Anthropological Function of Gossip

Until we reach a certain level of maturity, we form community largely around scapegoating, that is, we overcome our differences and tensions by focusing on someone or something about whom or which we share a common distancing, indignation, ridicule, anger, or jealousy. That’s the anthropological function of gossip - and a very important one it is. We overcome our differences and tensions by scapegoating someone or something. That’s why it’s easier to form community against something rather than around something and why it’s easier to define ourselves more by what we are against than by what we are for.

Jesus took away the sin of the world this way: He took in hatred and gave back love; he took in curses and gave back blessing; he took in bitterness and gave back graciousness; he took in jealousy and gave back understanding; and he took in murder and gave back forgiveness. By absorbing our sin, differences, and jealousies, he did for us what we, in a less mature and less effective way, try to do when we crucify each other through gossip.


[quote]And that’s his invitation to us: As adult women and men we are invited to step up and do what Jesus did, take in the differences and jealousies around us, hold them, and transform them so as not to give them back in kind.


Only then won’t we need scapegoats any more. And only then will the steam-pipes of gossip cease hissing and the low growl of that smallish dog inside us be silent.


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