Torture and violence against GLBT people on the rise internationally. Scapegoating to blame.


The BBC is reporting about a horrific series of coordinated attacks by Shiite militias in Iraq which are focused on searching out and torturing to death anyone suspected of being gay. The Uganda Minister of Ethics and Integrity suggests that righteous violence against those who would “rationalize” an acceptance of the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people in an article today.

From the BBC report:

The report says members of the Mehdi Army militia group is spearheading the campaign, but police are also accused – even though homosexuality is legal.

Witnesses say vigilante groups break into homes and pick people up in the street, interrogating them to extract the names of other potential victims, before murdering them.

“Murder and torture are no way to enforce morality,” said HRW researcher Rasha Moumneh, quoted in the report.

“These killings point to the continuing and lethal failure of Iraq’s post-occupation authorities to establish the rule of law and protect their citizens.”

In some cases, Human Rights Watch says it was told, Iraqi security forces had actually “colluded and joined in the killing”.

The Ugandan Government Minister, Dr. Nsaba Buturo writes:

The two camps which are engaged in serious battles for control of Uganda are, on the one hand, the moral camp which wants to keep God’s tenets as the basis of Uganda’s governance and, on the other, the camp which wants to see in place an unrestrained immorally-inclined governance system. For the moral camp, the battles are a must to engage in.

Moralists are expected to oppose, for example, the rancorous as well as pernicious demands to affirm homosexual acts as both a moral and human rights issue.

Needless to say, their record of refusing to engage in these battles has remained a vexing question. Instead, the moral wing is increasingly becoming cowardly, apostate, accomodationist and jejune. Sadly, too, all that the emasculated Church can do is to feebly as well as incoherently demonstrate her opposition to encroaching immorality.

How depraved do our societies have to be before the moral wing will feel and express outrage at the indecent, cruel and evil practices that are asserting their presence on our national conscience? Will the moral wing rise to this occasion and defend Uganda’s integrity or will they become like the acquiescent Church that failed to help William Wilberforce battle slavery, or the atrophied moderate white Church that failed to help Martin Luther King Jr. battle racism?

What both of these articles represent is an attempt by a fractured societies experiencing fundamental conflict between its constituent elements to create a new unity based on persecuting a minority. Rene Girard names this as the Scapegoating mechanism and sees the collusion between Herod and Pilate as being cut from the same cloth as what is shown above. However Jesus’ resurrection and fundamental innocence proves the demonic origin of the mechanism.

From the Wikipedia article on “Scapegoats”

In Girard’s view, it is humankind, not God, who has the problem with violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism[6] is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. Girard contends that this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The difference in this case, Girard believes, is that he was resurrected from the dead and shown to be innocent; humanity is thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken. Satan, who is seen to be manifested in the contagion, is cast out. Thus Girard’s work is significant as a re-construction of the Christus Victor atonement theory.

Sadly groups attempting to paper over internal disputes by agreeing to violent actions against a minority are not only found in African countries or amongst Islamic extremist groups in the middle east. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to find similar motivations for these sorts of attacks in the west.

I should probably add that this scapegoating mechanism can be observed almost universally. The persecuted Christian minority in Pakistan where the small community of Christians are being burned alive in their homes as conflicts escalate between Muslims who support the Taliban and those who support the pro-Western Muslim government.

Or here in the United States where we can find a large number of groups willing to unite against “them illegals” who are going to take the country away from the ruling classes.


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Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Exactly IT. I’m worried that there will be a new wave of scapegoating if the economy doesn’t turn around. People who are stressed lash out. Look at how masterfully Hitler was able to use minorities like the Jews (and the gay and lesbian communities) in Weimar Germany to build a coalition which ultimately included mainline (for Germany) Christians.

  2. I think I’m more of a “Yes, but …” Isn’t it at least possible that persecution of gay people in some countries is a deliberate choice of being “not the USA”? I don’t know, but think it at least a possible part of the dynamic.

  3. Doug – I think that’s just the same mimetic rivalry but with a different set of players. There is conflict in the society about how they want to deal with western cultural influences. The conflict is defused between the parties by agreeing that while they don’t agree on what to appropriate, they can find agreement in a desire to inflict violence on gay and lesbian people.
    To much smaller degree and less violent degree you can see the same role being played by various provinces in the Anglican Communion as they agree to reject the Episcopal Church in an attempt to paper over deeper theological differences between the Provinces.

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