act. In fact, God is identified with the scapegoated victim. In that, the scapegoating mechanism is unveiled, hence the revelation of Christianity for Girard. It’s unveiled and it’s disempowered. A new a vision of life emerges that is based on love and compassion and forgiveness and connection; and especially identification with the victim.
…. God help us when our society becomes post-religious. In a post-religious society, human sacrifice is not far behind.
Today we are running on the fumes of a Christian society.”