You Might be a ‘Victimist’ If …
One of the deepest thinkers of the past 50 years was Rene Girard. He was a pioneering literary critic and anthropologist. Girard found in the myths and histories of countless world cultures one enduring theme: How do societies preserve order? By locating innocent scapegoats, then sacrificing them. It’s just human nature.
Envy, competition, and other sources of chaos threaten to fragment the polity. If it’s saved that happens usually just one way. Some zealot or demagogue or high priest locates a person or group to blame. The masses unite in condemning the scapegoat. Once he is or they are sacrificed, the anxieties dissipate. People bond by shedding that blood. Then things get quiet again. For a while. Until it’s time to rinse and repeat.
Girard didn’t just mean the Aztecs. He located the scapegoat mechanism over and over again. In disparate human cultures. Finally, he came to attribute it to a universal human failing. That led him to the deep truth of original sin. Reflecting on that gloomily sent Girard looking for hope. That led him back to the Christian faith of his childhood. To the one Victim Who willingly laid down His life for us all.
In Jesus, Girard found something quite different. A case where scapegoating backfired. Where the victim died blessing His persecutors. Where he’d taught His disciples to love their enemies. Girard believed that the central role of Jesus’ story in our culture has “unmasked” the scapegoating mechanism, and spelled its doom. He wrote in The One by Whom Scandal Comes:
Christ is the only man to overcome the barrier erected by Satan. He dies in order to avoid participating in the system of scapegoats, which is to say the satanic principle. After his resurrection, a bridge that did not exist before is established between God and the world; Christ gets a foothold in the world through his own death, and destroys Satan’s ramparts. His death therefore converts satanic disorder into order and opens up a new path on which human beings may now travel. In other words, God resumes his place in the world, not because he has violated the autonomy of man and of Satan, but because Christ has resisted, triumphed over Satan’s obstacle.
What About All the Poor Scapegoats Who Are Guilty?
Leftist Christians love to cite Girard whenever conservatives worry about real threats to public order. For instance the hundreds of thousands of sharia supporters and hundreds of active terrorists among the economic migrants to Europe whom authorities christened “refugees.” We’ve heard liberals gibber about the danger of “scapegoating” ISIS fighters, actual pedophiles, and convicted murderers.
Someone isn’t a scapegoat if he is guilty.
But that’s absurd. We know that from the Passion narrative. The “good thief” admitted to Jesus that he and his fellow criminal were guilty. That they deserved their punishment.
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23 40-41)
Someone isn’t a scapegoat if he is guilty. Or even if the reason for suspecting him is rational. Let’s say he belongs to a group that cooperates with or regularly generates terrorists. Likewise, real neo-Nazis, or Communists, or sex-traffickers don’t qualify as victims for Girard. He spoke instead of truly innocent people, singled out for no good reason. Like Germany’s Jews, Ukraine’s “kulaks,” and unborn children around the world.
Using the Poor as a Club, or a Tool to Get Rich
Late in life, Girard took notice of how some people were perverting his work. How they pretended that any attempt to keep society safe or punish crime amounted to scapegoating like … the crucifixion of Jesus or atrocities of the Holocaust. In other words, Girard noticed the rise of Social Justice Warriors. And he wasn’t impressed. In fact he coined a word for the intellectual swindle they were committing: Victimism. He warned in his late book I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning: “Victimism uses the ideology of concern for victims to gain political or economic or spiritual power.”
Isn’t that exactly the maneuver we see on a daily basis, on both the Christian and the secular left? If the right wing temptation is to fall back on the ancient mechanism of scapegoating, now we know what attracts progressives.
The mainstream media, most vocal church leaders, and money-printing “non-profits” like the Southern Poverty Law Center do a good job of finding innocent scapegoats under every rock, and in every terrorist cell.
Since the mainstream media, most vocal church leaders, and money-printing “non-profits” like the Southern Poverty Law Center do a good job of finding innocent scapegoats under every rock, and in every terrorist cell, we’ll do something different here. We won’t help locate phony victims, but real, live Victimists.
Here’s a handy quiz you can send your Progressive friends, to awaken them to the problem.
You Might Be a Victimist If …
- You’re outraged about statues of dead Confederates … but cool with countries “eradicating” Down Syndrome via abortion.
- You denounce the anti-Semitism of the Alt-Right … but shrug at the vicious Jew-hatred of “anti-Zionist” activists.
- Your eyes tear up over sea turtles … but you don’t follow the fate of Christians and Yezidis persecuted in the Middle East.
- You object to images of Columbus … but are fine with Che Guevara t-shirts.
- You congratulate yourself for “standing up” for immigrants … but don’t care enough to save migrants from being exploited by human traffickers and sweatshop owners.
- You scoff at older people, less educated, or poorer people for outdated prejudices … but don’t worry about your own prejudice toward them.
- You feel deep empathy with “transgender” millionaires on the cover of Vanity Fair … but don’t care about Christian florists or bakers facing bankruptcy and prison for obeying their consciences.
- You fantasize about socialist utopias … but never think about moving to one (i.e. Venezuela or Cuba).
- You virtue-signal on issues that impose zero cost on you personally … but avoid those where you have “skin in the game” and might pay a price or offend cool, rich, or influential people.
We could go on all day, all week, all year … but you get the point.