Bread, Circuses, Christians and Lions
by Lori Heine

Why is society so fascinated with the odd, the different and the weak? Why, specifically, are we so very entertained by the meltdowns of celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen? Our glee over others’ mental and emotional illness, at the excesses of addiction, and at other people’s sex lives – especially if we find them lurid or scandalous – is strange, indeed.

It’s easy to imagine that as kids, the folks who most enjoy such bread and circuses got their jollies by poking sticks at little dogs.  Or pulling the wings off of flies.  That in supposedly more primitive times, they would have paid good money to watch the baiting of a half-starved bear. 

They may not line up at the gates to watch lions rip Christians apart anymore.  But the impulse is clearly still alive and well.  As a society, people seem obsessed with what might be wrong with other people – particularly those who are richer or more famous than they.  Perhaps they really ought to be more concerned with what may be wrong with themselves.

LGBT people are still widely perceived as sick or sinful.  We are often tormented by the cruelty of others.  And straight people with more imagination than common sense seem to find our sex lives endlessly exciting.  As objects of their fascination, we are, evidently, pure gold.

Could this be a modern version of the ancient concept of the “scapegoat?” That one individual or group can take on all society’s faults and bear them for everybody? The scapegoat used to be driven out into the desert, bearing all of the people’s sins.  It left them feeling cleansed and renewed.

This is exactly what heterosexual society has, all too often, done to gays and lesbians.  They project their own sins onto us and drive us out so they can feel safe, smug and secure.

It’s strange that those who take the lead in this ritual are Christians.  Believers in Jesus Christ should – of all people – be beyond the need for such hocus-pocus.  Do we not already have a Savior who has taken on the sins of all and borne them to free us?

The search for scapegoats shows a certain insecurity.  The world still evidently feels it needs someone to bear its sins, onto whom its people may project their own guilts and inadequacies.  This is why it can’t get enough of Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen.

If it couldn’t get enough of Jesus, how much more it would truly have.  Perhaps we, as LGBT Christians, can help society finally recognize that its craving for scapegoats is hollow, hurtful and bound to remain unfulfilled.

Jesus came to free us from the need to stigmatize and victimize others.  Which is why even those of us whom others would load down with their burdens can cast those burdens at Christ’s feet and find real and lasting peace.


© 2011 Lori Heine

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