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Contemporary Issues: Gospel vs. Victimhood Culture

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Sunday morning Bible study series

Culture is a word that often used today, but we should have an understanding of it. One definition for culture is:

More precisely, culture refers to the world of human making—a symbolic and concrete social order—regarded as an essentially meaning-making enterprise: ‘man is … suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun’ (C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, p. 5).

Sometimes cultures are described by what binds them together in traditions, languages…etc. In some cases, there have been attempts to define cultures by what they prohibit.
As we look at the context in which we live, we can see attempts at the re-shaping of culture. There are active attempts at restructuring what would previously have been the accepted social order. For the purpose of this lesson, I want to address what has come to be known as a culture of victimhood — what this means and how the gospel would cause us to understand this cultural narrative.
What is a culture of victimhood?
“In the victimhood culture, status comes from being seen as victimized and therefore eliciting support from sympathetic third parties. Consequently, it works to generate sympathies in others and to make public cases for help along that axis. As a result, it tends to read power imbalances and victimization into many interactions....” [Pluckrose & Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 229)
It is a culture in which being the victim gains you attention, status, wealth, and/or a sense of self-worth.
The danger with this particular kind of culture TODAY is that victimhood is found in language and assumptions. There is danger in language because terms are often redefined as it relates to victimhood. There is danger in regard to assumptions because it is assumed, in Theory, that oppression is everywhere.
Thus, we are speaking in terms of culture because people within this influence tend to bind together around a unified matter of personal oppression.
What are examples of this today?
One example of this is the principle of intersectionality.
Intersectionality is a concept within Critical Race Theory (one type of Critical Theory), and it seeks to establish a grid by which to determine those most discriminated against
Another example of this may be Standpoint Theory.
“the belief that knowledge comes from the lived experience of different identity groups, who are differently positioned in society and thus see different aspects of it” (Pluckrose & Lindsay, Cyincial Theories, 78)
How did this culture of victimhood develop? (psychologizing of oppression and language)
Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce observed in 1970 what Carl Trueman as the psychologizing of oppression.
In other words, oppression used to be considered in terms of some kind of work-related abuse an inability to find a job; but now economic categories of oppression, while still existing, have been overtaken “in the media by discussion of psychologically oppressive actions: the refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding, for example, does not push the gay couple inot starvation or any other form of economic hardship; rather, it offends against their dignity and inflicts psychological harm by refusing to recognize them on their own terms.” [Trueman, Carl. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 239].
One thing that is assumed in this observation by Trueman is that language or terms are deeply meaningful or central to victimhood. Why is this?
Part of the reason is because of the postmodern political principle which is “a belief that society is formed of systems of power and hierarchies, which decide what can be known and how.” [Pluckrose & Lindsay, Cyncial Theories, 35] ----- “Power of Language”
How would the gospel shape our understanding culture & victimhood?
(1) The gospel gives clarity to definitions for use of language related to culture and victimhood.
(2) The gospel recognizes the reality, cause (original sin), and comprehensiveness (mental/physical) of victimization in this world.
(3) The gospel directly and completely addresses victimization. (Jesus)
(4) The gospel equips us to live in a fallen world as citizens of Jesus’ kingdom. (how we speak, define terms, understand victimhood…etc)
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