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Scapegoat theory & Christianity

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Presentation about Scapegoat theory and how it relates to Christianity and religion.

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Scapegoat theory & Christianity

  1. 1. Scapegoat Theory: Mimesis<br />What is Scapegoat Theory?<br />According to Kirk-Duggan, Scapegoat theory is “based on the idea of mimesis, or imitation. Mimesis, to imitate, is vital for our epistemology, the way we know and learn. With “good” mimesis, one desires to learn something from another. Mimetic intimacy, the resulting process and framework of “good” mimesis, involves nonviolence: imitation without conflict and without sacrifice” (Kirk-Duggan 6).<br />What is Mimesis?<br />Mimesis: When two or more people desire or want or relate to the same person, place, thing, or status. Mimesis requires at a minimum these three things: at least two individuals with desire and the object being desired. These unite to create Girard’s mimetic triangle. <br />
  2. 2. Scapegoat Theory: Mimesis<br />The introduction of scarcity to Girard’s mimetic triangle.<br /> When two or more participants desire the same thing, yet the desired object is scarce, it can lead to rivalry. This creates a situation called acquisitive memesis. When either participant can engage in destructive activity—such as physical harm, a scapegoat must exist in order to justify that action so that culture can be allowed to continue. Otherwise, if done without justification, concepts of “culture” spiral into chaos.<br />Kirk Duggan writes, “Once a scapegoat is identified, the dominant group can release its rage and fear and violent sensibilities, and gain a sense of peaceful community” (Kirk-Duggan 6). <br />
  3. 3. Scapegoat Theory: The Victim<br />The Anatomy of “the Other”<br />Kirk-Duggan says, “By psychologically or physically eliminating or purging the ones who are different, a group establishes itself. Girardian scapegoat mechanism, then, helps us see that mimetic rivalry shapes human behavior, and provides a way to rationalize violence via religious rituals and myth” (Kirk-Duggan 7). <br />The creation of the other relies on our tendency to label things and make generalizations. Labels and generalizations help us make sense of the world, and allow us to make quick analyses of situations. This tendency is essentially a natural part of the human condition because there is so much data around us constantly, that to try and be mindful of ALL of it is impossible. To get around this, we simply an otherwise complex concept, idea, or thing. <br />
  4. 4. Scapegoat Theory: The Victim<br />The Anatomy of “the Other”<br />However, the ability to simplify a situation and make quick judgments about our surroundings is a double-edged sword, because when a person, or group of people, society, or culture gets a label other than “human,” and that label is replaced with a word like “enemy,” or “threat,” then they become “the Other;” they become something subhuman, and the flood gate is opened for violence and abuse to occur. <br />In the violence that occurs during and after acquisitive mimesis, “[rivals] end up looking and acting more and more like one another, and they focus on a person or group of persons who look, behave, or think differently. These kinds of differences often make them the target of a particular group’s united effort to define themselves” (Kirk-Duggan 7). That is because of the nature of labeling and defining. <br />
  5. 5. Scapegoat Theory: The Victim<br />One need only look at rhetoric of Fundamentalist Christians and compare it to the rhetoric of fanatical Muslims to see this. Both of these groups claim to have absolute truth, and demand that the world must come to live by their rules. All others are inferior to them.<br />Another historical example would be the Nazis treatment of the Jews. Nazi or Jew, both groups were still Germans. The German economy was completely wrecked by World War I. The German Jewish population was targeted by the Fascist moment and made the scapegoat. This helped fuel Hitler’s rise to power.<br />
  6. 6. Scapegoat Theory: The Victim<br />A Biblical example of rationalizing violence via religious ritual and myth:<br />(Deuteronomy 32:39-47, NIV) “See now that I myself am He! There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and declare: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.” Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people. <br />
  7. 7. Scapegoat Theory: The Victim<br />(Deuteronomy 32:39-47, NIV, cont’d) “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”<br />In these passages, Moses is giving the Israelites a war song to live by. This song is given to the people long before Joshua led them to the city of Jericho, and the Israelites do indeed take it’s words to heart on their warpath in returning to their “homeland.” This rhetoric is nearly identical with the rhetoric used by “terrorists” today.<br />
  8. 8. Scapegoat Theory: The Rhetoric<br />After fleeing Egypt and running around the desert for over 40 years, the disorganized mass of the escaped slaves became an organized army at the command of Moses. However, Moses died and handed over control to Joshua before the army ever crossed the Jordan. <br />Upon crossing the Jordan en route to their home, Joshua and the Israelite army come upon the city of Jericho and place the city under siege. With the enemy established and the rhetoric of making arrows “drunk with blood,” and swords “devouring flesh” fresh in their minds, the Israelites raze the entire city. <br />
  9. 9. Scapegoat Theory: The Rhetoric<br />This exact line of thinking and rhetoric used by Moses and Joshua is also used by a contemporary of ours, Osama Bin Laden. Here is an excerpt from Osama Bin Laden’s ‘letter to America’:<br />"Allah has decreed that 'Verily it is I and My Messengers who shall be victorious.' Verily Allah is All-Powerful, All-Mighty." [Quran 58:21] <br />[We are] The Islamic Nation that was able to dismiss and destroy the previous evil Empires like yourself; the Nation that rejects your attacks, wishes to remove your evils, and is prepared to fight you. You are well aware that the Islamic Nation, from the very core of its soul, despises your haughtiness and arrogance. <br />
  10. 10. Scapegoat Theory: The Rhetoric<br />If the Americans refuse to listen to our advice and the goodness, guidance and righteousness that we call them to, then be aware that you will lose this Crusade Bush began, just like the other previous Crusades in which you were humiliated by the hands of the Mujahideen, fleeing to your home in great silence and disgrace. If the Americans do not respond, then their fate will be that of the Soviets who fled from Afghanistan to deal with their military defeat, political breakup, ideological downfall, and economic bankruptcy. <br />This is our message to the Americans, as an answer to theirs. Do they now know why we fight them and over which form of ignorance, by the permission of Allah, we shall be victorious? <br />
  11. 11. Scapegoat Theory: The Rhetoric<br />A quick reversal in logic: <br />Excerpt of Mark Twain’s satirical piece, The War Prayer<br />“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”<br />
  12. 12. Scapegoat Theory: Christ<br />The "true" message to be found in Christianity: <br />Have we missed the point?<br />One common understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is that God needed an innocent sacrifice in order to redeem mankind of its sins. Jesus, an innocent man, died an excruciatingly painful death to atone for mankind. In essence, all of mankind’s transgressions are put on the shoulders of one man to bear. However, what does this interpretation of the scripture say about God? Why does God demand blood and suffering--an innocent sacrifice? This interpretation is dismissive of man's role in the homicide of Jesus, because after all, God did ordain it to happen. This type of interpretation leaves the door wide open for the rhetoric of justified violence to follow. <br />
  13. 13. Scapegoat Theory: Christ<br />Using Rene Girard's scapegoat mechanism to analyze Christianity yields a different interpretation. In this interpretation, mankind essentially murdered an innocent man in the most excruciating way known at the time, and perhaps ever. Recognition that, 1) Jesus was in fact made a scapegoat, 2) humanity is capable of committing horrible violence, and 3) not only are we capable of committing violence, but we are able to subject an innocent person to it, is what is the key teaching of the crucifixion of Christ. This interpretation forces mankind to look upon itself, and blame itself for Christ's death, and not the will of God. In essence, the lesson of Christ’s death is that it should never happen again, there should never again be another innocent scapegoat created—and yet it still happens…<br />

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