Thursday, August 23, 2007

perpetrators need victims? victims need perpetrators?

[written in response to a priest's commentary about the growing culture of victimhood and its impact on families, including divorce]
Dear Father,
While it seems obvious to me that victim/perpetrator models fall short of the glory of God, it is clear that evil is committed and needs to identified for safety.  One problem of the victim mentality that you have brought up is that perpetrators need victims; victims need perpetrators. Not to get too fundamental, but to have a victim mentality, one must have perpetrator(s) and visa versa.  Some have used that sympathetic stance for political and personal gain.  These, I think you would agree, need to be distinguished from those that have been injured and require our help.  Not an easy task at times.
The Gospel model (as I have witnessed in the Orthodox Church) is one where everyone is a victim of everyone's sin - so everyone is a perpetrator and everyone is a victim.  That is, we are in this together - whether we like it or not.  However, we can only tend to our own hearts to increase Godliness in this world. 
What do you call a victim that gets revenge on a perpetrator?  A perpetrator.  The prisons are full of them.  Alice Miller wrote about how a culture breeds violence by caning a child and, when they get old enough, give them the cane.  So it is with all harming behaviors and attitudes.
At the same time as we engage the gospel model, it seems like common sense that we need to be able to protect the innocent and those already injured from further harm.  Certainly, bringing to light the ugliness of the harm we are capable of inflicting upon each other may cause the moral to choose less violent ways, but it does not cure.  Only the love of God cures what ails our distorted mangled human existence.  For that, would anyone defer receiving God's love to insist that a perpetrator receive earthly justice? Yet none of us (I would hope) would hesitate in stopping a young child from running after a ball into a busy street.  So, it seems the emphasis should be on "making" less victims by looking out for each other, protecting those that are weaker, and giving less reason for perpetration of harm in the first place.  Idealistic, sure, but also possible.  The wise sage, Bill Cosby, once said, "Love is the only thing that, when divided, multiplies."
The dedication of the spiritually-minded among us to their nearly singular focus on God's mercy on THEM as sinners seems to move away from the victim mentality and toward doing what is true and good. Everyone deserves forgiveness and God's mercy. But we must individually request it - that is, we must become conscious of our need for it.  If any one of us does not deserve forgiveness and His mercy, then none of us can claim it and Christ died for nothing.  For who decides who can be excluded?
How do we know when a perpetrator is forgiven?  We can ONLY know if we have forgiven THEM.  As we pray, "Forgive us our debts AS WE HAVE forgiven our debtors."  It seems that we can recognize how much we have been forgiven by our own capacity to forgive.  Yet, I hardly see any substantive debate about who has forgiven more or who has forgiven the worse.  Didn't Christ emulate this for us on the cross?
If someone was a victim of an automobile driving through a stop sign, it would be foolish for anyone to believe that forgiveness would prevent such a horrible event from happening to anyone else.  Yet, with forgiveness, there can be a lighter more loving heart with the one who now looks both ways when crossing an intersection, even at a stop sign.  With repentance, there can be one less inattentive driver.  With education and learning from others mistakes, less pedestrian victims over all.
Father, your posts have certainly gotten me thinking about a complex issue in our society. Thank you.  I hope I have added to what may be an important discussion for all Orthodox Christians in modern society.
So, the martyrs were victims, right?  

Fr John Brian
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Parish
Madison, Wisconsin ~ 608.236.9622


******* LIVING IN THE EIGHTH DAY By Fr. John-Brian Paprock look for it on *******


No comments: