The Vice of Victimhood as Virtue

May 19, 2018 | Article | 7 comments

There’s this overwhelming desire in all of us to police the sin we see everyone else committing before we deal with our own, and I know this because Jesus warned us of it in Matthew 7. I know this practically because of how many times a day I have to remind my children to police themselves instead of their siblings. It’s all right and good to remind your sister that “Mom said you can’t do that” except that you just did that two minutes ago when Mom wasn’t looking. Something other than righteousness is happening at that moment, and it is now happening on a rather large scale. Speakers making the popular-Christian-conference circuit almost require a one-sin-I’m-complicit-in letter listed on their resume. Go ahead and fact-check that and tell me these apologies haven’t become tools. This has been allowed to happen because we live in a culture where feelings are the truth and feeling bad is virtuous.

 

There is little doubt that many men are, in fact, misogynists. Women who spend their time fighting whatever they think the patriarchy is are often women who have seen the dark underbelly of the world of pigheaded men. Unfortunately, while women who have been victims of abuse need a spiritual hospital—I recommend a gospel-saturated community eager to do the bloody work of bandaging wounds and being about the Lord’s business of binding up the brokenhearted—evangelical “faith leaders” are now the ones encouraging the wounded to pick up their pitchforks and head onto the #MeToo battlefield instead. They act like they are helping the needy when really they are offering a cup of dirt to people in need of water. In the moment when Beth Moore could have stood up to whatever-famous-theologian that said that real-jerk thing to her, she shielded him by granting him anonymity and the arena applauded her courage. I’m assuming Unnamed Famous Theologian Jerk can go on being unaccountable for the horrid way he speaks to women—because anonymous sins cannot be confronted—and we can go on feeling bad for Beth Moore that this happened to her. If accountability or reconciliation isn’t your goal, something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

I keep hearing that women just aren’t taken seriously. That if only men weren’t so busy inculcating misogynistic attitudes and would take a second to listen to the women-folk, things would be going so much better. That white people need to look for ways to “create space” for people of color, because your skin color means you can (or can’t) stack the deck however you want. One of the first things a college counselor ever asked me was to “think of the marginalized community” I belong to and study that. This is the real-life intersectional harpy living in all of us. Being misunderstood and marginalized is just so virtue-imbuing. The more marginalization you can claim, the more inherent understanding of the world you have, while the rest of the world just doesn’t get it. This is the very lynchpin of the Doctrine of Intersectionality, and if you aren’t sure about that, you haven’t read enough Kimberle Crenshaw (a Critical Race theorist and the woman who coined the term within the feminist movement). And while this should elicit an image of a teenager listening to Nirvana in their dimly-lit room after a tense family dinner because no one in the house can possibly feel the way they feel, this is not befitting for Christians who understand the race to which they belong.

 

It is an ugly time because a fence has been raised. You either find Beth Moore’s I-wore-flats-instead-of-heels-because-patriarchy argument compelling or coppy-outty. You read Thabiti’s I’ve-been-complicit-in-misogyny-because-I-didn’t-comment-on-a-woman’s-books-I’d-never-read rational or nonsensical. For all of our chatter about “being gracious”, far too many of us unfriend our personal-opinion-dissenters and retreat to our spheres to opine just how unkind we all can be. You know who you are, and you would NEVER wear flats just to make a man feel taller! Hoo-rah.

 

So what do we do? We stop copping out. All of us. We don’t minimize the very real sin among us. We are currently doing this minimizing in either one of two ways. One, we go the intersectional/Beth Moore/Thabiti route, where we want to seem very un-Sanhedrin-like but end up casting stones on everyone and everything around us anyway. In Moore’s public apology, she claimed that she has profited off of racism. If the “system” she is a part of is built on the back of injustice, well, what system are the rest of us a part of? And apparently, while being “complicit” in “racism” means you may confess to the Twitterbooth, it is not a serious enough sin that you must demonstrate repentance before being restored to ministry like you would hope most horrible sins would require. But of course, no one applauding Moore for her “courage” to admit complicity in racism believes that her sin was horrible enough for her to step down and demonstrate the fruit of repentance—say, something along the lines of giving away the large estate that she earned from a system that was unjust to people of color. Something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

