say no to scapegoating

There are a lot of things that influence our lives that are out of our control, like where we’re born, our skin color, sex, and many other happenstances. Sometimes when we take notice of the various influencers in our lives we may feel helpless and fall into a blame game of sorts. I think it’s good to analyze ourselves and our surroundings, but it’s not good to fall into this pattern too much because one may miss the fact that some things in their life can be within their control. With the exception of the severely mentally ill and retarded, I think it’s safe to say that how we behave is mostly in our control.

It can be both empowering and deflating to take responsibility for our actions. When I’ve done something which I feel was good, it’s very easy to pat myself on the back and take pride in my actions. I think many can relate when I say that when something goes wrong it’s very tempting to find things to blame other than oneself, admitting our mistakes and flaws never feels great. I think it’s our natural aversion to bad feelings that drives many of us to scapegoat in various aspects of our lives.

It’s my opinion that our natural inclination to want to scapegoat that has led many to be attracted to Christianity. The heart of Christian doctrine is the story of Jesus taking responsibility for the sins of humanity, or in other words, the scapegoat for humanity. Some sects of Christianity preach that if you just believe in Jesus as your lord and savior your sins will be forgiven and you will go to heaven. According to this logic the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who was baptized as a born again Christian went to heaven but someone like Carl Sagan who never hurt a soul and advocated for a better world is burning in hell fire. This dimension of Christianity has disturbed me for a very long time because it teaches its followers they ultimately don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. Besides the belief that god will forgive a Christian if they believe, there’s also the belief in the devil and he is often to blame for things that go wrong in Christians’ lives. Things like drinking too much or cheating on one’s spouse were because of temptation from the devil, there’s often admission of wrong doing but it’s not a full admission of responsibility. It also seems that believers don’t take much credit for the things that go well for them because they have to thank god for his blessings. For instance, the talent that got someone to where they are was a god given blessing and credit is barely given to the individual and the people around them that helped them along the way.

The concept of telling people they’re powerless really rubs me the wrong way. I once sat in on an AA meeting with friend for one of her school assignments, and if you’re not familiar, Alcoholics Anonymous is a twelve step support program for alcoholics which centers on spiritual and character development to help its members abstain from drinking. There is variation in the program around the world, some versions are on the very religious end of the spectrum and some are more on the secular side. The general rule for all AA groups is that a member does not have to be of a certain denomination or hold a specific religious belief. The one my friend and I sat in on was just for women and in a church basement, so unsurprisingly there was a lot of talk of god during the meeting. I knew going in to it that it would be depressing to hear women discuss their struggle with alcohol addiction, but I wasn’t expecting to hear things like “I couldn’t do it without god” or “I’m so powerless without god’s love” so much. Every time that sort of sentiment came out I felt my stomach twist a little more and it was very difficult to keep a straight face. I kept getting the sense that these women were led to their addiction partly because they had very little confidence in themselves, and I’m not an expert on human behavior but it’s my humble opinion that it might not be healthy to have people with low self-esteem repeat that they’re “powerless”.

I’ve struggled with depression and I can fully understand not feeling good about oneself, especially when there are many outside factors that influence how we form our opinions of ourselves. A turning point for me was when I noticed the simple fact that maybe I shouldn’t fall into a cycle of putting myself down so much. As I said before, there are a lot of factors in my life that aren’t completely in my control, but I doubt I’ll get that far if I’m constantly playing a blame game or scapegoating my problems. It’s silly, but sometimes I think of Al Franken’s SNL character Stewart Smalley and repeat some positive affirmations to myself. I also give myself a decent giggle whenever I try to mimic how the character spoke, so win-win, I think a good chuckle is always great for the spirit. I also think it’s better to credit loved ones for support and happiness than to credit a deity that you can’t prove exists. Ultimately I’m responsible for my actions and trying to make the best of the hand I’ve been dealt in this mortal coil and I think it would hold me back if I were to think “I’m powerless without god”.  

stewartSmalley

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11 thoughts on “say no to scapegoating

  1. Keep on truckin’! And I’m not even a fan of the Grateful Dead. But those are words to live by. Thanks for another thoughtful post.

  2. Thank God, hey?
    God saved me, hey?
    I shared this story once at ‘The Truth Is Wrong’ blog (which I recommend), i’ll share it again here, being so close to the posted subject.

    I was living and working in a large desert town at the time. Riding pillion-passenger on a good friend’s motorbike, a van turned against us without giving way. My good friend was instantly crushed between the motorbike and the van whereas I was thrown some three blocks further down the road to land on my head (of all things). The Royal Flying Doctor took me to the capital where proper equipment and staff could possibly save my life.
    The next few months were a mixture of coma, slowly returning senses, wonderfully supportive family and friends, terrible hospital food and an aching return to having a life. Fragmentation, depression, memory problems and a number of other related things were mixed into the next few years and I will probably spend the rest of my life recovering from this accident.
    While in hospital, some family members and friends of family had told me that, at their behest, a number of churches full of people had prayed for my life and recovery. My Mother (A Rekei-Master), had used her healing-energy powers on me. In those early times a number of other theories were told me regarding who/what to thank for my survival and miraculously good recovery. Still unsure about the reality of all of these things, I was simply glad that all of the bases seem to have been covered and that any of them or any combination of them may have helped, I felt awfully grateful at the time just to still be alive so didn’t have to think more on these magical theories.

