Good Friday, Scapegoating, and American Politics

Photo credit: Nesster, via flickr

Jesus, a victim of scapegoating, understood all too well its origin and its outcome.  From the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday to the “Crucify him!” of a few days later, Jesus witnessed the fears of the human heart and how easily those fears turn to blame.  Good Friday marks the ultimate scapegoating, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

What is happening in the heart of the person who turns to scapegoating? It’s easy for us humans to believe that by hating a person we despise, we separate ourselves from evil and differentiate ourselves as good. Yet the opposite is actually true. When we give in to hate, we begin to become like what we are hating. When hatred and violence grow in our hearts, we move closer along the spectrum toward the object of our hate.  Jesus knew this on Good Friday, and he also knew how unconsciously this was occurring when he prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The battle between good and evil plays out not between individuals but within individuals. The battle between good and evil is fought within every human heart. Yet we naturally shun the fear and hatred within us, and so we seek shortcuts instead of doing the hard inner work we need to do.  When a leader arises who blames a person or group for our woes, whether in a family, an organization, or a nation, the appeal of that leader proves strong.  At this moment in American politics, Donald Trump’s scapegoating of various groups, including Mexicans and Muslims, is proving irresistible to many.  Why do the hard inner work, personally and as a nation, when it is so easy to blame others?

The trouble with scapegoating is threefold.  First, of course, it damages the individuals and groups who are its targets.  Second, it damages the ones who hate those individuals and groups by filling their hearts with fear and hatred.  Third, it doesn’t solve anything.  When, in the history of the world, has scapegoating resulted in a good outcome for those who scapegoat?  Never.  There is some relief for awhile, but the problems don’t go away because they haven’t been addressed at the root. So the cycle repeats itself: a new scapegoat gets identified, that person or group is crucified or chased out of town, some relief is felt for awhile, the problems resurface, and so on.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”  Who are the least of these today?  In America today, they are those we scapegoat.  Will we keep crucifying Jesus?  Will we keep participating in scapegoating or not standing up for those scapegoated? Who are you, this Good Friday?  Are you in the crowd, shouting “Crucify him!”  Are you Peter, not standing up for Jesus?  Or can you find it in your heart to stand with Jesus to the end, as the women at the foot of the cross did, and stand up for those scapegoated in our time and place?

7 Responses to “Good Friday, Scapegoating, and American Politics”

  1. 1 Paule Livesey March 25, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Exellent, deeply interesting. Thank you Margaret.

    Paule Livesey, SoL Course, Woodbrooke, England.

  2. 2 msheehan222 March 25, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Margaret thank you for this eloquent and complex Good Friday meditation for our times. Peace, Marguerite Sheehan

  3. 3 Edward Poling March 26, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Very thoughful, Margaret. Thank you, for your Good Friday reflection!

  4. 4 Gerrit Jan Romeijn March 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you Margaret for your thoughts on Good Friday, our inner battle between good and evil and scapegoating. I agree with you that Mr Trump is scapegoating. However, one question keeps bothering me how do we deal with Mr Truumps scategoating without making him a ‘our scapegoat’.

    • 5 executivesoulblog March 28, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      What a great question, Gerrit Jan! I think one of the occupational hazards of activists is scapegoating. It’s very easy for us to demonize the Donald Trumps of the world and then we’re on the road, by hating those we deem “haters,” to becoming what we hate. I think we need to pray for compassion for those we disagree with, to pray that we can see Donald Trump and others we disagree with as God sees them.

  5. 6 fourgateways March 31, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Margaret, thank you for having the courage to take on a big subject in such polarized times. One of the key questions for me when I see scapegoating going on is how to find compassion in my heart for the person who is acting in such a hateful way. I wonder what suffering and loss that person must have experienced at some time in his or her life that would lead them to wanting to lash out at others? What caused this person to get so far from his or her essential self, which we know to be love? How can I hold the space in my heart to condemn their actions but not to condemn the human being? Trump makes this very difficult, which makes him a powerful spiritual teacher, indeed.

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