13 Suddenly a vast, heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”
Humanity’s Endless Addiction Cycle
Have you ever wondered why we as humans cannot get our stuff together? It seems like the human race cannot hold on to anything good, and violence, scapegoating and greed seem to be our default positions. It is so easy for us to choose fear over love, violence over peace, exclusion over embrace, and greed over hospitality and generosity.
Yet every time we choose to live from the darker side of our nature we become less human. The love, joy, peace, and abundance we desire slips through our fingers, and we are left with a big void in our hearts. A void that only God’s love can fill. Violence, scapegoating and greed cannot live in harmony with love, peace, joy, and generosity. We have to choose.
Rene Girard, a famous French Anthropologist, believes that the foundation of human civilization is built upon the cycle greed, hostility, violence and scapegoating. It is humanity’s endless addiction. He calls this cycle the Principle of Satan. For Girard the idea of Satan is more about this tragic cycle humanity is caught up into than an actual personal Satan. I tend to believe it is both happening at the same time, but you need to decide that for yourself. Nonetheless he gives us an sobering truth about our darker selves. It goes something like this: 1) I desire something (gold, oil, land, power, etc.). This makes you desire what I want. 2) This leads to rivalry and hostility between us and potentially violence. 3) The only way we can end the rivalry, hostility and violence is to find a scapegoat. 4) The scapegoat becomes a sacrifice which brings a false peace between us. The only way we can keep peace between us is to find someone to blame and scapegoat for all our problems. That way we do not have to face the real issues, nor the fact that we might actually be part of the problem.
Scapegoating helps us save face so we can continue living in denial that we are participants in the same evils we claim we righteously want to destroy. This cycle, or Principle of Satan, has been played out through our past and continues to play out now.
The American Story
How? We desire control and security. We cannot seem to work out our problems or differences in our country or our international relationships. So we find a scapegoat in order to bring us together as a nation so we can have peace again. Southerners used to scapegoat black people, and it brought them a sense of false peace and group unity every time they lynched a black person or beat them back into “their place.”
As a nation we nearly destroyed the native Americans by scapegoating them as “savages.” It eased our religious consciouses as Americans as we used the Bible to call native Americans the new “Canaanites” who must be slaughtered and driven from the land so that our grandparents could settle the new frontier. It united our country around the vision of “Manifest Destiny” which meant as we expanded West genocide was acceptable in order to create a nation from “sea to shining sea.”
The Apex Example of Scapegoating
Hitler and the German people scapegoated the Jews in the name of security and killed 6 million people. The Third Reich killed millions of other ethnic groups along with the disabled, gay people, and mentally handicapped. The Jews however, were the largest group Hitler targeted. It shocks me that there are people in this world who still pretend this horrific event did not happen.
We Need To Take A Look In The Mirror
Today some of our leading presidential candidates who claim to be Christians along with 40% of Americans believe we should scapegoat Muslims and refugees by denying our American Muslim citizens their equal rights and turning suffering refugees away from our shores.
Some of the rich in this country scapegoat the poor by saying they should just work harder, and many of the poor scapegoat the rich by assuming they are all greedy thieves. It seems that one of the things that brings a lot of people together in this country is another war. War seems to bring a false sense of peace for a season, but we end up resolving nothing that brings a lasting solution for our nation.
A scapegoat can be a person, ethnic group, or a different religious or political ideology. The truth is that we are afraid to love, and that we as a nation and individuals are part of this terrible cycle of greed, hostility, violence and scapegoating. We are all perpetrators of the the Principle of Satan, and we cannot break out of the cycle because we are trapped and afraid to look within to face our own demons.
God’s Dream & Secret Plan To End This Cycle
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
In spite of our addiction to the Principle of Satan, God has made a way for humanity to break free from this seeming perpetual cycle of greed, hostility, violence and scapegoating. God has a beautiful Dream for the world. It has been His secret plan from the dawn of time to bring down the Principle of Satan that has enslaved humanity, and to end our vicious cycle of suffering. His secret plan is the antidote to the our cycle of greed, violence and scapegoating. His secret plan was to reconcile all things and all people to himself through the person of Jesus.
2,000 years ago God’s Dream for the world arrived in a little baby born in Bethlehem. In some special way, God came to us when God put His Spirit and Word into Mary’s womb and Jesus concieved. Jesus is the incarnation of the Word and Spirit of God made flesh. Just as my dear Muslim friends believe God put His eternal word into a book called the Qur’an, we as Christians believe God put His eternal word into a person.
When God’s Word became flesh in the person of Jesus, it was as if heaven and earth kissed each other, love and truth embraced each other, and matter and spirit became intertwined as everything was made holy. I believe it was George MacDonald who once said, “Matter matters to God.” This means the oceans, animals, people, the trees — everything has God’s blessing in it and upon it because of the incarnation of Jesus. This means how we treat refugees, Muslims, homeless people, economics, our neighbors, children, enemies, and spouses is a reflection of how we view God and respond to his Dream for the world.
Jesus gives us a picture of how the Principle of Satan, (the guiding principle of humanity since the dawn of human culture), has always been at odds with God’s Dream for the world.
12 And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s Dream for the world) has been forcefully advancing,[a] and violent people (Principle of Satan) are attacking it (Matthew 11:12)
God had a Dream for this world and violent people still fight that Dream, often it is done in the name of God. If we choose the cycle of greed, hostility, violence and scapegoating, we are in danger of becoming violent people (in our heart or actions) that are fighting or attacking God’s Dream for the world. No matter how many sermons we preach or Bible verses we attach to it we are operating in a way that goes against the very purposes of God on earth.
God’s Dream is so simple it causes us to stumble. God’s Dream is that there is peace on earth and good will towards all people. He dreams of a world where the naked are clothed, the poor have more than enough, the hungry are fed, the widows, orphans and fatherless have loving homes. He dreams of a world where justice and compassion are the rule of the land. His heart is for a world where the rich prosper, but in their prosperity they leave a legacy, not only for their children, but for those who work for them and those who will come after them. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are definitely showing the super rich how to do this. They are partnering with God’s Dream, even if they do not believe in Him or realize it.
Jesus was born 2,000 years ago. His birth was announced to the poorest of the poor — the shepherds. Caesar and all the might and power of Rome missed the whole event. Jesus came not only to save us, but to show us a better way to be human. He gave us a simple message as to how we could break free from the cycle of greed, hostility, violence and scapegoating, and enter into God’s Dream for saving the whole world. He message:
“Love God with all your being, love your neighbor as yourself, treat other people the way you want to be treated, and if you find enemies along the way do everything you can to make them your friends.”
Humanity killed Jesus for his message, but three days later he rose from the dead to prove to the world once and for all that the way of love and the Dream of God were superior to the Principle of Satan.
I yearn to find a church that believes this. Rejoice my friends! God’s Dream can among us in the person of Jesus and now we can choose a better way to be human.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!