Responding to the Politics of Victimhood

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Over the last year, I have followed the story of Lindsay Shepherd, the TA who was challenged by Wilfred Laurier University for showing a clip of Jordan Peterson to her class. The ensuing battle was a perfect example of the politics of victimhood. Prominent leaders in the university challenged her on the fact that people would be upset by Peterson’s traditional views of gender. Of course, most of the class was fine with the discussion, she herself is left-wing, and simply wanted to have a discussion about ideas. But of course, sometimes ideas are too harsh to victims. You can read more about this story here.

3 years back, I read an article by Derek Rishmawy, a Christian scholar in the States. This article was entitled: “How Do We Stop Weaponizing our Victims?” It was an article that was truly prophetic to our times and deeply insightful into human nature. He quotes Renee Girard: “Indeed, we practice a hunt for scapegoats to a second degree, a hunt for hunters of scapegoats. Our society’s obligatory compassion authorizes new forms of cruelty.” We take a victim in our society, and use that victim to victimize someone else. In the case of Wilfrid Laurier University, they have used the offense that certain individuals in our society take towards the truth, to make more victims: ie Lindsay Shepherd.

Just recently Jordan Peterson argued that Christians need to start defending their rights, or they will lose everything. This was said in the wake of the Supreme Court Ruling against Trinity Western University. The Supreme Court ruled that this Christian university was not allowed to run a law school because of their code of conduct, which “discriminated” against persons of certain “sexual orientation”. Jordan Peterson states: “Better stand up for yourself, because your religious rights are very low on the rights totem pole at the moment… And that’s going to get worse, a lot worse, before it gets better. So if you think your religious freedom is worth having, you better be ready to defend it, and you better be ready to do that in an articulated way, because you’re not a priority — put it that way.” You can read it here.

So how do Christians fight without playing the victim? In many ways, this culture of victimhood has crept inside the church as well, and it is hard to speak without someone rolling over and playing dead. It’s hard. But are we victims of the difficulties?

Immediately preceding the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars in the year 1805, the Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson sent out a signal to his troops: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Jordan Peterson is right – we must stand up for the truth. We must stand up for the truth even when those around us tell us we hate them. We must stand up for the truth because we love people.

Of course, we can look at the example of the Christians and the Apostles in the New Testament times. If anybody were victims of a tyrannical society, they were. And they did not overcome this by the sword (which would have been the human means), or by suing (which would be the human means of the 21st century), but by simply living as Christians. This did not mean that they hid out. Every time the Apostle Paul got stoned, he jumped up off the ground and kept on moving. When they were charged to stopped speaking the Word, they grew in boldness. In the beginning of Acts 17, Jason gets hauled in to the authorities for treason, he pays his dues according to the laws of the land and sends the Apostle Paul on his way.

The Apostle Paul rejoices in his chains, when he is locked up in prison, and the gospel advances as a result of it (Phil. 1:12-26). He even goes so far as to say that he takes pleasure in what he could be complaining about as victimhood: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:10)

This does not mean that we should not empathize with, pray for, and minister the gospel as well as worldly things to those who have been “victimized.” Christianity is oriented towards the refugee, the abused, those hurt by gang conflict and the sin of men and women. But we point to Christ, the Lamb of God, who was nailed to a cross for our sin although he was without sin. And then after three days, He beat Satan by rising from the dead. Both the mercy and justice of God met sinners there, knocking men like the Apostle Paul onto the ground, and then raising him up to be a servant of God rather than a persecutor of his people. It also met Stephen there as the Apostle Paul (before he was converted) stood watching over the clothes of those stoning him.

The key thing here is that when we are enraptured by the gospel as the church, we will not get caught up in the politics of victimhood, even when our society tries to ensnare the church in their mentality. We will pray for those stoning us as Stephen did in Acts 7. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 2:1, commanding all men to repent and believe in Christ: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

I believe that the gospel creates a “safe place” for our culture to have a rational discussion. But of course, that same gospel, can very easily wound the pride of men. I know that it has hurt my pride on many occasions. And when pride is wounded…

Yes, if you have done someone wrong, you must repent. And it is likely that you must repent of seeing your victimhood as a “justification” for some form of an abuse of power. Yes, the Christian will weep about the evil done in the world, and the Christian is called to weep with those who have been a target of that. But we can never justify the further propagation of these atrocities. We must instead turn to the One who took God’s wrath in our place.

Derek Rishmawy concludes his article: “Everything changes in light of the Victim who is the Judge.”

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