“...Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
If you aren't the victim, you are the perpetrator. Or so they say.
What is it with kids (men, women, actual kids, and uniquely-self-identified individuals) these days? Well, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning say that we are in the midst of a transition of moral cultures, from a society that used to be honor based, then was dignity based, to one which is victim based.
In an honor-based society, people were obligated to maintain their reputation through direct, forceful responses to insults or slights. Think duels and such. In a dignity based culture, people maintain their dignity by ignoring insults and slights, “rising above them” and then using the force of government or other authorities to step in if things get crazy. But in a victimhood culture, the first one to cross the victimhood finish line wins! Slights and insults are to be uncovered, their naked wickedness publicly exposed and then assaulted through “empowered victims” who “are given a voice” and “a seat at the table” where they can use power to eradicate “systemic injustices.”
The implications for educational environments are already being seen. During my first undergraduate and graduate studies (1993-2001), I did not experience this approach. I reentered the education environment in 2008 for graduate studies in nursing, and I’m working on my second nursing degree now (update: finished in 2016! Now I’m a nurse practitioner in family medicine—Whoop!). At both a major private university and two public universities, I have personally witnessed the massive inroads this way of thinking has made. “Safe spaces” are being created for the student who is “triggered” by an “uncomfortable discussion.” Special educational plans are being developed for students individually, so that their special specialness is never slighted and always celebrated. Aggrievement processes and sensitivity discussions occupy a large percentage of lecture content. And “I don’t feel safe” isn’t about being mugged or raped, it’s about being “attacked” verbally, which sometimes means simply overhearing something you don’t like.
As others have noted, a victimhood culture creates perpetual conflict: drama, inefficiency, perpetual discussion and litigation.
Where does this leave us as Christians? Here are a few modest proposals for navigating this new cultural morass.
As people around us (and we ourselves) are influenced by this way of thinking, notice it, discern when it is happening, and watch your step. Perpetual fighting, visits to HR, social media shaming, and lawsuits are in your future. So pay attention, think, be careful: “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8
Don’t let this nonsense infiltrate the church.
I have already begun to witness both within the churches and its governments the sad drift toward this approach. Is the aggrieved to be listened to more because he or she (or ze?) is more “hurt” than the one they accuse? Are we to parse the words of others to find hidden oppressive meanings and subtle “attacks” against us or whomever we are choosing to “give a voice?” Do we foster a “brokenness” culture in our churches where being a “beautiful mess” is lauded? Unless we see that this victimhood culture approach is a substitute for biblical living, we will begin to co-opt this foolish way in our lives and congregations.
Follow the Ten Commandments.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” Psalm 19:7 The way of wisdom is expressed perfectly in God’s law, and it is a light to our feet so we will sufficiently know how to live in this world. The days are evil, but the way of the righteous will prosper.
How do the Ten Commandments provide an alternative to the victimhood culture? Primarily they do this by rightly orienting all of our relationships under the saving kingship of the Triune God. Because He is our Savior in Christ, we now have the true and living God over us as our only “end game.” Our finish line is not dominance over others, by the means honor cultures, dignity cultures, or victimhood cultures offer. Our finish line is the full maturity of the complete man in Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments lived out in faith, hope, and love point the way forward. If we believe this and are buoyed up in hope by God’s promises given to that way of life, we will navigate this cultural change just fine.
(originally posted at Torrey Gazette November 2015)