I am always at it. Blame the goat! You know, that thing we do when we make judgements about people, and always say ‘them’ – that imaginary ‘they’, the third person I remember learning in French that always seemed to be entirely irregular. What third person? Well, there’s you, there’s me and there’s ‘them’, ‘the other’. The goat. And they are always to blame.
When society appears to be falling apart (has it ever not seemed like that?! ask an older person about the war…), we are so quick to blame ‘them’. Whether it is politicians, single-parents, terrorists, religious fundamentalists, Chelsea fans… the dodgy family a few doors down, the farmers, foreigners…Sometimes we can all get a bit Daily Mail and point the finger of blame. Goats, the lot of ’em.
We like having someone to blame. It makes us feel secure. The problem is labelled and dealt with. Maybe not solved, but there is a door to lay blame at. And it’s not mine. So we can make scapegoats of social workers if there is an abuse going on that wasn’t acted on as we would like, even if life and family intervention is a whole lot more complicated than that allows for; we can blame ‘Muslim terrorists’ for wanting to destroy our way of life, especially if that means we don’t have to hold a mirror to ourselves and ask why. We can pin the whole blame for Lockerbie on one man, who is now dying of cancer, as if he alone was responsible; we can blame ‘the bankers’ whilst forgetting perhaps it was us who enjoyed the easy credit as much as they allowed it.
The thing is though, with the Jewish-Christian lens we look through, it is much harder for us to point at others and say ‘them’. Instead, we point at ourselves and say ‘we’. Someone once (annoyingly, to be honest) said that when you point one finger at someone, three fingers point back at you. Probably annoying cos I was the one pointing. Anyway… If I am a part of society, and society is producing terrorists, then I am partly to blame. If I am a part of society, and society is producing overweight, under-active teenagers having too much sex (is than an oxymoron?), then I am partly to blame. If I am a part of society and society is producing paedophiles and perpetrators of abuse, then I am partly to blame.
But… but… it’s not me, I didn’t do it, I am a good person, how can it be me? How, indeed. Well, we each may not feel we contribute to things we disapprove of, but we are a part of it, simply by being there. To say otherwise would be to be a grain of sand on the beach and deny you were part of the beach, or a raindrop splashing in a puddle and claiming to be from a different storm. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis, whether a literal account of real people or a allegory laden with meaning, points us to this. As humans, we are together, one – we all looked longingly at the tree, we all offered the fruit, we all ate. So there is no them, only us.
Does that make us feel hopeless, or hopeful? Hopeful (I hope) because God does not cruise earth searching for individuals to rescue like some kind of cosmic kerb-crawler, but he drives a huge ocean liner (mixed metaphor!) so full of space and grace and says to us all, as you all share the guilt so you can also all share the grace, you can all be redeemed, you can all come aboard. This is wonderful stuff! Though to many will seem unnecessary, because still theyf blaming other people and feeling better about ourselves. we (oops) will cling to the life-raft o
But we no longer need the scapegoat, which comes from Leviticus 16, when an actual goat took on the sins of the community and was sent to its death. And we no longer need to shoulder them ourselves either. Because God as Jesus came to take that burden from us, to painfully and wholly free us from the guilt our human nature ties us to. But, interestingly and so importantly, not then to remove us from the society of which we are a guilty-but-free part, but sends us back there to disrupt and irritate the guilt, to be light in the dark, flowers in the desert, love in the blame, a peaceful voice amidst the finger-pointing in anger.To be part of the story of the redeeming of creation that his resurrection began.
So the challenge to them us is to live as us, not us and them, however painful and illogical it seems. We are them. They are us. Live deeply and be free. Most of all, free the goat.
(p.s. be part of freeing the goat without needing to keep checking my blog, by clicking on the new ‘subscribe via email’ link on the right- it will let you know when there’s a new post to read so you don’t have to keep checking)