Home » Ethics » It’s Not MY Fault: Denying Our Humanity In Denying Our Culpability

It’s Not MY Fault: Denying Our Humanity In Denying Our Culpability

not my fault smallA lot of people have terrible things happen to them. Some children are beaten, sexually assaulted, feast on a steady diet of verbally demeaning rhetoric. There is war and oppressive governments finding newer and better ways to keep the citizenry cowed in hopelessness and fear, or distracted with cheap and vain amusements. Some are bullied, generally disliked, homely, bald, bespectacled, and/or pudgy. Some struggle in poverty, others have diminished mental or physical capacity.

Some face the struggles innate to being pampered, wealthy, and amazingly good looking. Some have incredible metabolisms and remain svelte no matter what they eat and drink. Some are freakishly intelligent. Don’t laugh… EVERYONE pays a price for their lot in life, each faces their own challenges.

Three things of late have provoked my thoughts on the issue of suffering and human decision.

  1. Much of the media coverage of the Michael Brown events in Ferguson seem determined to defend the violence of Michael Brown and the Ferguson protestors based on a conviction that those who have suffered the “racism” that their community has suffered can’t be held accountable to the normal rules of human behavior or law.
  2. A young man recently posted a blog after being robbed at gun point by a group of African American teens in which he claims that he (a white male) deserved to be robbed, because he grew up with “white privilege” and they grew up without it. I wonder if the white male recently beaten to death with a hammer by a gang of African American youths, would agree that HE TOO deserved it for being white and, thus, categorically privileged?
  3. I recently encountered yet another Christian counselor decreeing that women and children are not responsible for family problems… only the husband and father is. One counselor said, “Every problem in a marriage is the man’s fault. If he were doing and being what he should be doing his marriage would be what it should be.” I encounter similar remarks when people abuse Proverbs 22:6… train up a child and all that.[1]

We know that people are partially shaped by their environment, or at least by their responses to their environment. The question one must ask, however, is, “At what point does a person’s experiences excuse their wrong choices?”

In truth, people do have a tendency to respond in loosely predictable ways under certain circumstances. People are naturally driven by self-interest and many can be counted on to follow paths of least resistance and easy attainment, to make short sighted choices and to seek immediate gratification. We call this sin nature. Without divine light (received one way or another) we would likely make a nearly endless series of poor choices.

Even so, we find bold demands in Scripture for people to repent, to heed the word of God, to act in accordance with basic decency and love and forgiveness. In the face of God’s most rudimentary revelation of himself in nature, we find statements like Romans 1:20, “They (people the world over) are without excuse.”

There is a pulse on the side of “the left,” and their ilk, to claim that human wickedness is not the fault of the individual… (unless you are a Republican). It is the fault of society. All that is wrong with the world comes from without, not from within, and if we get our environment right, everything else will fall into a utopic wonder. It is, thus, wrong to hold the criminal, the broken, the poor, or minorities to the standards to which we hold other, better educated, more financially stable, more naturally gifted groups. People are either blessed or cursed by accident of birth and, therefore, undeserving of either the suffering they endure or the privilege they enjoy.

This is a denial of our most basic humanity before God our creator.

When a tiger runs amuck in an Indian village, no one blames the tiger… it’s a moral-less unreasoning animal merely following its nature, its most basic survival instinct. We may fear it and be forced to destroy it, but we don’t blame it, we don’t accuse it.

When termites eat up our homes we don’t accuse the creatures, we don’t deem then morally culpable for their actions as if they had the power to make different choices. We may exterminate them, but we don’t resent them. We don’t assign moral blame.

So again, at what point does a person cease to be a morally culpable person? How much suffering is required before a person is excused for sinful choices?

We must remember, reasons are not excuses.

To deny people the privilege of being responsible for their choices is to deny their basic humanity. If some cannot be expected to conduct themselves in keeping with basic principles of morality, then we actually regard them as hapless animals, or programed robots.

Michael Brown made choices and paid the price for them. Those looting Ferguson and burning it to the ground are culpable for their decisions. They are NOT animals; they are human beings making choices and they deserve the dignity to be held accountable for their actions.

Not to be trite, but two wrongs do NOT make a right. That is NOT moral math.

When the man robbed at gun point declared that African Americans categorically cannot be held accountable for their actions because their categorical upbringing has denied them the ability to make different choices, that is a profoundly prejudiced remark.[2] These teens are not animals roaming the street, no matter how much they may act like them. They are human beings with sin natures who make choices and must be held responsible to society for those choices… they will certainly be held accountable by God for them.

When Christian counselors claim that only men are responsible for the brokenness of their marriages, they deny full humanity to women. What? Do they think women don’t have enough personhood and power of choice to even be responsible for their own sin?” Are women empty vessels filled only with what their husbands and fathers pour into them? This is sexist to the extreme. Just so, when they claim that if you raise your kids right that they will always be right, they deny full humanity to Children. At what age exactly do our children become responsible for their choices? I know that I hold myself responsible for every choice I remember making. I chose whether or not to disobey, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to turn my mind over to lust, to manipulate.

I pity those who suffer, [especially myself] but Scripture demands that we hold people accountable for their actions. To fail to do so is not pity, it is a denial of their fundamental personhood, and doom to society.

[1] I have written a series on this proverb. Check them out.

[2] I’d say racist, but African American is not a race… it’s a cultural group.

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