Can Christian Communities Avoid Scapegoating?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Can Christian Communities Avoid Scapegoating?

To my reading, the Gospel accounts do not describe Jesus trying to start a new religion. Rather, he aimed to reform Judaism, restoring the faith of prophets such as Micah, who announced that God wanted the faithful “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). Indeed, in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus twice declared, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; 12:7), recalling the words of Hosea 6:6.
In recent essays, I have highlighted how institutes are grounded on scapegoating, and sacrificial violence is the most obvious manifestation of scapegoating. As I discussed in detail in my book Guided by the Faith of Christ, I think Jesus aimed to show how we could have communities grounded on love rather than scapegoating. How might this be accomplished?
I think that when Jesus talked about the “Realm of God” he had in mind communities grounded in love. Perhaps because people were unprepared for his radical notions, he often chose to describe the Realm of God with parables. Now that we have 2000 years to reflect on Jesus’ teachings, we might be in a better position to more directly describe what the Realm of God might look like.
I suggest that, first and foremost, there is no scapegoating in the Realm of God. I don’t think there is a single formula to avoid scapegoating, and specific policies might reflect unique attributes of different communities, but I offer the following principle as a starting point: When making difficult decisions, community members should always be guided by the question, “What is the most compassionate choice in this setting?”
With this principle, several others follow. For example, when determining how to prevent people from hurting other individuals, community members should do everything in their power to avoid having vengeance play a role in their deliberations. Also, communities should do their best to avoid the strong temptations to punish people for dishonoring institutions. People might request that others not show disrespect for their institutions because it hurts their feelings, but they should not enforce respect for institutions with violence or threats of violence.

Such principles, I think, would help contemporary society move toward Jesus’ vision of the Realm of God “on earth, as in Heaven.” Next essay, I’ll discuss, and attempt to expand on, John Rawls’ book A Theory of Justice. 

Go on to: Commentary on A Theory of Justice
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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