Richard Rohr on the Cross and Scapegoating

Two important posts by Fr. Richard, after the jump … As NKCy makes clear, with Richard I’m drawn to see in the cross the repudiation of the very kind of exclusion and violence that have often been done under the sign of the cross, a heartbreaking reality of our history.

Question of the Day:
Whom do I scapegoat?
On the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16:21-22) a goat was brought into the sanctuary. The high priest would lay his hands on the goat and all the sins and failures of the people from the last year were ceremonially laid on the goat, and the goat was sent out into the desert to die. The assumption here is that evil can be expelled elsewhere, and the goal of religion is personal “purity.”
What immediately follows from the scapegoat story (the “escaping” goat) of Leviticus 16 is what is called “The Law of Holiness” (Leviticus 17-27), which largely defines holiness as separation from evil—which is exactly what they had just ritualized. In general, this is the pattern of most first-stage religion.
Three thousand years later, human consciousness hasn’t moved a great deal beyond that, despite the message of the cross. Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil as much as absorption and transformation of it, wherein I pay the price instead of always asking others to pay the price.
From the cross, Jesus is shouting to history, “No more scapegoats! Look how wrong you can be.”
Question of the Day:
How does dualistic thinking create violent people?
We Christians, who dare to worship the scapegoat, Jesus, became many times in history the primary scapegoaters ourselves—of Jews, heretics, sinners, witches, homosexuals, the poor, the natives in the New World, slaves, other denominations, and other religions. It’s rather hard to believe that we missed such a central message.
The pattern of exporting our evil elsewhere, and righteously hating it there, with impunity, is in the hardwiring of all peoples. After all, our religious task is to separate from evil, isn’t it? That is the well-disguised lie! Any exclusionary process of thinking, any exclusively dualistic thinking, will always create violent and hateful people on some level.
This I state as an absolute, and precisely because the cross revealed it to me. The crucifixion scene is our standing icon stating both the problem and the solution for all of history.
Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 143