2007-08-09

Victimhood and the Sermon on the Mount

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by Neil Godfrey

There is another more subtle way that the Sermon on the Mount has the potential to cripple true believers psychologically. (I have already addressed the self-absorbed, fear-driven, irresponsible submissiveness that its supposedly noble teachings actually promote.) Some of its most exalted sayings are really guidelines for anyone taking them seriously to go through life playing the victim game. (But firstly, I am well aware that there are two types of victims: there truly are those who have been cruelly victimized, but there are also many who find the victim game an alternative to getting on with more positive and productive mentality. Unfortunately few among one of those types can tell the difference.)

Blessed are the poor, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, the pure . . . .

Already the devotee is being conditioned to see him or her self as the good underdog. The one who stands apart and on a lower rung than the bulk of the rest of the world. Being a merciful kind of person is good, and obviously there are times to mourn, but the beatitudes present a total package that conveys the view that such people are few and far between, on the lower social pedestals now, but that one day the tables will be turned and they will be the top of the heap. They really are the best, now, but in secret till the day God chooses to show them off as his favourites. These precepts are encouraging people to make a special effort to shape themselves around these attributes in a way that will set them apart from “the norm”. To justify this, those who do live out the norm, that is the nonbelievers, must be viewed as somehow “ungodly” or out of favour with God, destined one day to be humbled beneath the feet of those living like the prophets in sackcloth today. So the dividing of the world between the sheep and the goats begins.

Blessed are the victims, for they are true and moral and righteous, and do not deserve their fate.

And then special emphasis is given to those who are persecuted, reviled, mocked, slandered.

And how the victim mentality so vividly imagines it is so constantly persecuted. On confronting a forthright difference of opinion, or a warning that they are not completely faultless, they protest that they are not being allowed their own opinions, or that they are so cruelly misunderstood.

Blessed are the victims, for they have every right to feel outraged over being wronged.

The salt of the earth, the light of the world

Now that is rubbing in to those who are sure God is talking to them how precious is their minority status, and how one day, one day, the rest of the world in darkness will see them as the very windows of God himself.

Blessed are the victims, for they are not responsible for the evil in the world. (And they are not particularly responsible for attempting to do anything hands-on to fix it either.)

Go the second mile.

No need to take the risk of standing up for your rights and face the possibility of a conflict you fear you won’t win. And if you don’t think you can win then why not just take the pose of the loser to begin with.

Blessed are the victims, for they deserve all the sympathy.

Do good to those who hate you.

This will make you feel like a conquered victim who has totally surrendered to his enemy, and when your enemy looks down on you and despises you still then you can feel even more precious in God’s sight.

Blessed are the victims, for they are not responsible for the evil that befalls them.

Pray for another kingdom, for your daily bread, for mercy, to be kept pure.

Again this is the posture of the suppliant, the one who is not responsible for working towards changing the world. It is begging for preservation of a needy and reliant status.

Blessed are the victims, for they are not responsible for what has happened.

Personal experience

I recall the first time I faced a very serious crisis after I rejected belief in God. Funny how some habits can cling. My first instinct was to go to my knees and pray even though I knew there was no God. I even felt my legs beginning to genuflect. I looked down where I would have knelt, and thought how silly. To drive in just how silly the whole thing was I even let myself go through the charade of those motions, knelt down, then looked up at the ceiling — there it was, just the ceiling. And I could not help but laugh. What a waste of energy over all those years! Never again! I got up, felt my legs and their strength and knew I did not need spiritual legs. Mine were strong enough for all I needed. I looked at my arms that I used to hold up in prayer and saw how asking God for spiritual muscle and hands was no substitute for anything they could do; and then I was conscious of my mouth — I did not need words from God to fill it. I had a tongue in my head and could use it well enough. I walked out feeling strong, like a man, and faced my crisis head on, with my own abilities alone — because that’s all there ever really can be — and won. What wasted years had gone into victimhood. No more. Even if I had lost in that crisis, I would have lost like a man and maintained my dignity. I have not always won since, but I’ve never had the slightest inclination to look back.

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Neil Godfrey

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2 thoughts on “Victimhood and the Sermon on the Mount”

  1. I recall the first time I faced a very serious crisis after I rejected belief in God

    perhaps you just let go of a false belief(s) rather than belief(s) in God.

    obviously you enjoy narratives

    where else have you written on the narrative of the sermon on the mount

    any connection of gospel with book?

    I see the gospels more as “art” techne

    whatever the intention, it is not just to resonate in the mental but challenge our feelings and narratives my favourite greek word is echidna .Im from Downunder

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