Religion, politics, and scapegoating (part one)

Scapegoating_religion_PoliticsIt’s interesting that religion and politics are two taboo subjects in polite conversation. Why is that? What should we be afraid of? Actually, plenty!

Jesus warned His disciples of two spiritual strongholds that would war against His kingdom—religion and politics. Of course, He was illustrating this by pointing to the Pharisees and Herod, using leaven, or yeast, because the disciples had just been worrying about bringing enough bread.

15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15 NKJV)

Before I get too deeply into this, I’m not saying that religion and politics are intrinsically evil. It’s what happens when one is driven by them that they become demonic in nature.

Both the religious spirit and political spirit are orphan-based…all about separation.

The religious spirit separates us from God and puts us on a performance treadmill, trying to appease Him with our rituals and sacrificial works. The result is fear, shame, and condemnation.

The political spirit separates us from each other. It’s the “us vs. them” spirit. Its polarizing ideology creates factions, prejudice, and hatred. I think this is self-evident in the current political environment we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

Taking both into account, it’s precisely this fear-based Babylonian Harlot Beast that Jesus came to deliver us from, conveying us into His kingdom based in love.

We see Adam and Eve giving birth to this satanic construct by eating from the wrong tree. So they hid in the bushes from God behind their religious fig leaves, as C. Baxter Kruger says, painting God’s face with Diablo’s brush. Their legacy continues with Cain’s competitive jealousy of Abel, leading to murdering his brother and refusing to take personal responsibility. This is the Modus Operandi of the world system we are told not to love (1 John 2:15-16).

I should mention here that this blame-shifting Beast wars against all of our relationships–our friendships, marriages, families, nations…And that brings us to the third leg of this demonic triad—scapegoating.

Scapegoat_GirardRené Girard did a seminal work on this insidious stronghold in his book, The Scapegoat, tracing the practice in pagan culture all the way back to the Garden.

Scapegoating is Adamic blame-shifting, the demonic sacrifice to the “gods of this world.” The same forbidden fruit Eve gave Adam to eat, we’ve been eating from ever since.

According to Girard, whenever things got tense between warring tribes, finding a common enemy was (and is) the way bring peace and form these unholy alliances.

Jesus was offered as the scapegoat by the angry mob to quell the tensions between the religious and political forces working in Jerusalem in the first century. And we should notice what happened because of this (emphasis added):

10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.(Luke 23:10-13 NIV)

Munkacsy_-_christ_before_pilateThis is the perfect illustration of scapegoating—finding a common villain to bring a demonic alliance and illusion of peace between two warring factions. This illusionary peace lasted in Judea for about 40 years.

But because of His love and mercy, God had codified a form of scapegoating into Law (Lev.16:20-26), setting us up so that He could use it against us by ultimately making Himself the victim, exposing and disarming scapegoating on the cross. In doing so, Jesus “takes away the sin of the world.” This is the “sin” that empowers all sin, the belly of the Beast, if you will.

“One of the things the Cross does is drag this foundational sin into the broad daylight.” (Brian Zahnd – “Lamb of God – The Last Scapegoat”)

As Girard points out, the only difference between all pagan scapegoating and Jesus is that Jesus was vindicated by God by raising Him from the dead!

23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead… (Acts 2:23-24a NIV)

Luke23_34_Father_Forgive_ThemCain cannot hide this Body and stay in denial anymore. We’ve just scapegoated God! The deepest darkest part of us is forever exposed for what it truly is. The satanic lie that runs this world has been unmasked by pure Love! This one event on Calvary was God’s most brilliant sting operation. Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world!

Beloved, Jesus has exposed and judged the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 16:10-11) and brought us all into a very different kingdom because of His great love. Let’s not continue following the accuser’s counterfeit way of peace. Instead of separating ourselves from God and each other and appeasing our mythical volcano gods with our scapegoating, the Prince of Peace came to restore us to Himself, making all things new! Let’s follow Him.

I will leave you here to ponder these things.  More next time.


About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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9 Responses to Religion, politics, and scapegoating (part one)

  1. Lance says:

    Mel, René Girard? Dude you are amazing. I have this one on my to read list. I first heard of him listening to a pod cast with Michael Hardin and Brad Jersak. Here is the link:
    It is a mind bender but really brings a great perspective and absolutely is in line with this post. Love your stuff Mel and Love you heart. You are an awesome Son.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your encouraging comments, Lance. Much appreciated. I will check out the link. Admittedly, this view of the cross is almost totally foreign to our popular view. But, we must start somewhere. 🙂 We must realize that, as Brian Zahnd says, the cross deals with a lot of things. It goes much deeper than simple punishment or forgiveness of sins. It cuts the head off of the snake, if you will.

      I believe God uses brilliant people like René Girard to make us look at the “elephant in the room,” the dark side that lurks inside of all of us; one that wrecks our marriages, our friendships, and all our relationships. It’s what separates us from one another and keeps us living in fear. Even our theology has been intertwined with our scapegoating paradigm.

      So, what Girard, Jersak, and others are doing is showing us how to let Jesus walk us through Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, learning what love really means at a DNA level. As Baxter Kruger says, Jesus’ mission was the “undoing of Adam” in every way. That’s redemption…that’s making ALL things new!

  2. Steven Sawyer says:

    Great post, my friend, indeed leaving me with things to ponder. And, these two thoughts are amazing and so true:

    The religious spirit separates us from God and puts us on a performance treadmill, trying to appease Him with our rituals and sacrificial works. The result is fear, shame, and condemnation.

    The political spirit separates us from each other. It’s the “us vs. them” spirit. Its polarizing ideology creates factions, prejudice, and hatred. I think this is self-evident in the current political environment we find ourselves in here in the U.S.
    What a great way to suggest the impact of both “religion” and “politics” on believers.
    I avoid both any time, any way I can. Thanks for sharing. And God bless.

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