In ancient Jewish culture, they had this tradition of symbolically burdening a goat with the sins of the people and then releasing it into the wilderness.
From Leviticus 16: “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.”
Of course, today most of us read things like the book of Leviticus and find them hopelessly antiquated. The thing is, as a culture, we do this exact same thing. We have failed to realize that Jesus has showed us a different path.
Certain people play the role of scapegoat in our culture. These are folks like Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger, and the latest — Seattle Pacific shooter Aaron Ybarra.
We can argue about the causes of such shootings and seek to eliminate them. Gun availability, violent media, mental illness and social rejection seem to almost play a role. But these “causes” are like blaming money as the cause of poverty. It’s related, but the root of the problem lies in our group consciousness and behavior.
I believe people like these young men bear our sins and are then punished for them — even after death. Most likely sensitive folks, they have internalized the dark side of our culture and are now expressing it. Once they express it, we get to point our fingers at our scapegoats and talk about how depraved they are and how much better our society is off without them. Our sins, at least in our own eyes, are absolved.
You may think that the creation of such scapegoats has nothing to do with you. The thing is, though, is that all of us play a part, some more than others. Here are a few things to take a look at. Until each one of us addresses these issues in our behavior and our hearts, we will continue to foster a consciousness that creates these bearers of cultural sin.
If you’ve ever looked down on another person.
If you think that violence is a solution.
If you support our violent media with your dollars and attendance at the latest mind-destroying flick.
If you’ve turned the other way when someone is being mistreated.
If you let your kids play violent video games.
If you think that your thoughts, actions and beliefs have no bearing on the whole.
There are many other causes of this scapegoat-creation, some of which I am not yet aware of. And I still struggle with some of this. But I’ll tell you what — I want to uproot each and every one of them from my consciousness and throw them on the fire. I want NO part of this sick ritual of creating such ugliness and then blaming the one who fully embodies what WE have created.
Just because we do LESS of what the scapegoats do doesn’t get us off the hook while they run into the wilderness of prison or suicide. For example, if I spend time denigrating another person, I am engaging in the same behavior — I just haven’t taken it as far. Why should I get a pass to engage in hateful talk about an “enemy” who is also a son or daughter of the Most High while being able to point the finger at a school shooter? When I allow him to be my scapegoat, I am spared examining the hatred within my own heart. And that is like allowing myself to continue to eat Oreos and Cheetos because, hey, at least I’m not 400 pounds. I’m still going to be unhealthy.
Jesus showed us that the scapegoat system was unnecessary. That God could forgive even people who tortured and killed an innocent — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
We can forgive these scapegoats. We can forgive them and love them and in doing so, acknowledge our own darkness and walk forward on the path of accepting the enormous love that God has to offer. If we persist in allowing the scapegoats to carry our burden, we’ll continue to allow our hatred and other dark slimy things to fester inside, stalling our spiritual growth.
And if we all made this decision to look inward? Well, I doubt we’d have a problem with mass shootings.