Thursday, August 29, 2013


In our modern American culture we seem obsessed with assigning blame. We try to mask it with the word "responsibility" and even make it sound like a virtue by using the phrase "individual responsibility." One simple question: how many truly individual acts are there, acts that from beginning to end only involve one person?

In today's gospel for the beheading of John the Baptist, we have Herod who made the promise, Herodias who hatched the plot, the daughter who conspired, and the guests some of whom were presumably Herod's friends. On whom do we place the blame?

Like almost everything in human life it was a collaboration, multiple people required to bring the entire thing to fruition. Everyone including the guests who stood by and did nothing share the responsibility. We do still believe in the sins of omission.

We like to try and make life more simple than it is. We like to look at this story and blame Herod or Herodias. We like to try and place the blame on a single person, it gives us a focal point. And most importantly it usually absolves us of responsibility.

We should remember that the scapegoat (Azazel) in the Old Testament was precisely that, a goat, an animal, not a person. The next time we get ready to rail against any single person we need to ask ourselves how many people collaborated in the bad choice? How many are co-responsible? And most importantly, what is my share of the responsibility ? If I said nothing. If I did nothing. Perhaps the person I need to change is me.