March 2, 2015 Wayne Northey

The Sex Offender as Scapegoat

Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response

 John 12:20 – 33; John 11:49-52:

49But one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51Caiaphas did not say this on his own. Instead, as high priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation,52and not only for the nation, but also for the scattered children of God, to gather them together into one.

WN: It was my longstanding friend and colleague Hugh Kirkegaard (currently (2021) and for some years Director of Chaplaincy, Correctional Services Canada, Atlantic Region) who inspired and co-authored this paper; and had worked closely in Toronto with Bobby Oatway. He arranged for CSC funding for us to attend the COV&R (Colloquium on Violence and Religion) Conference at Emory University, Atlanta in 1999, where we presented on what was turned into the paper below.

Encouragingly, it has been republished and translated a few times.

You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.Caiaphas

It has been translated, published in anthologies, and referenced numerous times since, thanks to the power of René Girard’s insights on scapegoating. The original paper is still on the Emory University COV&R ’99 website here.

an excerpt:

This attempted expulsion, which led ultimately to Bobby Oatway requesting to be returned to the prison he was released from, to serve the remainder of his sentence, is reminiscent of other expulsions and other victims. The broken taboos that sexual offending, particularly those offences against children, represent, create a kind of “holy fear”. But this alone does not explain the visceral and violent response which demonizes individuals like Bobby Oatway, rendering them less than human and the most heinous of offenders. There are other impulses that prompt such responses, that legitimize the violence that is an all too common response to them. Viewed through the lens of mimetic theory these realities beg the question, ‘Is it possible that sex offenders have become scapegoats among us?’

Please click on: The Sex Offender as Scapegoat

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Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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