Happy April Fools Day and happy birthday to everyone who was born on this special day – as I was.  As my blog is entitled Another Fool for Christ, I want to explore, on this Easter Monday, a view of Jesus Christ that is somewhat different – a look at Jesus Christ through the lens of Rene Girard’s theory of the scapegoat.   I trust that this will not be too foolish. 

Rene Girard, a French philosopher, introduced the groundbreaking concept of the "scapegoat mechanism."  The basis of the theory is the idea that human societies often resort to scapegoating as a mechanism to alleviate social tensions and restore balance.  Girard’s theory holds that societies undergo a process of collective scapegoating, in which a particular individual or group is singled out as the source of a problem or problems in the society. This individual or group scapegoat becomes the target of collective aggression, blamed for the society's woes, and often subjected to punishment or expulsion. By directing hostility towards the scapegoat, society experiences a sense of catharsis, as internal conflicts are externalized onto a convenient target.  However, this equilibrium is only temporary and the cycle of scapegoating resumes.

Girard's theory held that scapegoating serves as a mechanism for social order and cohesion. By sacrificing the scapegoat, societies reaffirm their shared values and norms, reinforcing a sense of solidarity among its members.  Girard's theory sheds light on contemporary phenomena, such as mob mentality, political scapegoating, and ethnic violence. In times of crisis or social upheaval, individuals and groups are often demonized or vilified as scapegoats.  This is reflected in the biblical passage in Leviticus 16:21-22 in which the sins of the people are placed on a literal goat which is sent into the desert relieving the people of collective guilt and restoring equilibrium to the community. 

With this background, let us look at the crucifixion of Jesus as playing out the scapegoat mechanism which may be considered the ultimate example of the scapegoat mechanism.  Girard holds that Jesus' teachings and actions challenged the prevailing social order of his time, exposing the violence and hypocrisy embedded within it. Through his radical message of love, forgiveness, and compassion, Jesus confronted the mechanisms of scapegoating and offered an alternative vision of social relations based on mutual respect and solidarity.  The triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was the ultimate challenge to the religious and Roman authorities.

In Girard's interpretation, the crucifixion of Jesus represents a paradoxical inversion of the scapegoat mechanism. Instead of legitimizing the violence of the mob, Jesus' death exposes its irrationality and injustice, revealing the innocence of the victim and the guilt of those who perpetrate violence in the name of righteousness.

Moreover, Girard suggests that Jesus' resurrection signifies the ultimate triumph over the forces of death and violence, offering hope for redemption and reconciliation. By overcoming death, Jesus breaks the cycle of scapegoating and opens the possibility for a new way of being based on love and forgiveness.

On our journey may we be blessed to recognize where the scapegoat mechanism is playing out in our lives.