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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Southern Ohio Disconnect and Scapegoating

Something is painfully obvious about what I might call our Southern Ohio Disconnect. I notice it as I communicate with others on Facebook and as I talk with people while traveling around the county. We seem to seek blame for most of our personal troubles, and, quite frankly, we relish scapegoating our opposition whenever we want better personal conditions. And, yes, I am guilty of this too.

The word scapegoat has an interesting history. The word was coined by William Tyndale, an English religious reformer, in his influential translation of the Bible in 1530. Tyndale formed scapegoat from scape, an obsolete form of escape, and goat, with the word thus meaning "the goat that departs."

Tyndale used this word to translate the Hebrew word Azazel or "the goat that departs."
The Hebrew term actually stems from the Old Testament. According to Leviticus 16:8, two goats were offered up for a ritual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. By casting lots, a High Priest designated one goat to be "The Lord's Goat," which was offered as a blood sacrifice, and the other to be the "Azazel" scapegoat to be sent away into the wilderness.

The High Priest took the blood of the slain goat into the Holy of Holies behind the sacred veil and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant. The sacrifice of "The Lord's Goat" by the descendants of Aaron represented purification to the priest and a sin offering "to the Lord" on behalf of the people.

Later in the ceremonies of the day, the High Priest confessed the sins of the Israelites to Jehovah placing them figuratively on the head of the other goat, the "Azazel" scapegoat, who "took them away" as it was released into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

The Book of Enoch supports the idea that Azazel is the name of a fallen angel, and other rabbinical commentators translations refer to the term Azazel as the name of a Hebrew demon, fallen angel, or pagan deity.

The sins of the nation were thus "atoned for" (paid for) by "The Lord's Goat" and "The Azazel Goat." The purpose of the ritual was to dramatize the need for making a fresh start by banishing people's sins. The word scapegoat has come to mean "a person, group or thing upon whom the blame for the mistakes or crimes of others have been thrust."

Projecting the Blame

To Christians, Christ's blood shed on the cross is the holy sacrifice for all sins. Christians do not believe in animal sacrifice as a means of atonement. We all understand the significance of this -- holy communion reminds us of the mercy of Jesus, the Son of God, and the understanding that He shed His blood for all of us sinners.

It is ironic though that many Christians still adhere to the ritual of scapegoating when they deal with the many problems they encounter in life. These people feel the need to blame someone or some thing for their distress, so they choose a convenient lamb or two and begin a relentless slaughter of character.

Some of these holy people blame the devil for their all their ills. If something bad happens to them or if they encounter hardships of any kind, they blame the fallen angel -- the devil. So, naturally, they identify someone or some thing they associate with evil and make it their Azazel Goat. They load all their frustrations on the goat, making sure everyone else identifies the terrible beast, and then they release their scapegoat into a hungry world. For these folks, the scapegoat serves to transfer their pain and serves as a handy outlet for what they see as "evil" in their lives. They cast Lucifer-like individuals out to be consumed by some other force.

These same holy folks also find someone they deem best suited to prepare for them the sacrifice of the "Lord's Goat." They carefully select a "high priest" that best upholds their personal religious beliefs and rely upon him/her to make atonement for the sins of all their anointed households in a particular holy temple.

The clean, holy, high priest, as the conduit to the Almighty, interprets beliefs and sustains the need to sacrifice anyone or any thing deemed "unholy." Since the connection is endorsed by God, the people believe the priestly leader to be speaking for the Almighty.

The high priest, with the acceptance of the congregation, leads the people in the "burnt offering," not of a goat, but of someone or some thing as a chosen "blood" sacrifice that must be sprinkled on the "mercy seat" to please God. The believers accept these acts of purification and this removal of uncleanliness for their transgressions. They believe the bloody problems and sins of the world are best judged, then exposed, and finally sacrificed in the name of the Almighty.

Now, when I say "burnt offering," I am referring to the many ways judgmental sects and cults "light the fires of hatred" toward those of whom they disapprove. They wish to cleanse the world of all their problems by eliminating the objects of their unrest. Sometimes they merely preach against them. Sometimes they degrade them and harass them with malicious and disdainful words. Sometimes they injure them either mentally or physically. And, sometimes, they even kill them.

The people feeling the affront say things like...
"Damn the gays. Fuck the drug addicts. Kill the Muslims; they're all terrorists. Welfare recipients are all lazy bums and users. Abortionists are nothing but murderers. Afro-Americans are the source of crime and drugs. Women are second-class citizens. Close the border to those dirty Mexicans. No jobs exist because of the Democrat (or Republican) politicians. The government is taking away my social security, my insurance, my livelihood, my wife, my kids, my pickup truck, the shirt off my back. The whole world is nuts. There's only one way to justice and freedom."

Scapegoating! The first thing people must do is look into the mirror and stare at the creation and the solution for their problems. I'm sick of hearing the blame game. And, I'm really sick of hearing so-called Christians lash out and pile their problems on the devil or on others. Where in the hell is this going to stop? Personal problems are often caused and escalated by those who experience them. They prefer to scapegoat and blame rather than work to improve themselves.

I am a strong believer in human spirit and human will, but today I notice these attributes have been undermined by blame. I honestly wonder whether fanatic views -- religious, political, and philosophical -- are causing the stupid transfer of more hatred than ever before. To me, a lot of so-called "holy folks" in these tough times seem intolerant -- and not in passive ways, but in aggressive, offensive ways.

Please, don't misunderstand me. A fine, understanding Christian represents a model of the best person I know. However, someone who projects himself/herself as a Christian then lives a life stereotyping and scapegoating others unlike him/her is using Old Testament, sacrificial mentality. They want to let blood if necessary to squash inherent evil.

God is love, and he teaches us to love others, no matter their kind. He demands we take responsibility for our own shortcomings. Christians cannot love to this high degree unless they realizes they, as individuals, and God are sitting in the pilots' seats. I hope those who want to blame others examine their own bloody fingers. I know I certainly have many, many blood stains on my hands. And, I continue to sin, but I also attempt to improve my very finite attempts to love others.

What about the Southern Ohio Disconnect? Can you see how many people here speak negatively about anything they do not support or understand? Our character has been forged by the very hills we inhabit. The hills themselves have been physical obstacles and symbols of isolation, clannishness, and even ignorance that have both retarded our progress and strengthened our "underdog spirit" in many ways. Fighting our way out of a corner is necessary at times, but swinging our fists at things we don't take time to comprehend makes us look foolish. I think there's a lesson there about the necessity to develop both physical and mental toughness.

As much as we love our environment and we fight against others who misjudge us, the hills are not the cause of our malady of misery. Our disconnect to a thriving culture is caused mainly by the refusal of so many to accept responsibility for their own lives, make every effort to learn about and tolerate those who do not think or live like them, and open their minds with more education in order to experience better opportunities.

And, Christians, love thy neighbor -- refrain from scapegoating him. He is your best friend and the potential key to unlock many solutions to your woes and worries.

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