Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blame the victim!

Even at the time of Jesus, this was an old philosophy. It went back at least as far as the book of Job, which I once heard was the oldest book in the Bible. But that doesn't make it right; it's not humane, and it doesn't explain the world correctly.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
- John 9.1-2
You've said things like this in your heart; so have I. These disciples did it out loud, right in front of the poor guy. Jesus straightens them out: sin's got nothing to do with this man's condition.

Why do we do it? Why do we blame the victim in our hearts, even if we don't say it out loud?

Part of why I blame the victim is that I'd like to believe that what befell him will never happen to me. If I can find a reason he was born blind or is dying from cancer, understand how her financial situation got bad enough she had to file for bankruptcy, figure out why their kids turned out like that (etc), then I can imagine that I can avoid heartache in this world.

But that's hogwash. Sure, we can control our spending, watch our diet, get enough exercise, pray for our kids. But there are no guarantees except for God's presence with us, whatever our circumstances.

And if that's so, then we shouldn't dwell too much on "why"; we shouldn't try to handle our own nervousness by trying to blame the victim. Rather:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
- James 1.27
Compassion for his suffering, rather than pseudo-analysis about why that won't happen to me, is what pleases God and will bring us joy.

So if we find ourselves thinking that someone managed his life incorrectly or whatever, let's stop and ask God what our role should/could be in helping someone. Let's look to him, rather than to cleverly devised schemes, for protection and provision.

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