Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Victim Chic: The Rhetoric of Victimhood

Jerub-baal's link in the comments section of my Tribes Collection contains an additional treasure: that article links to David Thompson's site, which in turn links in the comments to a very thoughtful essay on victimhood. The chain of links can sometimes be amazing. Rather than working from the usual victim-oppressor dichotomy, Michael Ovey of Cambridge adds in the role of Rescuer, which is nearly always present, has temptations of its own, and illuminates the moral ambiguity of the other two roles. We tend to see victims as innocent and righteous, oppressors as evil. Certainly the victims paint things that way. But the embraced role carries such attractions that it is often adopted falsely.
The rewards of the role of victim emerge from such examples. Successfully projecting oneself or one's group as victim can result in legislative protection, or the barring from certain offices of one's opponents. Such successful projection can deflect criticism and minimize accountability. This role should concern Christians for two reasons, one relating to justice, one relating to temptation.

Concerning justice, such successful posturing as victims risks encouraging a double injustice: the injustice that real victims have not received justice, and the injustice that those who do not deserve compassion as victims have received it. Such inversion of justice naturally concerns Christians. Proverbs 24:11–12 tells us that refusing to act for the oppressed risks God's anger, while Proverbs 24:24 describes the curse on those who state the wicked are innocent. (Italics mine.)

The only downside is that I now have three new thought-provoking sites to keep track of.

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