Secondly, we cop out toward the opposite ditch. We rightly believe that equality does not necessitate equality of outcomes, but equality of opportunity. We stand by that so staunchly that we refuse to take an honest look at our nation’s unjust laws that target specifically black communities. We rightly want to call out the fatherlessness of the black community, but refuse to see the welfare state we helped build that contributed to it. We weren’t alive in the Jim Crow era, so we don’t bother to learn anything about it, afraid that if we do, we might lose a talking-point or two. Something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

Recently, Thabiti Anyabwile shared a slanderous article about a Southern Baptist pastor who wrote a resolution that ended with this statement: “RESOLVED, That we encourage churches in preaching, teaching, and in discipleship to address the issues of racial reconciliation, poverty, the environment, sexual and gender issues, immigration, and education from a Christian worldview and reject the ideological underpinnings and verbiage of the social justice movement.” The article’s title was, “Preaching social justice is ‘evil,’ a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas says.” And the following Twitter tribunal made it clear that nary a person (perhaps Thabiti as well?) had actually read the resolution before lighting their torches. The fact remains that while the author of the resolution doesn’t agree with certain terms, he was not arguing that we shy away from racial reconciliation, and he certainly was not calling justice that has social ramifications evil. Something other than righteousness is going on here when we can’t bother to read past the headlines when our brothers, sisters, and Christ’s name is at stake.

 

What we need in this frivolous time is grace upon grace for each other. Spades of it. And not the kind where we unfriend brethren we disagree strongly with and congratulate each other on just how misunderstood we are as if it were a badge of honor. This posture might earn you a seat at a table, but it is not the Lord’s table. This ordeal will never end this side of eternity because sin won’t. What we need is to be ready to dole out forgiveness to our siblings, recklessly. Seventy times seven, if you will. If we are going to repent, we need to repent of specific sins with the goal of a renewed mind and a life that reflects that. We need to repent with reconciliation in mind. This might have to happen publicly. It might have to happen privately. Either way, it needs to be walked out seriously. Twitter and social media won’t do. And if you aren’t willing to do this, something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

The world knows that victimhood grants you a great many allowances. We slaughter children by the millions by convincing each other that women are victims of circumstance, and to force them to remain mothers is to further victimize them. It is therefore valiant to allow them to save themselves from the certain servitude that motherhood brings. Don’t you see? We are drunk on our lusts but we convince ourselves we are being virtuous instead. This is called exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and if we buy this, we are no better for the foolish Galatians, who allowed themselves to be bewitched by a false gospel. The gospel is the power to save, but it is being weaponized in order to point fingers to those we perceive to be different from us, even if they are covered in the same blood of the lamb.

 

Suffering is very real, and God often uses suffering to sanctify us. Don’t keep your suffering to yourself. Don’t stay home on Sunday because it might be hard to go, and don’t buy the lie that your relationship with Jesus is only personal. The beauty of the community of believers is often that God uses your suffering to bless someone else. God uses the ways that you were sanctified through your suffering to teach and encourage someone else. And sometimes the biggest blessing you receive is getting to be the person that is ministering to the brokenhearted. When we forsake the gathering, when we stay in our corners with whoever we deem the “right” person to be in the corner with us, as opposed to those God has placed with us through our adoption as sons and daughters, we forsake all of these opportunities. And something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

To the brother or sister who has experienced racism or misogynistic abuse, take comfort in the great Comforter. He is the God who sees you, who declares you the clean, redeemed daughter or son of the King of the universe. The most real community you will ever experience is not with someone who has had the same earthly experience as you, but the same adoption experience as you. You are marginalized because you are a stranger in an alien world. Your brothers and sisters are scattered all across the nations. You will suffer because you live in an abundantly bittersweet already-not-yet. But Christ’s victory is your victory, and it is not because of your rightness. It is because of his grace upon grace toward you.

