I love pourquoi stories. They are tales we have told through the ages to explain certain phenomena. Pourquoi (pronounced pork-wha) is French for “why?”, any pre-schooler’s favourite word!
You know the story of the family that always cut the end off the lamb roast, before cooking. No one knew why. On consulting great granny they discovered that in her day she had a small roaster and had to cut the joint to make it fit!
Pourquoi stories are the way cultures, religions and families pass on their rituals and sadly, their biases too.
The Crucifixion of Jesus is a multi-layer pourquoi story which like the mythical Urobouros swallowing its own tail, circles around and challenges our comfort zones.
The most common level of the story tries to explain why a peaceful prophet from Galilee was cruelly killed at the hands of Rome and the religious establishment in Jerusalem. This orthodox answer is an extremely unhelpful one, “God planned it to be this way.”
What! That’s a disgusting image of God! What father would kill his own son? How the church came to this brutal understanding of the horror, requires some questioning.
The Church was trying to make sense of Jesus’ unfair death and rationalised it back to animal sacrifice which was the religious forgiveness ritual then.
But why animal sacrifice in the first place? Pourquoi?
Well, it’s preferable to sacrificing humans! The Bible story of Abraham wanting to sacrifice Isaac, but God substituting a ram, is another pourquoi explaining the transition from human to animal sacrifice.
The pre-schooler in me continues – Why human sacrifice? The answer to this one lies in our collective unconscious, and long before the bible was written.
Paleo-Anthropology studies these ancient myths and Rene Girard was one of its great scholars. Studying ancient pourquois, Girard discovered that as humans began living in groups, they had to deal with troublesome people who didn’t fit in and disrupted the status quo. The easiest, primitive solution was to demonise these characters, which then justified killing them.
Individuals and groups were treated this way in times of stress. Medieval Jews were blamed for Bubonic plague just as recently, some blamed the Chinese for COVID19! Ironically, right now the Christian church itself is being scapegoated for all the troubles in the world from paedophilia to colonisation.
Yet in a strange anomaly within our mental processing, a residue of remorse lingers toward those we have scapegoated and destroyed.
So the Greeks took Oedipus who killed his parents and they made him a god. Many of the Greek gods were rebels who achieved divine status. We scapegoat our suspicious ones then remorsefully deify them.
Preachers proclaim that God killed Jesus, but if that’s true, we’ve been exonerated from our collective culpability in the greatest scapegoating crime ever committed!
Humans, not God, kill and destroy those who challenge and threaten us.
Jesus broke no taboos. He taught only an inclusive path of love, yet we killed him for it.
Why in God’s name do that?