On September 3, 2013

Good and Evil: Let The Blames Begin

“What’s wrong with the world? I am.” -G.K. Chesterton

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When I watch Breaking Bad, I almost always think of the first 3 chapters of Genesis.

There’s nothing that has ever explained the human condition for me quite like those first chapters.

God made a good world, and then put His people in charge of His Creation…with just one caveat. Don’t eat the forbidden fruit. But they do, they are tempted and eat and lie and start pointing fingers at each other.

It’s a brilliant story because it didn’t just happen, it happens every day.

But did you ever wonder why we say Satan was there in the Garden? Go back and read Genesis 3 again. There’s never any mention of Satan being the one that tempted Eve…it’s only a snake.

Narratives of Injury

Have you ever noticed how defensive we are now?  We are constantly talking about being persecuted. Most groups I know define themselves against another group, and how that group has hurt them.

In one of the best books I’ve read in years, James Davidson Hunter talks about how the major problem in our culture is that every movement or organization runs off of narratives of injuries. That is we’ve been taught to view the world, and make sense of the world in term of power and victims. And most all of us disagree about who those are.

Richard Beck wrote a great blog about this. He points out that the reason we have a culture where everyone is rushing to take the role of victim is because the Gospel was too effective. 

In other words, once Jesus showed up and showed us that God cared about the vulnerable and the underdog, the center of power shifted, now no one wants to be the bully and everyone wants to be victim. Because the victim is the powerful one now.

But this is really difficult to do. Because we are all guilty. If you doubt that check the tag on your shirt, where was it made? Who made it? Under what conditions? How about your lawn? Or your grocery shopping? Or the food you eat? Somewhere someone is making your life better, and you indirectly might be contributing to making their’s worse.

There’s no safe place to stand.

Saved by Sin

I started this series as a way of processing why I thought Breaking Bad has been such a smash hit in our culture. And spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the episode a few weeks back called “Confession” you might want to skip over this section.

In it, Walt gives his brother-in-law Hank a DVD confession of all his many crimes. Hank tells him it’s his only way out from all the heinous things he’s done. He must take responsibility. So Walt confesses.walter white confessing

But it’s not what you think.

It’s a DVD of Walt blaming Hank for what he did. He says that Hank forced him to do everything. In a genius move, he places himself in the role of victim and now Hank can do nothing. Because that’s what kind of power the underdog has.

But Walt isn’t saved. In fact, he just got a lot more lost.

Because blaming others only works for a while, but eventually we can’t escape the truth that we are responsible for some evil too.

Andy Stanley once told about how their family had a friend who was single and wanted to marry a certain man. He was rich and she was lonely. Everyone told her that it was going to be a mistake to marry him, but she insisted that she was in love.

5 years later she came to Andy’s office complaining about how awful the divorce had been and how much she hated this man now. He wasn’t paying his child support, he’d treated her horribly and just been a jerk in general. And that’s when Andy asked this question:

“Why did you marry him?”

And she broke down…tears started welling up in her eyes, and her lip began to shake, but then she calmed down, became indignant and left.  And here’s what Andy said:

I wanted her so bad to say it. I almost said it for her, but I didn’t want to accuse her…But I’m convinced that if she would have just said it, if she would have just blurted it out. “I married him because he was rich, and I was lonely,” If she would have just been willing to cross that line, and been willing to embrace that truth, I”m convinced  could have shaved away 50% of her rage. She was angry with herself but she couldn’t admit it.

Let me say this, as a minister who has been in many pastoral situations I understood this immediately. I’ve seen this happen so much. But where it really hit me wasn’t as a pastor. It was as a human.

Because I do this too. What starts out as anger toward myself needs another outlet. And so I reach for, we reach for a “narrative of injury.” We become a victim. And victims rarely heal.

Because you can’t heal an injury that you’re not treating properly.

I’m convinced that the opposite of a victim is not a victimizer, it is a disciple. This is the grace of sin. It is a language that names what’s wrong in us, and once we name it, once we can confess what our part of the responsibility is, then healing can begin.

You know it’s interesting…Satan is never mentioned in Genesis 3, but we’ve read him in there. We’ve made the serpent Satan. And here’s why: because we know Satan is in that story, we just couldn’t spot him.

You know what the word Satan means?

The Accuser.

Satan is in that story. Not just as the serpent, but also as Adam and Eve. And he’s in our marriages and our relationships constantly trying to protect our righteous indignation and remind us of all the ways that other people have wronged us.

Let the Blames begin.

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  • http://StrugglingWithGod.com/ Steven Smith

    Hurt people, hurt people. I have a relative who has been badly hurt in her past. As a result she done more than her fare share of hurting others. I’m sure she blames her past. Recently she told me about a small youth group she has started working with. She told me all about all the things she has said to try to help them. What’s funny is she hasn’t been honest with them. She has painted herself as a perfect person whom they can model themselves after. As she told me this, I couldn’t help but think, they don’t need someone who is perfect, they need someone who has made real mistakes and can be honest about them.

    Scripture is full of people who have been honest about their mistakes. And we have benefited greatly from their honesty. I would like to see more people who are willing to step out and admit their wrongs in ways that will help others. Instead of everyone pretending to be perfect all the time.

    Or blaming others…

    No one benefits from that.

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    I like that line Hurt People, Hurt people. So true.

    One of the great things about 12 step programs is that they always help people stop outsourcing blame for stuff that they are actually responsible for.

    Steven, have you read anything by Brene Brown? She’s got some incredible research about this idea. But the big point is that the opposite of blame is vulnerability and confession.

    Thanks Steven!