 

And if you want to know what’s going to be a popular talking point in the Reformed-ish corner of evangelicalism, just read what Rachel Held Evans was tweeting about two years ago.

There’s this overwhelming desire in all of us to police the sin we see everyone else committing before we deal with our own, and I know this because Jesus warned us of it in Matthew 7. I know this practically because of how many times a day I have to remind my children to police themselves instead of their siblings. It’s all right and good to remind your sister that “Mom said you can’t do that” except that you just did that two minutes ago when Mom wasn’t looking. Something other than righteousness is happening at that moment, and it is now happening on a rather large scale. Speakers making the popular-Christian-conference circuit almost require a one-sin-I’m-complicit-in letter listed on their resume. Go ahead and fact-check that and tell me these apologies haven’t become tools. This has been allowed to happen because we live in a culture where feelings are the truth and feeling bad is virtuous.

 

There is little doubt that many men are, in fact, misogynists. Women who spend their time fighting whatever they think the patriarchy is are often women who have seen the dark underbelly of the world of pigheaded men. Unfortunately, while women who have been victims of abuse need a spiritual hospital—I recommend a gospel-saturated community eager to do the bloody work of bandaging wounds and being about the Lord’s business of binding up the brokenhearted—evangelical “faith leaders” are now the ones encouraging the wounded to pick up their pitchforks and head onto the #MeToo battlefield instead. They act like they are helping the needy when really they are offering a cup of dirt to people in need of water. In the moment when Beth Moore could have stood up to whatever-famous-theologian that said that real-jerk thing to her, she shielded him by granting him anonymity and the arena applauded her courage. I’m assuming Unnamed Famous Theologian Jerk can go on being unaccountable for the horrid way he speaks to women—because anonymous sins cannot be confronted—and we can go on feeling bad for Beth Moore that this happened to her. If accountability or reconciliation isn’t your goal, something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

I keep hearing that women just aren’t taken seriously. That if only men weren’t so busy inculcating misogynistic attitudes and would take a second to listen to the women-folk, things would be going so much better. That white people need to look for ways to “create space” for people of color, because your skin color means you can (or can’t) stack the deck however you want. One of the first things a college counselor ever asked me was to “think of the marginalized community” I belong to and study that. This is the real-life intersectional harpy living in all of us. Being misunderstood and marginalized is just so virtue-imbuing. The more marginalization you can claim, the more inherent understanding of the world you have, while the rest of the world just doesn’t get it. This is the very lynchpin of the Doctrine of Intersectionality, and if you aren’t sure about that, you haven’t read enough Kimberle Crenshaw (a Critical Race theorist and the woman who coined the term within the feminist movement). And while this should elicit an image of a teenager listening to Nirvana in their dimly-lit room after a tense family dinner because no one in the house can possibly feel the way they feel, this is not befitting for Christians who understand the race to which they belong.

 

It is an ugly time because a fence has been raised. You either find Beth Moore’s I-wore-flats-instead-of-heels-because-patriarchy argument compelling or coppy-outty. You read Thabiti’s I’ve-been-complicit-in-misogyny-because-I-didn’t-comment-on-a-woman’s-books-I’d-never-read rational or nonsensical. For all of our chatter about “being gracious”, far too many of us unfriend our personal-opinion-dissenters and retreat to our spheres to opine just how unkind we all can be. You know who you are, and you would NEVER wear flats just to make a man feel taller! Hoo-rah.

