The Victimization of Society

A short extract from John MacArthurs book “The Vanishing Conscience”.

 

                                                                The Victimization of Society

The obvious ineffectiveness of disease-model therapy has been no obstacle to its acceptance by society. After all, people want sin without guilt, and this philosophy promises just that. The trend has resulted in what author Charles J. Sykes calls “A Nation of Victims.” Sykes is troubled by the rush to embrace victimism, which he suggests is badly eroding the moral character of American society. “The politics of victimization has taken the place of more traditional expressions of morality and equity,” he writes. Victimism has so infected our culture that one might even say the victim has become the very symbol—the mascot—of modern society. Sykes observes,

Victimism has so infected our culture that one might even say the victim has become the very symbol—the mascot—of modern society. Sykes observes,

“Whatever the future of the American mind—and the omens are not propitious—the destiny of the American character is perhaps even more alarming. . . . The National Anthem has become The Whine. Increasingly, Americans act as if they had received a lifelong indemnification from misfortune and a contractual release from personal responsibility. The British Economist noted with bemusement that in the United States, “If you lose your job you can sue for the mental distress of being fired. If your bank goes broke, the government has insured your deposits. . . . If you drive drunk and crash you can sue somebody for failing to warn you to stop drinking. There is always somebody else to blame.” [Emphasis added.] Unfortunately, that is a formula for social gridlock: the irresistible search for someone or something to blame colliding with the unmovable unwillingness to accept responsibility. Now enshrined in law and jurisprudence,

  The National Anthem has become The Whine. Increasingly, Americans act as if they had received a lifelong indemnification from misfortune and a contractual release from personal responsibility. The British Economist noted with bemusement that in the United States, “If you lose your job you can sue for the mental distress of being fired. If your bank goes broke, the government has insured your deposits. . . . If you drive drunk and crash you can sue somebody for failing to warn you to stop drinking. There is always somebody else to blame.”

  Unfortunately, that is a formula for social gridlock: the irresistible search for someone or something to blame colliding with the unmovable unwillingness to accept responsibility. Now enshrined in law and jurisprudence, victimism is reshaping the fabric of society, including employment policies, criminal justice, education, urban politics, and, in an increasingly Orwellian emphasis on “sensitivity” in language. A community of interdependent citizens has been displaced by a society of resentful, competing, and self-interested individuals who have dressed their private annoyances in the garb of victimism.”

Those who define themselves as victims claim entitlements and shun responsibility. They thus jettison any obligation they might have toward others or toward society as a whole. Once upon a time, when society affirmed the concept of personal responsibility, citizens were expected to contribute to society. They were encouraged to ask not what their country could do for them but what they could do for their country. Now that everyone is a victim, however, people think they have every right to demand society’s benevolence without giving anything in return.

Victimism has so infected our culture that one might even say the victim has become the very symbol— the mascot—of modern society. Moreover, if everyone is a victim, no one needs to accept personal responsibility for wrong behavior or toxic attitudes. After all, victims are entitled to self-pity; they shouldn’t be saddled with guilt feelings. Thus victimism obviates the conscience. And if nobody shoulders any blame for society’s ills, where does the guilt lie? With God? That would be the implication—if our culture even acknowledged God’s existence. But in a society of victims there is no room for the concept of a benevolent, holy God.

Disease-Model Therapy Invades the Church

One might think that victimism and disease-model therapy are so obviously contrary to biblical truth that Bible-believing Christians would rise up en masse and expose the error of such thinking. But tragically, that has not been the case. Victimism has become almost as influential within the evangelical church as it is in the unbelieving world, thanks to self-esteem theology and the church’s fascination with worldly psychology.

These days, when sinners seek help from churches and other Christian agencies, they are likely to be told that their problem is some emotional disorder or psychological syndrome. They might be encouraged to forgive themselves and told they ought to have more self-love and self-esteem. They are not as likely to hear that they must repent and humbly seek God’s forgiveness in Christ. That is such an extraordinary change of direction for the church that even secular observers have noticed it.

Wendy Kaminer, for example, does not purport to be a Christian. If anything, she seems hostile to the church. She describes herself as “a skeptical, secular humanist, Jewish, feminist, intellectual lawyer.” But she has seen the change of direction within evangelicalism, and she describes it with uncanny precision. She notes that religion and psychology have always more or less deemed one another incompatible. Now she sees “not just a truce but a remarkable accommodation.” Even from her perspective as an unbeliever, she can see that this accommodation has meant a wholesale alteration of the fundamental message about sin and salvation. She writes:
“Christian codependency books, like those produced by the Minirth-Meier clinic in Texas, are practically indistinguishable from codependency books published by secular writers. . . . Religious writers justify their reliance on psychology by praising it for “catching up” to some eternal truths, but they’ve also found a way to make the temporal truths of psychology palatable. Religious leaders once condemned psychoanalysis for its moral neutrality. . . . Now popular religious literature equates illness with sin.”

Some of the criticism Kaminer levels against evangelicals is unwarranted or misguided, but in this respect, she is right on target: the inevitable result of Christians’ embracing secular psychology has been the abandonment of any coherent concept of sin. And that has inevitably clouded the message we proclaim.

