Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gay Bashing for God (Isaiah 53:4-5)

                Yet you bore our illnesses
                   and carried our suffering.
                We thought you were being punished,
                   struck down by God, and brought low –
                but it was for our offenses that you were pierced,
                   for our sins that you were crushed;
                upon you lies a chastening that brings us wholeness,
                  and through your wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5

It is very human to project our personal failures onto others. The Sacred in another time and understanding made room for this dynamic. Allowing the people of God, through their priestly representative, to lay hands on a goat and transfer all of the people’s failures and foibles onto the animal. This goat became the scapegoat. Its release into the wilderness carried the nasty and ugly projections away from the community.

Over the years we exchanged the goat for humans and release for death. Nothing short of blood atonement can satisfy our hatred of ourselves. Reflecting on this dynamic the French philosopher ReneĆ© Gerard suggests the cultural purpose of religion is to give holy blessings upon the scapegoats of society. Even non-religious folk find it easier to kill others if there is a tacit agreement that universal-common-sense sanctions’ the violence of society.

The history of the U.S. is riddled with scapegoats. The “witches” of Salem took the brunt of the fears and failures associated with American Indian uprisings of the time; American Indians themselves were viewed to be in a pact with Satan as they fought to defend their homeland; the character of African-Americans was labeled “primitive” so that European society need not be bothered with the heinous legacy of slavery. Then there is the queer - we have been blamed for a host of problems related to the decline of Western power.

The servant of this passage is a scapegoat: infirmed, diseased, stricken, afflicted, wounded, crushed, punished, and bruised. I do not know of a more apt description of our experience. The scandalous insight of Isaiah is that far from being an abhorrent enemy of God, the scapegoat is an instrument for healing. Those that society deems to be the worst of sinners turn out to be the closest to the heart and ways of the Holy.

Jesus seemed to be attuned to this dynamic when he said, “You are fortunate when others insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Hmm – Jesus a scapegoat just like “witches,” “savages,” “niggers,” and “fags.”




4 comments:

  1. And as the scapegoat...the hapless victim onto whom all humanity pours out its self-loathing...its hatred...He receives it unconditionally...for the Father stands with Him...the only Being who can possibly absorb this hatred...neutralize it with unconditional love and forgiveness...bringing us to reconciliation with Him...salvation...out of which everlasting good is reborn with the Son's resurrection...evil...death have no everlasting authority...power over us...Amen

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    1. That certainly is one interpretation of the death of Jesus. I admit, I personally find nothing redemptive or praise worthy of death. I guess I'm more like the Orthodox side of the family that sees salvific efficancy not in the cross but in the resurrection - but then that is an interpretation :)

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  2. I marvel at how people use the internet to spread their own fears and hatred, and label it as "someone else's fault." For what else are you doing? Misrepresenting history to blame others for your lack of acceptance.

    History lesson:
    Slavery didn't begin with white Europeans capturing black Africans, it was common practice for black Africans to enslave other blacks, Indians to enslave other Indians; Arabs, Persians and Romans to enslave anyone and everyone they could conquer.

    Salem witches the scapegoat for Indians fighting for their homeland? Hardly. North American natives fought each other for territorial dominance and hunting rights centuries before white settlers arrived on the northeast coast of North America. Unlike even the Central American indigenous populations, they had no concept of geopolitical boundaries and land ownership - most were largely nomadic, and were not even remotely generous with the bounty of their land as to universally share with other tribes and cultures. They took captives, forced them to work as mistreated slaves until too feeble to be productive, then either sold them off for trade or murdered them, often for their own amusement.

    The treatment and blame of gays is despicable, but this nonsensical and stereotypical attempt to brand everyone else lacks wisdom and truth. You can do better than this. Don't become what you deplore.

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    1. Anonymous - I totally agree. I have not forgotten Jesus teaching about the speck of dust and the log, or Paul's warning that we have all sinned. I never claim purity of one group.

      I have found that to stop at the point of claiming our cruelty - as in all people of cruel to one another - doesn't move the dialogue forward. I think the principals of restorative justice can lead help break the impasse. This approach to justice indicates that for true restoration to take place then those who have been victimized should speak their truth at the table with those they deem the perpetrators. The purpose is to help the perpetrators understand how their actions have impacted the victim. This was the road to restoration that South Africa chose after the dismantling of apartheid.

      It does not mean that one group is less sinful or less tainted then the other. It does mean that one group has a voice that hasn't been heard. That the unheard voice does need to speak up - no matter how shaky or non-learned.

      Often - particularly when we identify with the perpetrators - it is a hard thing to listen to such voices. But if it was easy, blogs such as this wouldn't exist.

      The dialogue which sexual minorities have been deprived from having is now full blown in the public arena. Some people are totally surprised by what is being said. Even see it as you have. That's okay, for this reaction is also a part of the dialogue. But let's make sure it's a reaction to further the discussion and not to shut it down.

      Thanks for sharing.

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