Monday, 30 June 2008

Who's to blame?

Who does America blame for the 9 / 11 attacks and for the insidious threat it represents to the American way of life? It can't blame the suicide bombers because they are dead. It certainly can't allow their own policies in the middle east to come under scrutiny. So, they find refuge in the age-old scapegoat solution. And such are the inmates of Guantanamo. Arbitrarily chosen - they represent the threat to the American way of life and on them the anger and fears of the community can be expended.
The biblical language of 'scapegoat' recalls the atonement when a goat was taken and the violence, fears and conflict of the community could be transferred to the goat, which was then sent into the desert.
It is a different kind of atonement language, though, than penal substitution. God does not expend his anger in order to satisfy his wrath, but human beings expend their anger to appease their wrath.
So Jesus, as atoning sacrifice for our sins, is the scapegoat for the world. This is not God expending his wrath on an innocent man, but human beings expending their wrath on God! It is God as scapegoat for the violence of the world.
Many would see this as nit-picking about abstract and irrelevant ideas, but I'm pretty sure it should make a radical difference to what we do. If penal substitution works from the premise that God is sometimes violent and that violence can bring salvation - then we can condone violence today and see violence as redemptive. Jesus, as scapegoat, though, works from the premise that the scapegoat is innocent and should be treated as such. It works from the premise that God stands on the side of the scapegoat to expose the scapegoating tendency and so bring an end to it. If that is true, we should do all we can to speak out against the 'punishment' of the innocent at Guantanamo Bay and the violence enacted on this scapegoat.
So, what are we going to do about it?

1 comment:

DS said...

Thanks Mark -very thoughtful post

Just got couple of books 'Recovering the Scandal of the Cross' about exploring the full spectrum of atonement metaphor in the bible and also 'Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross' which is full of real life examples of how these broader atonement metaphors can be creativly communicated