Is it possible to transfer sin to the innocent? The transferability of sin and punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty seems so unfair, yet it has become without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most common things within cultures, religions, communities, governments and even as small as a place of employment. Think about when one student in class ruins the freedom for everyone because of their behavior or an employee that takes advantage of the time they put in and now all employees must punch the clock.
The issue of Scapegoating reaches far into many areas of our life. There is also something called Spiritual Scapegoating. There are passages of scripture that indicate that sins can be passed on to the innocent. Examples would be found in:
Psalm 79:8 – Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair,
Exodus 20:5-6 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments
Deuteronomy 5:9 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
It is hard to think for one moment that any one of us would have answers to these things. There are many situations in people’s lives that we just cannot explain. We do not know why good people suffer and some, all their lives. G-d forbid one should try and explain it away as if it were healed and/or repaired with a human explanation.
Although this writer would not attempt to explain away someone’s pain, there is a focus that religion has placed on generational sin and curses handed down to others because of their ancestors. It is very real when you see that one’s parent or Grandparent was evil and two generations later you see their son or grandson suffering through some things that just do not make sense. However, if we pay close attention to the scripture passages above, we do see the phrase, to the third and fourth generation. The question has to be, does this mean that all those in the lineage before the third or fourth generation are susceptible to suffer the consequence of past sins in the family? The answer, we really do not know.
The fact is that the generations are mentioned as a way that explains a cleansing process. What does this mean? How do you cleanse the past sins in someone’s family? Perhaps since it was behavior that made the mess it would be behavior that cleanses it. Meaning that, those in the future within that lineage begin to attempt to live righteously. It is said that one cannot change past actions but one can fix them by their efforts. We read the following scriptures and become aware of the process.
Scriptures like: Exodus 34:5-7 –Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Deuteronomy 7:9– Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. (1 Kings 14:3)
1 Kings 14:9 – You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.
It sounds like people reap the consequence of sin in their lineage when they do not take part in cleansing the sin. However, when a person makes every attempt to fix what was in their ancestor’s wrongful behavior, then mercy is shown. Of course, there are many things we cannot explain and do not understand, which sadly leaves us with many questions in life. However, there is something that I call: Scapegoating in Society, and unfortunately those that practice this do not extend the same mercy as our Creator.
SCAPEGOATING IN SOCIETY
Although there are different facets of Scapegoating, the one addressed here falls within the parameters of prejudices in society. Many innocent children have tasted of this and have no clue as to what hit them. For example: Are all Hispanics here illegally? Are all Italians in the Mafia? Are all Muslims, terrorists? Are all African Americans and Hispanics in gangs? Are all minorities on welfare? Are all Anglos, Republican? Where in the heck did anti-semitism come from? We have learned to call it stereotyping and in some cases, profiling, because although it is ignorant and wrong, it still sounds a little more common to us than scapegoating. A Scapegoat is not only defined as a “chump” or a “doormat,” but is a person that takes the blame for someone else’s actions. Whether it is in the past or the present, society seems to hold it over their head. Their connection to their culture, religion, economic status, or their lifestyle automatically categorizes them and they are viewed a certain way; given no chance to progress by society. This is scapegoating. It is one thing to see this in the secular realm, but quite a disappointment to witness it in religious circles. After all being connected to G-d is supposed to make us better, more merciful, tolerant of differences and more willing to see where we have been wrong. The minority child in the classroom may become a scapegoat in that environment just because of what some within his/her culture or ethnic background have done. Life becomes miserable and sorrowful. Chips carried on shoulders are developed and wrong attitudes that serve to breed more wrong attitudes. It has destroyed the pursuit of happiness and freedom for many.
There are many people that brag about tolerance but continue to want things their way. There are many who continue to blame a group of people today for something done in the past. Life would be so much easier if we could all learn the art of tolerance. The prejudices that exist through Scapegoating are so prevalent in all facets of society.
Tolerance doesn’t mean seeing someone harming himself and saying, “Live and let live.” That’s indifference. Apathy. If you see someone going the wrong way and you care about him, you’ll do everything you can to set him straight. Tolerance means that although you see his faults in all their ugliness naked before you, that doesn’t decrease by one iota your respect for him as a fellow human being, and for all the good he has within him. And if you say, “How can I be expected to lead a life of paradox, to both respect and rebuke at once?” Let me ask you, do you have any faults? And do you not respect yourself nonetheless? If you can live a life of paradox for yourself, you can give at least that privilege to the other guy. (Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson)
At every moment, your Creator must decide, “Should I put up once again with this little creature’s imperfections and blunders, or is it time to measure things by the scale?” Then He looks at the scale you use to measure others… And with that same measure, He measures you!
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