Thomas Ramey Watson

Blaming the victim

Our natural human tendency is to blame the victim. When Calvinism dominated the Western World, predestination helped those who considered themselves Chosen gloat over what was often good luck. They could easily look down on those who were not so fortunate, even believing that they were not Chosen, hadn’t received the special grace necessary to Salvation. Too easily that spilled over into the notion that they were lazy and undeserving.

Nowadays, with the influx of various brands of eastern and New Age religions the notion has come back, but in another form than the one most of us in the Western world rejected long ago. People are ill or experience bad fortune because of some karmic debt from past lives. That might be true. Certainly failure to use good sense and be cautious does lead to misfortune and ill health. But it might not the case. I firmly believe that accidents happen. Even Jesus indicated that someone’s sickness was not necessarily the fault of his sins or those of his family.

We need to be careful in assessing others’ situations. We play God when we do so. I think it’s better to say, “There but for the grace of God go I”–and try to figure out what we might do to help them. Because we too might well need someone’s help before long. And the help we require may be far more extensive than what we are asked to give now.

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