Americans (like every other civilization) want a pound of flesh from someone to atone for what’s wrong with us all. We might not agree on who to crucify but a crucifixion is what we desire. René Girard was—is—right.
There’s a difference between self-sacrifice and demanding a sacrifice or participating in the sacrifice of someone else to appease your own sense of righteousness, a difference between laying down your own life and scapegoating.
By grace, we can oppose evil without letting contempt for certain people work an ironic similarity in us.
By the Spirit, we can oppose the evil people do and the evil people stand for and the evil people cover up but the follower of Jesus resists hatred and rage.
This calls for wisdom.
Our wisdom teaches that resentment and bitterness and rage and hatred are the seedbed *in us* of the evil we oppose when we resist racism, violence (political, sexual), tribalism...any form of darkness.
Here’s the interpretive key: We are never better than the humans we oppose.
A form of self-righteousness is the root *in us* of the evils we would resist.
Paul says we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against dark powers and principalities.
This does not mean we do not pursue reconciliation in the truth.
We labor for justice for victims and we bestow—did I mention how radical this is?—mercy on victimizers.
We work to expose darkness. We do not excuse darkness. We don’t make peace with the darkness by shifting blame to victims. We seek the *end* of darkness.
This is a great mystery that Christians trust: the Lamb is slain for all the crucified victims of history *as well as* all who crucify.
I have in mind here Mandela and Archbishop Tutu and the way they sought to dismantle systems without destroying souls.
They understood that to dismantle apartheid *everyone* had to admit the role they played in the system.
We tend to take out a few bad actors which makes others temporarily afraid but that does not get at the roots.
In South Africa, they exchanged the satisfaction of shaming a few bad actors and made everyone testify to their role in the evil.
A world where everyone’s sense of justice is satisfied and appeased is a world where not one blade of grass is left standing.
Universal contrition and testimony tears down structures.
“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle is over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” —MLK