 

So what do we do? We stop copping out. All of us. We don’t minimize the very real sin among us. We are currently doing this minimizing in either one of two ways. One, we go the intersectional/Beth Moore/Thabiti route, where we want to seem very un-Sanhedrin-like but end up casting stones on everyone and everything around us anyway. In Moore’s public apology, she claimed that she has profited off of racism. If the “system” she is a part of is built on the back of injustice, well, what system are the rest of us a part of? And apparently, while being “complicit” in “racism” means you may confess to the Twitterbooth, it is not a serious enough sin that you must demonstrate repentance before being restored to ministry like you would hope most horrible sins would require. But of course, no one applauding Moore for her “courage” to admit complicity in racism believes that her sin was horrible enough for her to step down and demonstrate the fruit of repentance—say, something along the lines of giving away the large estate that she earned from a system that was unjust to people of color. Something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

Secondly, we cop out toward the opposite ditch. We rightly believe that equality does not necessitate equality of outcomes, but equality of opportunity. We stand by that so staunchly that we refuse to take an honest look at our nation’s unjust laws that target specifically black communities. We rightly want to call out the fatherlessness of the black community, but refuse to see the welfare state we helped build that contributed to it. We weren’t alive in the Jim Crow era, so we don’t bother to learn anything about it, afraid that if we do, we might lose a talking-point or two. Something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

Recently, Thabiti Anyabwile shared a slanderous article about a Southern Baptist pastor who wrote a resolution that ended with this statement: “RESOLVED, That we encourage churches in preaching, teaching, and in discipleship to address the issues of racial reconciliation, poverty, the environment, sexual and gender issues, immigration, and education from a Christian worldview and reject the ideological underpinnings and verbiage of the social justice movement.” The article’s title was, “Preaching social justice is ‘evil,’ a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas says.” And the following Twitter tribunal made it clear that nary a person (perhaps Thabiti as well?) had actually read the resolution before lighting their torches. The fact remains that while the author of the resolution doesn’t agree with certain terms, he was not arguing that we shy away from racial reconciliation, and he certainly was not calling justice that has social ramifications evil. Something other than righteousness is going on here when we can’t bother to read past the headlines when our brothers, sisters, and Christ’s name is at stake.

 

What we need in this frivolous time is grace upon grace for each other. Spades of it. And not the kind where we unfriend brethren we disagree strongly with and congratulate each other on just how misunderstood we are as if it were a badge of honor. This posture might earn you a seat at a table, but it is not the Lord’s table. This ordeal will never end this side of eternity because sin won’t. What we need is to be ready to dole out forgiveness to our siblings, recklessly. Seventy times seven, if you will. If we are going to repent, we need to repent of specific sins with the goal of a renewed mind and a life that reflects that. We need to repent with reconciliation in mind. This might have to happen publicly. It might have to happen privately. Either way, it needs to be walked out seriously. Twitter and social media won’t do. And if you aren’t willing to do this, something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

The world knows that victimhood grants you a great many allowances. We slaughter children by the millions by convincing each other that women are victims of circumstance, and to force them to remain mothers is to further victimize them. It is therefore valiant to allow them to save themselves from the certain servitude that motherhood brings. Don’t you see? We are drunk on our lusts but we convince ourselves we are being virtuous instead. This is called exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and if we buy this, we are no better for the foolish Galatians, who allowed themselves to be bewitched by a false gospel. The gospel is the power to save, but it is being weaponized in order to point fingers to those we perceive to be different from us, even if they are covered in the same blood of the lamb.

 

Suffering is very real, and God often uses suffering to sanctify us. Don’t keep your suffering to yourself. Don’t stay home on Sunday because it might be hard to go, and don’t buy the lie that your relationship with Jesus is only personal. The beauty of the community of believers is often that God uses your suffering to bless someone else. God uses the ways that you were sanctified through your suffering to teach and encourage someone else. And sometimes the biggest blessing you receive is getting to be the person that is ministering to the brokenhearted. When we forsake the gathering, when we stay in our corners with whoever we deem the “right” person to be in the corner with us, as opposed to those God has placed with us through our adoption as sons and daughters, we forsake all of these opportunities. And something other than righteousness is going on here.

