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Scapegoating: The Blame Game–Part I

The blame game has always been quite popular. Blaming others for our problems takes the pressure off us. Scapegoating, it’s often called.

Sometimes, specific individuals are blamed or scapegoated for another person’s problems or sins. It’s not uncommon to even scapegoat some person or group for the problems or sins of a nation. During my lifetime, I’d say that all U.S. Presidents have been scapegoated. They’re easy targets. But it seems easier to scapegoat groups.

Mexicans and Mexican Americans were often blamed for the Great Depression. Hitler scapegoated the Jews for everything. Japanese Americans were scapegoated during World War II. Joe McCarthy scapegoated Hollywood as the primary haven for communists. These days, immigrants seem to be ready scapegoats.

And let’s face it. Catholics have scapegoated Protestants. Protestants have scapegoated Catholics. And Christians generally have scapegoated each other.

Interestingly, scapegoating has its origin in Leviticus when the Israelites observed the Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 16:20-22 (NIV): “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands of the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites–all their sins–and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”

It’s fair to say that over the millennia, scapegoating lost its scriptural intent. Among Christians, the scapegoating in Leviticus should prefigure the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of all. Yet, even for Christians, it has become a way of unfairly blaming another person or group for our own troubles.

More tomorrow.

2 comments… add one
  • Nancy Coleman August 29, 2016, 7:13 PM

    Blaming is something that I have thought about more and more in the last few years. With the divisions in our churches, divisions in our countries, and even divisions in families, it seems we spend much time and activity to determine who is to blame. We have to know who is to blame and make sure that everyone knows who is to blame and then made to pay or to be shunned or worse. Then I think about what God gave up to take away the blame for all the things we do if we have citizenship in his kingdom. Why do we have to blame each other for every little thing and thus cause such divisions when we have such an eternal merciful gift? Thank you for blogging about blame.

    • John B. Phillips August 30, 2016, 9:09 AM

      Thank you for this wonderful comment. You’re right. When you think of God’s mercy, there should be no room for blaming others.

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