Taking into account the context, the Bible can often be stunningly accurate in describing human nature. When I heard Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, present “The Blame Game” on Radio 4 last month my thoughts went straight to Leviticus 16 – I’m sure you know it my heart! The programme described how when something goes wrong some one person had to be found to blame, freeing everyone else from responsibility. It’s wasn’t about truth, putting things right or even justice..
In Leviticus, Aaron, lays his hands on the goat’s head confessing the people’s sins and the goat is sent out into the wilderness taking the sins with it. William Tyndale, my hero of faith and English, named it the scapegoat.
Of course sometimes people do have to face the music for what they have done. However, finding a scapegoat doesn’t necessarily make things better. For example, the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s purpose is “to improve aviation safety… by determining the causes of air accidents… and making safety recommendations… It is not to apportion blame or liability.” Flying is very safe.
Perhaps in, say, medical accidents, hospital overcrowding, school performance and many walks of life a similar approach might cause greater improvement. Could it be that the scapegoat we wish to send out into the wilderness has the knowledge, skill and especially the incentive to make the difference?
By the Revd Peter Cheesman, Civil Protection Advisor, Gloucestershire Churches Together and the Diocese of Gloucester.