How Victimhood Culture Affects The Church
I was introduced to a “create your own adventure” book growing up. If you are not familiar with the concept, the book has numerous endings and plot twists. You can read the book dozens of times until you get the conclusion and outcome you prefer.
Society currently finds itself in a unique position. We are creating our own future as we speak. Unfortunately, it’s not like the books of my childhood. We don’t have dozens of opportunities to get the outcome desired; we must make educated and wise choices for the sake of our future and the future of our children.
The current Culture Wars have a profound impact on every level of modern society. From Political polarization to religious deconstruction, these questions shake the foundations of civilization. The question remains, in the end, will the Culture Wars have a positive or negative net result?
The answer to that question lies first in understanding what is happening and how we must decide our own path. There are currently three distinct perspectives that are locked in opposition. As Christians, we believe in absolute truth; that right and wrong can (and should) be defined. Therefore, our choices are determined by what is best for our fellow man.
We must determine which of the following perspectives best represents an honest and biblical approach.These are the three cultural perspectives that are currently locked in opposition:
Definition: Honor Culture believes that honor is valued above all else. Therefore, violence is an appropriate response to insult. They feel it is necessary to maintain a reputation for toughness and daring no matter the circumstance.
Honor Culture values are not widely embraced anymore; hardly any Americans live entirely by them today. You will find them in pockets of the country, usually in rural areas and often (but not always) in southern regions.
Most prevalent generation(s): Lost Generation, Greatest Generation, Silent Generation, Baby Boomer Generation.
Quote: “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” ~ John Wayne
What they Value: Strength, Integrity, Courage, Wisdom
What they Hate: Weakness, Cowardice, Dishonesty, Stupidity
Weakness: They tend to over-react and value personal reputation over peace.
Example: In Honor Cultures like the Old West, a man might engage in a duel or physical fight because his mother is insulted.
Definition: Dignity Culture believes that respect is valued above all else, and violence is rarely an appropriate response to disagreement. Typically they try to avoid insulting others. Thus, they tend to put a very high value on personal reconciliation if offended.
Dignity Culture values would encompass the majority of modern Americans and is the most common cultural norm in American society. You will find them among all socioeconomic classes and regions (although they are particularly strong in suburban areas).
When conflict arises, they prescribe direct but non-violent actions to resolve disputes, bringing everyone back up on their feet with some pride intact! Insults might make them angry, but they feel no need to retaliate to save their reputation.
Most prevalent generation(s): Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X.
Quote: “Life is too short for long-term grudges.” Elon musk
“The worst crime is faking it.” Kurt Cobain
What they Value: Unity, Communication, Forgiveness, Justice.
What they Hate: Arrogance, disloyalty, backstabbing
Weakness: When their pursuit of reconciliation goes too far, they can go full-on Karen and lose rational thought in hopes of trying to resolve a disagreement personally. Additionally, they have been known to hide offenses to keep people from facing shame or embarrassment.
Example: In Dignity Culture if someone insults your mom, you take them to coffee and ask “what’s up?.” If they can not reconcile, the offended will cut the offender out of their life and move on.
Definition: Victimhood Culture adherents believe that feelings are to be valued above all else. They also believe that one can gain social status by emphasizing victimhood.
The world is viewed through the lenses of oppressed and oppressors; you are one or the other. Victims are idolized, and oppressors are demonized. Yet the definition of victim and victimizer is fluid and unable to be defined. You are a victim if you say you are, and they are oppressors if a complaint is filed.
Most prevalent generation(s): Millenial, Gen Z
Quote: “words are violence.”
What they Value: Public image, Equity, Justice
What they Hate: Oppression, Alternate perspectives, Confrontation
Weakness: Their ideology is ultimately self-destructive because no one can live up to a perfect standard. Those adhering to Victimhood ideology will eventually get caught up in their own web of offense. They are also prone to exaggeration and slander to increase their victimhood status.
Example: In Victimhood Culture if someone insults your mom, you exagerate their statements and post them on social media informing all of your friends what a terrible person the offender is. Then, they inform the offenders job that you are a racist and misogynist, therefore you should be fired. They do this to get sympathy from other people and make the person who offended them look bad.
How does this impact the church?
Though Dignity Culture is the most prevalent belief system in the west, Victimhood Culture is seeing a dramatic rise, especially on university campuses.
While Dignity Culture has its flaws, its core principles and outcomes align with a biblical perspective when enacted correctly. They desire reconciliation and are willing to give grace and forgiveness.
But the insidious danger of Victimhood Culture is that it replaces the Biblical standard of being mutually responsible for one another with something less redemptive.
Victimhood Culture is obsessed with equity and justice but has no interest in considering what’s best for society as a whole or what’s fair to the accused.
They are too busy looking for any slight against them to admit that they might have done something wrong themselves. And they don’t want to lose face and status, so they will never admit to wrong.
They rage against sin and condemn those who fail to live up to their standard, yet it is the sin of man that has separated all of us from God. This is why we need a Savior! No one is perfect. None of us is without sin therefore, all of us need grace and forgiveness.
If the church pursues justice without mercy, it will be the end of us. Because at some point, the accusers will also be found out as sinners and need mercy. Then their whole system falls apart.
Guess what? Our churches, parachurch organizations, ministries, and missionary organizations are filled with and led by imperfect people. There is no way to avoid that. The book of Romans says we have all fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
So how do we deal with these situations when they arise in our churches?
If we adhere to Dignity culture, we must confront issues of sin and deal with offenses, but we must do it in a transparent way that provides dignity and respect for all parties involved.
We must fight the temptation to sweep offenses under the rug. We must address them, but our words and decisions should be filled with grace and forgiveness. (Because we may be the ones needing forgiveness in the future.)
If Victimhood Culture succeeds in gaining prominence in Christian circles, our sin and offenses will not be dealt with through the lens of Christian charity but with vengeance and revenge.
Offended parties will get famous for exposing the sin of prominent leaders, but at what cost?
My friends, Victimhood culture is already prominent on university campuses; it will continue spreading into the church unless we challenge it and provide an alternative. The steady erosion of the principle of universal respect and courtesy will eventually damage all of us, ending in a fragmented and angry society.
Those who adhere to Dignity culture must do better and provide an acceptable alternative to the insidious spread of victimhood culture.
We can not fulfill the church’s calling when we are distracted by the constant amplification of the aggrieved difference between these three groups.
Will victimhood culture subside and wither away? Or will it replace dignity culture as dignity once replaced honour? What do you think?
If you are interested in reading more about this Cultural Crisis, Let me recommend 3 articles: