The Culture of Blame

As most are painfully aware, the recent horrific murders in Tucson have given rise not only to grieving but a lively game of finger-pointing as well. The left blames the right, the right blames the left. The politicians blame the talk show hosts, who are only too delighted to return the favor. Following are a few thoughts on our current culture of blame.

First, this blame game is opportunistic

There’s so much about this particular round of the blame game that rings hollow and discouraging: while the country is divided on everything from health care to national defense to every moral issue imaginable, most seem to agree that the leaders of our country could be doing quite a bit better than they are. But rather than being leaders of action and responsibility, we have seen many of them lead by blame. Because it fits the moment, because it plays into their hands. Even if some of what they say has merit, tacking the discussions onto the coattails of tragedy comes off manipulative and opportunistic. Times of sadness and problems are times to minister Jesus’ love and healing, not times to get an edge.

To be clear, there are times for the church to blame and imprecate, to prophetically trumpet God’s truth to the world around us. But Jesus would have us be careful; he would have us be certain that we are proclaiming God’s truth and not our own misguided understanding of the situation (Jn. 9:2-3); he would have us take the log out of our eye and triple-check our motives.

Second, the blame game isn’t new

Ever since sin crashed the party in God’s garden, our index fingers have been well-exercised in pointing out the faults, failings and sins of everyone around us. Except, of course, for us. Said Adam to God (in a genius move of blaming two people at once for his sin), “the woman you gave me…!” And we happily follow suit. Whether in our hearts and within our personal relationships or writ large on a national scale, the culture of blame is part of who we are, part of the defensiveness of fallen creatures. We jump to blame others because we can’t bear the thought that maybe what causes a man to kill is something residing in every heart.

Third, the culture of blame will only be defeated by a culture of repentance

If it is an age-old game, how do we escape? The only answer given by God is his invitation to repentance. This is what tragedies are meant to convey: that we (each of us, all of us) need to repent. Rather than finding a way to get the blame as far away from us as possible, we need to bow our heads before a holy God and repent of our own sins. The Siloam Tower fell and instead of pointing fingers at the engineers or the tragic obesity of society, Jesus simply called those around him to repent (Lk. 13:4). People are shot in Tucson–instead of blaming the vitriolic right or socialistic left, what if we instead repented of the anger in each of our hearts?

And where will the world learn to repent if not from the church? Who should be better at repenting than those who have taken it up as a way of life?

2 Comments

  1. Jeff Kessler January 25, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I agree w/ your overall point. However, for the most part the right did not blame the left. The right blamed the shooter.

    • Jared Olivetti January 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      I realize I’m painting with a broad brush, but I do think both “sides” played the game, even if to greatly different degrees.

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