    Another part of that whole, dark time, was what I learned about the early surgical and later rehabilitation methods that had occurred, the recording of them and how the whole process worked. The emergency staff in the ambulance, fast and careful for my injuries. The Royal Flying Doctor, who I have donated to many times since. The surgical staff, performing such vital and exacting tasks. The rehabilitation workers, psychologists, physiologists, occupational therapists, ankle experts, shoulder experts – the list goes on.
    A great friend of mine in that desert town had ridden his Harley to the capital to see me. I was still in a coma and only family were permitted to visit me at the time. A sympathetic orderly had told him, “We think he’s going to die, but it’s too early, we have to see who or what comes out the coma … first.”

    I can’t deny the power of my supporting family and friends, nor deny the care and giant hearts possessed by all of those strangers in churches who were asking their God to give me life and fast recovery, can’t ignore the healing effects of my Mother’s love (Reiki or no). Many were praying and many were hoping for my survival while feeling the pain of loosing a loved-one while another loved-one is on the brink in a hospital, survival unlikely but not unknown to happen.

    It was the fast emergency workers, the well trained and efficient medical staff, the others who played a hand in my difficult recovery and everyone else who had anything to do with it as I slowly rose from the ashes. It was they who are to thank for this, they who I remember with a tear and a smile.

    Any God or unearthly power or healing magic, was a reflection of the concern that was felt by those who love me, concern that can still make we weep joyous tears.
    But if any god or eldrich power of nature or arcane energy was responsible for my survival … it CHOSE that I shall live … lets remember that this god or eldrich/arcane power also CHOSE that my good friend would not also live.

    There is no why, he was killed instantly whereas I was not beyond recovery, a recovery helped so much by the people trained in their medical arts, the systems and programs developed to react to just such an emergency … they are to thank, they are responsible.

    All the best,
    Woody

  3. This instantly resonates with me. It is a huge pet peeve of mine lately when I see people not only downplay their own accomplishments and talents, but intentionally pass on this self loathing and never-gonna-be-good-enough attitude to their children. I recently had a high school friend post on FaceBook for their son’s 9th birthday. They post a picture of this handsome, energetic, shining example of a budding human and then immediately cut it down by saying “he is hungry for Jesus and I know the Lord has great plans for this boy.” I couldn’t help but be sickened by this. Its as if to say “screw this little brat and whatever he wants to do with his life, there is a big, bad puppet master up top and he’s gonna drive this kid like an insured rental car. To me it honestly feels like child abuse. “Hungry for Jesus.” Really. As if that feeling could exist in a 9 year old boy without you jamming it into his heart with your fire and torture threats lurking just behind his sheepish smile.
    I so badly want to mock these people, but of course I don’t.

    I mean…not to their faces…ha.

  4. Was having similar thought process t’other day. It also lead me down the path of judge’s and jurors. Can you request (not that i have been infront of one) a non religious judge due to the fact that if they are religious you have a worry in their ‘fact based evidence reasoning’?

  5. I don’t know when you visited AA but you may have the last Cheshire smile. Maybe the largest growing subculture in AA is Atheists and Agnostics in AA. At the turn of the century there were under 40 atheist/agnostic AA groups (no praying, no reliance on a prayer answering, sobriety granting higher power) but now there are over 300 of them.

    In Santa Monica in 2014 AA’s first International Conference for Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers happened and we do it all again in Austin TX in November 2016. I’ve been a sober atheist since Led Zeppelin were still together and now atheists are coming out of AA closets at a meaningful clip.

    Great post; keep ’em coming.

  6. You are right that we should say no to the scapegoating mechanism. Unfortunately as human beings it’s in our nature. Our accusations of others can be directed toward a group of people on a mass scale or one person. In the Bible, Satan is referred to as “the accuser”. The Hebrew word means “accuser”.

    Christianity undermines the scapegoating mechanism because Jesus Christ proves in the Gospel that he is on the side of the opressed, the vilified, the vulnerable, and the accused. One great example is John Chapter where Jesus comes to the rescue of a woman accused of committing adultery and undermines the Jewish religious leaders who accuse the woman. “Let ye who is without sin be the first to cast a stone”. Jesus, who is God, affrims that God loves the sinner and the scapegoated.

    Also, Jesus Christ takes upon himself the sins of the world through nonviolence and being himself subject to violence and scapegoated when crucified on the cross. God entered into our human condition and uplifted it. Christanity holds up Jesus as the ultimate scapegoat. God is not a scapegoater, he became scapegoated like us.

  7. Technically there’s no free will, so responsibility is a construct we create. If it originated in your brain and not due to obvious outside agents/influences, then it was “free” but only in a semantic sense, it’s not really free since you cannot have control over your brain doings (which cause your thoughts.)

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