Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blaming the victim

I was reading in the gospel of John this morning (I know, there's a radical thought to just read the Bible, let its message speak to you and not try to exegesis it to death!) 

I came across the story of the man born blind, the one whom Jesus healed by making clay, putting it on the man's eyes, and sending to the pool to wash it off.  He did, and came back with his sight.  And then the fun started (all the religious people took offense - don't they always when God really starts to do something that messes with their doctrine?)

But what caught my eye this morning was the question that the disciples asked Jesus before He healed the man.  "Master.  Who sinned: this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?"  

Someone has an illness or a problem and it's automatic to wonder whose fault it is.  It seems we are all about blaming someone.  The thing is, in the final analysis it doesn't matter whose fault it is.  Jesus put the record straight - neither this man nor his parents did anything wrong to make him be born blind.  He was born that way 'for this moment' - so that God's power would be shown in his life and before all who knew him - so that he would know the truth about Messiah, and that many would come to that same truth. And maybe part of the reason for it was so that people would think twice before judging. After all, he was born blind, not deaf.  He could hear what people were saying about him in his presence, as if he didn't even exist. 

Most of those born blind in those days hit the streets and begged for a living, and felt all too keenly the stigma of not being a contributing member of society; they saw it every day in the accusing glances of their countrymen.  This fellow was no exception.  His parents loved him but they couldn't afford to support him.  Begging from others was the only way he knew how to pay his own way in the world, to take the burden of his care off his parents.  

Yet people passing him by didn't see him as noble or as having integrity.  They thought as the disciples did.  "He or his parents must have done something horribly wrong for him to be blind from birth." 

I've been judged and blamed; I know a little of what this man must have felt.  I've seen the looks on people's faces, had to deal with their ignorant prejudices as they judged me for various things: being obese, being an introvert, having chemical sensitivities, having back problems and needing to get up and move around more frequently, using an ergonomic chair or at least a cushion that takes the pressure off my back, suffering from demophobia (fear of crowds).  I've been judged for not having self-control, for being a snob, for being lazy, for being a troublemaker and for being an attention-hound.  I'm sure there are more labels.  

What I'm coming to understand is that I am who and what I am, and I don't have to apologize for that.  I don't even have to change who and what I am to accommodate someone else's preferences.  This is something I had to learn as an adult because my childhood was riddled with changing who I was to keep from being targeted.  I did it so much that I wasn't even sure who I was.  All I was sure of was that nobody would like the real me so I had to be a fake me, so people would like me.  How sick that was!

As I realize more and more how much God loves me, those old ideas are starting to fall off me.  It's not easy sometimes because I still have to deal with cruel and ignorant people.  But I'm learning that their 'blaming the victim' is wrong - and that I can stand my ground - and that even the term 'victim' is really prejudicial.  I can be me and people can like me the way I am; if they can't, then truth be told, I don't have much interest in knowing them.

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