“You are dead to me.”
Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows. Admittedly, it’s one of my guilty pleasures. The “Sharks” are described as “tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons.” They invest their own money in entrepreneurs who pitch their product to the Sharks. ABC states that the Sharks give “people from all walks of life the chance to chase the American dream, and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires.”
But, they are called “Sharks” for a reason. The Sharks are ruthless in their critique of entrepreneurs. When they smell blood, they strike, bringing tears to many poor contestants.
The greatest villain on the show is Kevin O’Leary. He compares making money with war – “Here’s how I think of my money: As soldiers. I send them out to war everyday. I want them to take prisoners and come home, so there’s more of them.”
O’Leary is a great villain because I love to hate him. His violent, war-like mentality is captivating. He’s mean and nasty, but I can’t stop watching. One of the most captivating moments of the show is when O’Leary offers a deal to a contestant and the contestant refuses his deal. O’Leary, in a fit of revenge, states, “You are dead to me.”
There’s a scandalous truth about human nature in that phrase. As René Girard has taught us, from the very beginning, humans have had a “shark” like quality to us. As we face conflicts within our communities, our default mechanism is to find reconciliation by uniting against a single victim, whom Girard calls a “scapegoat.” The scapegoat is sacrificed or banished from our community. In other words, the scapegoat is dead to us.
We see this scapegoating mechanism throughout human history. One only needs to take a cursory look at American politics, business, or reality television to see that we have not evolved much beyond the ancient human practice of scapegoating. We are run by the scapegoat mechanism, for as long as someone else is scapegoated, it means we are part of the larger group who is not being scapegoated. The scapegoat takes the place of death, or, as James Alison puts it, the place of shame.
James writes in his book Jesus the Forgiving Victim, “The place of shame into which the group puts someone, a someone of whom everyone can be ashamed, and thus who will be not them. That’s how the sacrificial model to which we are accustomed works.”
Fortunately, Jesus offers us an alternative to this Shark Tank mentality. James calls it “the complete reversal of the sacrificial model.” The crowd, acting like sharks, united against Jesus and killed him. The crowd chanted “Crucify him!” But they could have also mocked Jesus with the phrase, “You are dead to us!”
Jesus reversed the sacrificial model by creating a new way of forming community. Whereas the old way can be summed up by the sacrificial phrase “You are dead to me,” the new way of forming community can be summed up by the cross and resurrection.
The miracle of the cross and resurrection is the transformation of the way we form community. It transforms the way we relate to one another. Whereas the sacrificial formula of scapegoating leads to death, shame, and exclusion, resurrection leads to life, love, and reconciliation.
Jesus went to the place of shame and death, but he didn’t seek revenge. In fact, Jesus reversed the sacrificial formula by forgiving his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus ushers in a new way of finding reconciliation that is not based on the ancient model of scapegoating. Rather, the new way of reconciling is based on our new model, Jesus, and specifically his new command, “That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
But the place of shame and death did not have the last word. The resurrection had the last word. The resurrection reaffirms the transformation at the cross. Whereas the sacrificial formula says, “You are dead to me,” the resurrection is God saying, “You are alive to me.” In the resurrection, Jesus reconciled with those who abandoned and betrayed him by offering them peace. He then invited them to share that peace throughout the world.
The resurrection reveals the utter aliveness of God in the face of our mechanisms of shame and death. We live in a world of Shark Tank. And that world can be captivating. But we also live in a world of Resurrection. Resurrection is all around us. It is far more captivating. We see the miracle of resurrection when people reconcile without the crutch of scapegoating another, but by living into the spirit of forgiveness.
Image: Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank (Screenshot from YouTube: ABC Television Network)
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