A series of unveilings

From “Scapegoats: The Gospel Through the Eyes of Victims” by Jennifer Garcia Bashaw

My task in this book relies on four main goals – (1) to provide an accessible introduction to scapegoat theory and the work of Rene Girard, (2) to examine Jesus’s ministry in the Gospels with special reference to victims in his context, (3) to survey some of the ways the church has participated in scapegoating in its history, and (4) to suggest ways Christians can end the cycle of scapegoating today, working toward a better future for the church and the world. At the heart of this task, though, is Jesus’s ministry among the victims in his society. In order for twenty-first-century readers to appreciate the revolutionary nature of Jesus’s ministry in its first-century context and let it change our lives today, we must return to the texts and read them carefully and judiciously.

At its heart, this book is a series of unveilings. The first unveiling is a biblical one. If we want to read the Gospels responsibly, we must factor in their cultural backgrounds, do justice to the literary brilliance of the Gospel writers, and appreciate the perspectives of the original readers. We must read the stories from a different vantage point. Many of us have enjoyed a privileged position in society and practiced our religion without persecution or hindrance, but because of this, we have trouble interpreting the Bible. For most of us, when we read about Israel or about the early Christians, we view those stories in light of our experiences of privilege, power, and peace. In other words, we read the Bible from the perspective of the victor. The problem with this kind of reading is that it clashes with the perspective of the biblical writers and most of its characters. The Bible tells stories about an enslaved and exiled nation rescued by their God and about a persecuted religious sect that followed a crucified leader. In order for us to enter into the story from the perspective of the victim, not the victor, we need a new set of eyes.