Rohr: Scapegoating

Rohr: The Scapegoat Mechanism

“Humans have always struggled to deal with fear and evil by ways other than forgiveness, most often through sacrificial systems. If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness!”  Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 193-194, Center for Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr Meditation.


Richard Rohr is calling us to a radical new way of life, not projecting our own sins and fears on to others. Those in 12 step recovery would say this is “trying to clean up your side of the street.” I have been taught that when I start scapegoating, seeing evil so blatantly living in someone or something else, after searching for the fear in myself, that I am to try to see the light of Christ in that person or situation and work toward offering forgiveness as Jesus did from the cross. I need reminders because the evil in others sometimes seems so obvious to me while I am so blind to that darker side of myself. This is no better demonstrated than in the political climate in our country before and after the recent presidential election and in my state of Arkansas last year with its multiple executions. Most days I don’t think I am anywhere close to seeing a darker side of myself or the Christ in the other side or even considering offering forgiveness.

Looking back in history, we can see so clearly the most obvious scapegoating where we projected our fears onto others. We remember the Holocaust, the Armenia Genocide, slavery, Jim Crow laws, and so many others. What about today? What about how we view immigrants, how we failure to recognize women’s, children’s rights, rights for gays, lesbians and those who are transgender?

My experience is that awareness of the facts of each situation is our first step towards some change of heart. Then comes the inventory of ourselves, the search for the evil in ourselves that we only see on others.  Next comes the difficult assignment of looking deeper, looking deeper, trying to see Christ in the other person. Next comes the even harder search to be able to offer forgiveness.

Richard Rohr teaches that we do not have a choice if we want to care for our soul. Someone else mentioned the speck in our neighbor’s eye that we are trying to take out as we have not been able to see the boulder in our own eye.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 193-194.