Religion, politics, and scapegoating (part two)

Scapegoating_religion_PoliticsWe’ve been looking at how a religious spirit, political spirit, and scapegoating forms an unholy trinity that insidiously undergirds the “sin of the world.” It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about (or even notices), the poisonous air we’ve been breathing but are mostly unaware of.

In part one, we laid the foundation. Today, we will look how these three weave their way into the fabric of our everyday lives.

When I say “religious spirit” I’m talking about an influence that compels us to follow God out of fear and obligation because we feel separated from Him. While religion, in and of itself, is not evil, the religious spirit spews hatred, violence, committing all kinds of human atrocities while making us think we’re doing God a service.

As Blaise Pascal once noted, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

When I say “political spirit” I’m talking about a factious, divisive spirit that separates us from each other. It polarizes us and keeps us from hearing each other and benefiting from our diversity.

However, nothing is more mean-spirited and evil than when we mix the religious spirit with the political spirit! This is the very heart of the Beast—Harlot Babylon.

We’ve inherited the dark legacy of this two-headed beast through our Constantinian version of Christianity (“Christendom”): holy wars, crusades, pogroms, inquisitions, imperialism, colonialism, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and other acts of exploitation committed against those who aren’t like us. Thankfully, it’s losing its grip in our culture, as I pointed out in “How Constantine Changed Christianity.” Of course, this isn’t just limited to Christendom.

The third leg of this evil triad, as we saw in part one, is scapegoating. René Girard points out that scapegoating has been going on since the Garden. Scapegoating looks like blame-shifting. Eve blames the serpent, Adam blames God for Eve, and we’ve been following this Modus Operandi ever since.

The blame-game is the enemy of intimacy—ruining marriages, families, friendships, and nations, keeping us locked up in our prison of fear and insecurities.

Girard points out that, historically, a common villain was needed to pacify increasing tensions between warring tribes. We unite over a common cause to figure out who’s to blame so we can sacrifice them to our scapegoating god (even if our scapegoat isn’t actually guilty). While this does bring about a sense of peace and tranquility…sort of like morphine…the “fix” never lasts.

PoliticalPartiesHopefully, this will inform us about our current political climate this election year in the U.S. (Just notice the ad campaigns, speeches, how scapegoating is used to convince you that their candidate is the answer to your anger and anxieties). It’s no wonder why our country’s framers warned us against forming political parties.

This is how political scapegoating works within a political party. Each warring faction (Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives…) must find someone or something to blame and be angry about in order to unify and energize the public to act (vote for them) against the other tribe (political party).

In religion, we must have a common enemy to keep our congregations fired-up, fearful, and obedient. This enemy could be spiritual or eschatological (the latest antichrist), but often gets personified in people we don’t like or agree with doctrinally.

As horrifically evil as 9/11 was, and something we should be righteously angry about, it did provide a perfect scapegoat to briefly unite the deeply polarized American people in 2001. And it also united us globally in many ways….for awhile.

While this uniting against a common enemy can sometimes be good, it can also lead to demonizing whole people groups. Nazi Germany scapegoated the Jews and tried to exterminate them, but we had Japanese internment camps, and now we’re thinking of scapegoating Muslims to make us feel safer. The only difference is a matter of degree along the same trajectory.

Looking to scapegoating for peace is a fantasy. We should know by now that all it really does is create more animosity and escalating hostilities and violence.

Scapegoating actually wars against Christ’s kingdom, where we’re told to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. Of course, it’s hard for us to believe that Jesus actually meant that.

Jesus-Driven-LifeBill Johnson said, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology.” Jesus is the lens by which we interpret Scripture, not the other way around. Michael Hardin also points this out in his book, The Jesus-Driven Life, saying that when we raise the written word above Jesus, we relativize Him in relation to the Bible rather than seeing the Bible in relationship to Jesus.

The Pharisees made the Scriptures their god (John 5:39-40) and they ended up scapegoating God (John 11:50-52). We evangelicals are guilty of this when we turn the Godhead into the Father, Son and Holy Bible, instead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is how you end up with over 33,000 denominations and counting!

