Scapegoats

As I read the Bible, there is a certain spiritual evolution that occurs. It seems that with a movement toward spiritual maturity, there is a shift from external religious experience to a more internal sense of spirituality. This theme runs throughout the Bible. In the 16th chapter of Leviticus God gives instructions for the celebration of the day of atonement. What draws my attention in this chapter are the two goats. One goat is used as a sacrifice to God, but the other has a unique purpose. This goat has all of the sins of the people symbolically put upon it’s head. It is then led out into the wilderness to wander and die. This is the origin of the term “scapegoat.” From a psychological perspective, this action allowed the people to externalize their guilt, shame, anger, and negative emotions by projecting them onto this goat and sending it into exile. It was a mechanistic system lacking in grace. Curiously, we do the same thing in this day and age with people. We project our darkness onto others and then send them into “emotional exile” all to alleviate our own anxiety and suffering…yet this alleviation is temporary. It requires that we repeatedly tear down others in order to keep our struggles at bay. This idea, however, evolves in the New Testament with the person of Jesus. With the Christian understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection, we have a new spiritual and psychological model that includes grace and allows for the removal of our darkness without the need of releasing it through projection. Those who engage in projecting their darkness onto others thereby using them as scapegoats fail to understand grace. Grace, properly understood is the greatest spiritual and psychological mechanism of healing that we have as people. It is a call to responsibility and justice, while simultaneously being a call to forgiveness and love. In order to experience the healing power of grace we must choose to immerse ourselves in this grace and offer it to others as well. This is the beginning of peace, harmony, forgiveness, and a movement toward what God intended for in creation.

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