It has been cogently argued by Wilfred McClay in the May 2001 issue of “First Things” that the prestige accorded to victims in our society, and the rise of the phenomenon of victimization are closely linked
“to the extraordinary weight of guilt in our time, the pervasive need to find innocence through moral absolution, to discharge one’s moral burden, and to the fact that the conventional means of finding that absolution – or even of keeping the range of one’s responsibility for one’s sins within some kind of reasonable boundaries – are no longer generally available.”
He concludes that “it is not a coincidence that the rise of the cult of victimization in our culture corresponds fairly exactly with the decline of Christian orthodoxy.”
Those old enough to have lived through the tumultuous change inaugurated in the 1960s can easily testify to the rise of victimization during our lifetimes, for in our youth, victims were mostly those caught up in the machinations of the Nazi and Japanese war machines during World War II. But as we passed through the Viet Nam and Cold War eras into the post modern age it seems that victimization has grown exponentially. Now everyone is describes as a victim of one sort or another – whether it is of pollution, discrimination of all kinds, being impoverished, profiled, having eaten too many fat and salt laden burgers at McDonalds or just having a bad hair day. Some even consider the earth itself to be a victim oppressed by humans.
Many who are not victims themselves claim excessive identification with victims, castigating the Western world, the United States, even humans in general as oppressors of the world’s victims. Some who espouse various social concerns do so in order to identify with victims. A few have so identified with the cult of victimization so as to create spurious autobiographies of their own personal victimhood, accounts which have later been proved to be false.
The cult of victimization is tyrannical because it enslaves those who grasp on to it. To understand why, we must look at the root causes of victimization as well as its effects upon society at large, and individuals in particular.
With the loss of the Judeo-Christian worldview’s emphasis upon sin and absolution, the post modern world has a problem with which it is not prepared to deal.
Where there is moral responsibility, there is inevitably moral guilt. We are faced with all kinds of guilt and have no solution. Without a God who forgives us, absolves us and declares us righteous, we are left with a vague emptiness that longs to be filled. This is precisely where the cult of victimization finds its converts, by claiming to fill this void. By identifying ourselves as a victim, by identifying ourselves with victims, or even with their causes, we can salve our consciences. Since victims are not responsible for their victimhood, they are not morally responsible. Someone else is always the oppressor or aggressor. They are responsibly guilty, thus the victim is freed from responsibility for his actions and can claim innocence.
But the cult of victimization never satisfies. The void is always there, leading to more and more desperate attempts to absolve oneself from guilt. The worship of victimization becomes more pronounced until it consumes the person in perpetual slavery. Freedom only comes when we recognize that, while occasionally we are victims, more often it is our own moral choices that have affected our status. Only by coming to God, admitting our failures, seeking his forgiveness and receiving his absolution will we be truly free.