Describing the prevailing spirit of our age, Kaminer writes, “No matter how bad you’ve been in the narcissistic 1970s and the acquisitive 1980s, no matter how many drugs you’ve ingested, or sex acts performed, or how much corruption enjoyed, you’re still essentially innocent: the divine child inside you is always untouched by the worst of your sins.” Elsewhere, she says, “Inner children are always good—innocent and pure—like the most sentimentalized Dickens characters, which means that people are essentially good. . . . Even Ted Bundy had a child within. Evil is merely a mask—a dysfunction. The therapeutic view of evil as sickness, not sin, is strong in co-dependency theory—it’s not a fire and brimstone theology. “Shaming” children, calling them bad, is considered a primary form of abuse. Both guilt and shame “are not useful as a way of life,” Melody Beattie writes earnestly in Codependent No More. “Guilt makes everything harder. . . . We need to forgive ourselves” [(New York: Harper & Row, 1989), pp. 114–115]. Someone should remind Beattie that there’s a name for people who lack guilt and shame: sociopaths. We ought to be grateful if guilt makes things like murder and moral corruption “harder.”24 Victimism has become almost as influential within the evangelical church as it is in the unbelieving world. Ms. Kaminer suggests that evangelicalism has been infiltrated by this new

Someone should remind Beattie that there’s a name for people who lack guilt and shame: sociopaths. We ought to be grateful if guilt makes things like murder and moral corruption “harder.” Victimism has become almost as influential within the evangelical church as it is in the unbelieving world. Ms. Kaminer suggests that evangelicalism has been infiltrated by this new anthropology-psychology-theology, and that it is antithetical to what we ought to believe and teach about sin. In that regard she surely understands more than the horde of evangelical writers who continue to echo themes from the secular self-esteem cult.

This is a serious matter. Whether you deny sin overtly and openly and totally, or covertly and by implication, any tampering with the biblical concept of sin makes chaos of the Christian faith.

Those ubiquitous phone-in counseling programs on Christian radio may provide one of the best barometers of popular Christianity’s trends. When was the last time you heard an on-the-air counselor tell someone suffering from conscience pangs, “Your guilt is valid; you are sinful and must seek full repentance before God”? Recently I listened to a talk show on a local religious radio station. This daily program features a man who bills himself as a Christian psychologist. On the day I listened he was talking about the importance of overcoming our sense of guilt. Self-blame, he told his audience, is usually irrational and therefore potentially very harmful. He gave a long lecture about the importance of forgiving oneself. The whole discourse was an echo of the world’s wisdom: Guilt is a virtual mental defect. Don’t let it ruin your self-image. And so on. He never mentioned repentance or restitution as prerequisites for self-forgiveness, and he never cited a single passage of Scripture. That kind of counsel is as deadly as it is unbiblical. Guilt feelings may not always be rational, but they are nearly always a reliable signal that something is wrong somewhere, and we had better come to grips with whatever it is and make it right. Guilt functions in the spiritual realm like

Those ubiquitous phone-in counseling programs on Christian radio may provide one of the best barometers of popular Christianity’s trends. When was the last time you heard an on-the-air counselor tell someone suffering from conscience pangs, “Your guilt is valid; you are sinful and must seek full repentance before God”? Recently I listened to a talk show on a local religious radio station. This daily program features a man who bills himself as a Christian psychologist. On the day I listened he was talking about the importance of overcoming our sense of guilt. Self-blame, he told his audience, is usually irrational and therefore potentially very harmful. He gave a long lecture about the importance of forgiving oneself. The whole discourse was an echo of the world’s wisdom: Guilt is a virtual mental defect. Don’t let it ruin your self-image. And so on. He never mentioned repentance or restitution as prerequisites for self-forgiveness, and he never cited a single passage of Scripture. That kind of counsel is as deadly as it is unbiblical. Guilt feelings may not always be rational, but they are nearly always a reliable signal that something is wrong somewhere, and we had better come to grips with whatever it is and make it right. Guilt functions in the spiritual realm like

Recently I listened to a talk show on a local religious radio station. This daily program features a man who bills himself as a Christian psychologist. On the day I listened he was talking about the importance of overcoming our sense of guilt. Self-blame, he told his audience, is usually irrational and therefore potentially very harmful. He gave a long lecture about the importance of forgiving oneself. The whole discourse was an echo of the world’s wisdom: Guilt is a virtual mental defect. Don’t let it ruin your self-image. And so on. He never mentioned repentance or restitution as prerequisites for self-forgiveness, and he never cited a single passage of Scripture. That kind of counsel is as deadly as it is unbiblical. Guilt feelings may not always be rational, but they are nearly always a reliable signal that something is wrong somewhere, and we had better come to grips with whatever it is and make it right. Guilt functions in the spiritual realm like

That kind of counsel is as deadly as it is unbiblical. Guilt feelings may not always be rational, but they are nearly always a reliable signal that something is wrong somewhere, and we had better come to grips with whatever it is and make it right. Guilt functions in the spiritual realm like pain in the material realm. Pain tells us there is a physical problem that must be dealt with or the body will suffer harm. Guilt is a spiritual pain in the soul that tells us something is evil and needs to be confronted and cleansed.

To deny personal guilt is to sacrifice the soul for the sake of the ego. Besides, disavowal doesn’t really deal with guilt, as we all know intuitively. Far from having beneficial results, it destroys the conscience, and thereby weakens a person’s ability to avoid destructive sin. Furthermore, it actually renders a healthy self-image altogether unattainable. “How can we have self-respect if we are not responsible for what we are?” More important, how can we have true self-respect without hearty approval from a healthy conscience?

MacArthur, John F.. The Vanishing Conscience (Kindle Locations 434-445). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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