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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Scapegoating Pattern
The Scapegoating Pattern

We Do Not Know What We Are Doing

Friday, March 29, 2024

Good Friday

Brian McLaren invites us to an imaginative experience of the painful reality of scapegoating that occurred on Good Friday:

Let’s imagine ourselves with the disciples just before three o’clock on this Friday afternoon. A few of us have come together to talk about what has happened over the last twenty-four hours….

Why was there no other way? Why did this good man—the best we have ever known, the best we have ever imagined—have to face torture and execution as if he were some evil monster?

As the hours drag on from noon to nearly three o’clock, we imagine many reasons….

Jesus has told us again and again that God is different from our assumptions. We’ve assumed that God was righteous and pure in a way that makes God hate the unrighteous and impure. But Jesus has told us that God is pure love, so overflowing in goodness that God pours out compassion on the pure and impure alike. He not only has told us of God’s unbounded compassion—he has embodied it every day as we have walked this road with him. In the way he has sat at table with everyone, in the way he has never been afraid to be called a “friend of sinners,” in the way he has touched untouchables and refused to condemn even the most notorious of sinners, he has embodied for us a very different vision of what God is like….

If Jesus is showing us something so radical about God, what is he telling us about ourselves—about human beings and our social and religious institutions? What does it mean when our political leaders and our religious leaders come together to mock and torture and kill God’s messenger?… Is this the only way religions and governments maintain order—by threatening us with pain, shame, and death if we don’t comply? And is this how they unify us—by turning us into a mob that comes together in its shared hatred of the latest failure, loser, rebel, criminal, outcast … or prophet?… What kind of world have we made? What kind of people have we become?…

In the middle of the afternoon … even from this distance, we can hear Jesus, “Father, forgive them!” he shouts. “For they don’t know what they are doing.”

Forgive them? Forgive us? 

Our thoughts bring us again to the garden last night, when Jesus asked if there could be any other way. And now it seems clear. There could be no other way to show us what God is truly like. God is not revealed in killing and conquest … in violence and hate. God is revealed in this crucified man—giving of himself to the very last breath, giving and forgiving.

And there could be no other way to show us what we are truly like. We do not know what we are doing, indeed.

If God is like this, and if we are like this … everything must change.

Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 158, 159, 160.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. Who do we push outside the circle of our acceptance to sing alone on the branches of a burnt and mangled desert tree?

Story from Our Community:  

In reading the meditation from March 10, 2023 on the Really Real, I thought of my wife who recently passed away. Before she passed, we shared the belief that she was about to enter into the Really Real world. Now that she is gone, I truly perceive the truth that she still has one foot in heaven and one foot still here on earth. She is with God here—not “out there”! —Dick R.

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