Contrast this with how the early church read the Bible, as Hardin puts it, “The apostolic church read the Scriptures in the light of Jesus before they read Jesus in the light of the Scriptures.” (Kindle loc. 651). They knew, like we should, that eternal life is found by living in Jesus’ relationship with the Father (John 14:6; 17:3; Col.3:3), not in our correct interpretation the Bible. And, in Christ, we find each other and the evil triad of religion, politics, and scapegoating has no power.

I won’t go any further down this dark rabbit hole for now. If you want to hear a good message on Jesus and scapegoating, here’s one by Brian Zahnd (Tube video provided by JesusExclusiveSavior).

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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5 Responses to Religion, politics, and scapegoating (part two)

  1. Lance says:

    Michael Hardin…bold move Mel. I love it. I’ll be a risk taker with you. He is also in a movie called “hellbound” Maybe you’ve seen it. Finger pointing and blame shifting and scapegoating are what I believe the bible calls “the Satan.” I know “the enemy” has been a cornerstone of our Christianity, but if we are deconstructing to find the truth, then everything is in play. The reason I say that is what you have eluded to in these points. At the core of us is divine love. Our identity, our true self is a child of God for every human ever born. We are the manifestation of God in this physical perception but the great paradox is in our ego self (the one that believes in separation and operates from that illusion, the orphan spirit you call it) is capable and will often revert to finger pointing or accusation…the Satan. Yep the enemy is us when we live in the illusion of separation and accuse others from that false paradigm. This doesn’t mean we are “evil” in the angry God religious sense. We are confused and in a dream. Jesus called it lost and blind and deaf and so on. We are saved to ourselves to be set free from the illusion of the false self. We are saved from our own fallacy of separation to be made whole in the divine reality of oneness. No finger pointing in the Kingdom that is in all of us. Revelation of our sonship sets us free from “the Satan.” Thanks Mel. You’re awesome.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Lance. Michael Hardin is a brilliant theologian. I don’t agree with everything he says about “the Satan.” I think “Satan” is both what Hardin teaches and is an actual spiritual entity. But that’s the beauty of being informed by love instead of fear. We can freely receive from every source in the body of Christ and we don’t have to be afraid. Papa is a good Father! Jesus is the good shepherd. We won’t follow another when we hear His voice. He will always lead us to the good stuff.

      What you’re saying here, though, I absolutely agree with. We empower the lies we are bound by. Satan, whatever he is, or it is, lost all authority at the cross. Jesus gave all authority to us. We only lose it by our ignorance or self-deception. This is why inner healing is critical to real deliverance and growth in Christ. So, in that sense, we must battle “the Satan” within us.

      I like what Michael Hardin said about looking at everything we’ve assumed was the truth. If you pull on the carpet threads long enough, pretty soon you’ll need a new carpet. 🙂 I think that’s what’s happening in the current reformation we’re in. It’s actually pretty exciting.

  2. Steven Sawyer says:

    Mel, This is certainly one of your most thought-provoking posts I’ve read. I appreciate your expounding on scapegoating. You have taught me some valuable spiritual insights. Thanks again for an awesome post.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Steven. I understand that it may be hard to take in if we haven’t pondered these things before. I’ve been plowing this ground for awhile now. Jesus has pulled back the curtain a little more and we’re seeing a whole new part of the Beast. That’s why I’ll go down this rabble hole a little bit at a time.
      But I’m convinced that this is what Jesus said the world cannot receive. Everybody understands sinning, behaving or not behaving. That’s all from Tree of the Knowledge of GOOD and EVIL. But Jesus came and chopped down that tree! This is what the New Testament writers were dealing with. We’re to eat from a different tree now (Jesus, the Tree of Life). And believe Him when He taught us to walk in love, including loving our enemies, returning evil with good, walking in grace and forgiveness. This is what takes real faith!
      As I said, there’s a lot more to this but I’ll leave it there for now. I’m processing it all myself. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Christianity: The Founding Murder in Reverse | In My Father's House

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