 

To the brother or sister who has experienced racism or misogynistic abuse, take comfort in the great Comforter. He is the God who sees you, who declares you the clean, redeemed daughter or son of the King of the universe. The most real community you will ever experience is not with someone who has had the same earthly experience as you, but the same adoption experience as you. You are marginalized because you are a stranger in an alien world. Your brothers and sisters are scattered all across the nations. You will suffer because you live in an abundantly bittersweet already-not-yet. But Christ’s victory is your victory, and it is not because of your rightness. It is because of his grace upon grace toward you.

 

And if you want to know what’s going to be a popular talking point in the Reformed-ish corner of evangelicalism, just read what Rachel Held Evans was tweeting about two years ago.

SUMMER WHITE

Summer Jaeger is the wife to one excellent man and a homeschooling mother of four. When she is not blogging or podcasting, she is perfecting the art of the slow-cooked meal and wishing she was taking long-ish walks on the beach.

@SummrWrites Facebook sheologiansblog@gmail.com

7 Comments

  1. Lisa

    This was fantastic. Strong, bold, CLEAR (so much in this conversation is muddy and grey and passive agressive), gospel centered. We ALL have been sinned against and have sinned against in any number of ways, but we should never feel required to repent of a sin we didn’t commit. And we are required, as blood bought, forgiven wretches, to forgive, move on, BY GOD’S GRACE. (See the parable of the wicked servant.)

    I have seen on other beloved Christian’s pages this calling out of the “white” among us (whatever that is) to find out more about how “we” (am i white?) have sinned against our brothers and sisters of color (aren’t we all a “color”) just by where we were born and to whom, I guess. That is not a sin! Who has bewitched you beloved fellow reformed Christian? Aren’t we the ones with the doctrines of grace? Aren’t we the ones who love Jesus and want to keep the focus on Him? Aren’t we the ones who love the Word and thrive on hearing the gospel preached? Aren’t we the ones who love the truth that all sin–past present future– was nailed to the cross? That we are ONE FAMILY? Let this whole thing be a wake up call to all of us to cling to Jesus and biblical doctrine closely lest we also be bewitched to fall for another gospel.

    Love the platform God has given you girls and your boldness to proclaim the truth. May He continue to grant you the grace to speak out, reminding us all of the freedom we have been given in Him.

    Reply
  2. Michael

    Summer,
    Lots of great points here. I fear that conservative Christians have less currency than they should when it comes to racial reconciliation because of our past failures. When I lived in the UK in the late 90s, the eminent New Testament scholar George Beasley-Murray told me about visiting pastor Charles Stanley’s church and viewing the security guards at the entrance who were there to “keep the blacks out.” Had conservative Christians been leading the charge on the evils of Jim Crow laws, we might have more currency on the issue than we presently do. I hate to say it, but we seem to be paying for some of the mistakes made by our predecessors, fair or not.

    Reply
  3. Leigh Ann

    I would love to hear you talk about the concept of corporate repentance which seems to be popular now. Pastors calling on “the Church” to repent of XYZ rather than asking individuals to look inwardly and see if they themselves need to repent of something for which they are individually responsible. I mean more than introspection, humility, and a willingness to listen to other people’s experiences which are all good. I’m wondering about the biblical-ness (biblicality? lol OK, if that’s not a word it should be.) of repenting as a local or global church and have been trying to find examples–say, in the history of the nation of Israel–that could apply. Do you know what I mean? Thoughts?

    Reply
  4. Just Another Girl

    I’ve read this a couple of times and agreed with several of the points as they’re things I’ve thought over the intersectionality movement. My takeaway from Beth’s post was a bit different. While I agree she didn’t follow through with the very thing she was asking of other people by naming the man who participated in abhorrent behavior, my ultimate impression of the piece was asking people to address this particular sinful behavior where it exists. I even thought her flats comment was recognizing she’s allowed sinful behavior to continue by adhering to a standard that’s neither Biblical nor acceptable. Of course, I generally read most things without expecting to agree on everything.

    Reply
  5. Deborah

    Clear and Biblical.

    Reply
  6. steve

    seems some are not interested in repentance but repayment for what they perceive they had taken from them…..

    Reply

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