There is evidence of a tendency within this culture, indeed within us individuals, to want to place blame on events that affect our lives. In this morning's Touchstone Blog, Wilfred McClay sees where it came from (great article, read it here):
It has often been argued that an individual's attraction to conspiracy theories, far from being a sign of irrationality, is a sign of hyperrationality, of an insistence that great events in the world cannot ever proceed by chance or without human direction. The historian Gordon Wood wrote a brilliant essay a number of years ago, arguing that "the paranoid style" in politics was partly a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, with their insistence upon the rational intelligibility and orderliness of events, and upon the human ability to exercise control over them.
So, we who have forgotten God, who think that the problem's of men can be solved by men, MUST have someone to blame when bad things happen to us. With our technology, we have become able to solve many of our troubles, and get rid of much of our suffering...through medicine, electricity, sewer line, and automobiles. So our expectations rise.
After being saved by a donut, Homer Simpson asks: "Donuts! Is there anything they can't do?" So too have we come to feel about technology, "IS there nothing it can't do?" And when technology loses out agsint "mother nature," then someone somewhere is responsible. The mayor, the president, the engineers...."...there has to be someone I can sue."
I have often heard technology compared to witch-craft, but I have never understood the connection. I think I do now. McClay states:
It is not so farfetched an idea, though I would place it in a continuum with the practice of magic and other prerational antecedents, including most pagan and animistic religions, which have similar aims. It is quite natural for us humans to wish to control events, and control our world---and natural to believe that, if we are not in control, someone else is. There may even be an element of the scapegoat mechanism, as described by Rene Girard, operating in such matters, reestablishing social order by displacing the sins of the community onto a sacrificial head.
I do think we would do well to recognize that much of the intense and free-floating anger and unhappiness that pervade so much of our prosperous world may derive precisely from the expectations that our successes in mastering our physical environment have generated. The effects of the hurricane would be much easier to live with, were we not so intent upon convincing ourselves that some human culprits caused it. We might even want to pause and reflect upon how little mastery we really have---least of all, of ourselves.
I think Christians, affected by our culture as we are, are not immune to this malady. We see what happens to New Orleans, and want to blame them and their sin. Certainly New Orleans decadence is there for the world to see. But as Hamlet mused, "give each as he deserves, and who shall escape whipping?" (or something to that order). (And was there, is there not, some righteous people, suffering along with their more sinful brethren, in the city of New Orleans?)
My brothers and sisters, is this blame game, not equated with "judging our neighbor?" "They deserve it! Just look at them!" Certainly calamaties should lead us to examine ourselves, and lead to OUR repentance. But is not compassion and love the only appropriate response to the calamity that strikes our neighbor?
But the blaming does not end there. Something bad happens to me: "But I am a Christian!" "I have prayed and asked God to bless me!" "I have repented of my sin!" "So maybe I havn't prayed enough." "Maybe I don't have enough faith." "Maybe God hasn't forgiven me of my sin." "Maybe God doesn't really love me." "Maybe there is something wrong with ME?" "God made me.....He allowed this to happen....He is supposedly soverign......" and so eventually all blame falls squarely upon God, who is sovereign over nature, who made my neighbor in His image, and who made ME in His image....
I am not advocating abdication of accountability and responsibility. Our leaders DO need to be held accountable for their actions, and need to take the responsibility entrusted them by the people, but ultimately by God.
BUT. I need to stop my "blame game." I need to realize that bad things are going to happen to me, no matter how well our leaders manage our government, for they still cannot manage the weather, or the actions of others. I need to stop blaming my neighbor when disaster strikes him. For it is I not he, that is the chief of sinners.
And I need to stop blaming myself, and blaming God when calamity strikes me. The history of the world shows us that it is a history of suffering. Sure, technology has helped alleviate much suffering, and that is a good thing. But we cannot allow ourselves to be fooled, that we can stave off for us, the suffering that has been apart of human nature since the fall of Adam and Eve.
Our Lord's calling and purpose for His life was a cross. Is the servant greater then the master? Did not 11 of his 12 also die a martyr's death? Has not the elect of God suffered through the last 2,000 years? One only need think of St. Maximus the confessor who had his tongue pulled out, and his hand cut off, for proclaiming the Gospel. Jim Elliot, killed by the Indians he went to South America to minister to. The examples are countless. The cliche, "No good deed goes unpunished," is full of truth.
The criticism is made, that this is fatalism, and about wallowing around feeling miserable because "I am not worthy." Well I am NOT worthy. Its about grace. I am not worthy of His grace, yet He extends it to me. I pray to be MADE worthy, and must work to that end. But I will truly never be WORTHY except by HIs grace. I must learn to live within that irony, which is only ironical because I lack full understadning. Yes I can and SHOULD blame myself. BUT I must live in grace. It is not a pointless repetentance. It by grace is an EFFECTUAL repentance.
But this thing I know. I cannot blame my neighbor, I cannot blame God. Bad things happen to good people. We are all sinners, even the best of us. But the only One Without Sin, willing embraced His cross, and transfomred His suffering for our salvation. We must do the same. But we cannot do it if we blame.
Thanks for listening.