May 16, 2007

Before we can get to the cross we have to back up and confront the violence in the Old Testament. We are scandalized by the violence in the Old Testament, but we also see in the Old Testament a growing ambivalence toward sacrifice. This ambivalence is associated with the growing predominance of the voice of the scapegoat. Before the Old Testament victims had no voice. And they were categorically considered to be guilty and afflicted by the gods. Thus, sacrificing scapegoats (via religious ritual, mob violence, or war) was religiously justified. But as the Old Testament progresses, particularly in the book of Job, we find the scapegoat taking center stage. The scapegoat is now allowed to speak, both to God and against his/her accusers. And what that scapegoat clearly says is this: I am innocent.

This cry of the scapegoat—“I am innocent”—throws a moral wrench into the religious justification for firing up the machinery of violence. For violence against innocent ones is morally exposed for what it is: Self-interested and self-serving.

Thus, by the end of the Old Testament we see God explicitly rejecting the religious sacrifice of Israel and asking for “true religion”: Solidarity with the weak and marginalized. In this we see the dynamic illustrated in Class 2: In standing with the victim we are saved from the tides of human violence.



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