We are empathetic toward a victim of violence, persecution, or exclusion. This is a general truth. Yet, we see many would-be persecutors play the role of victim when they are not allowed to act badly. Here is why we do not have to play the game with them.
Victim of Inclusiveness
One scenario played over and over is when people who propagate lies and advocate violent repression against other people accuse progressives of failing at inclusion. The charge of hypocrisy is often feared. It is what Jesus calls his detractors. But the charge is false when one is merely trying to cover their own sins. Saying, “well you’re a liar too,” merely admits the accuser is a liar. If a person will not practice inclusion, then it should not help them to claim they are the victims of exclusion. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, people who do this are rewarded with a seat at the table.
The strangest argument to excuse one’s bad behavior is to claim officials do not like him. Officials then begin bending over backward to try to show that is not the case. This sort of tolerance and inclusiveness – a desire to appear fair to everyone – is pathological. But, as I said earlier, we do not have to play their game. We do not need to be trapped in attempting to appear moral if our values are correct.
Faithfulness As Value
Church leaders tend to act as if the appearance of goodness is more important than faithfulness. Our faithfulness to Jesus and the gospels informs our practice and calls for inclusiveness. In other words, faithfulness is the primary value that informs our moral positions. Our faithfulness is a result of the practice of love for God and neighbor. Actions and attitudes that do not come from these values result in legalism and striving for the appearance of goodness.
Sin is the opposite of love. It attempts to cover itself up in leaves of approved words and phrases. It attempts to elicit sympathy. And it plays the victim. Too many times I have heard people excuse bad behavior because a person “believed” certain things. I rudely point out that may be a comfortable lie to think is true. But the result of their behavior would be vastly different if it was true. “By their fruit, you shall know them,” is axiomatic.
Some people are not victims when they claim it. A pastor who is now outside the UMC bragged about how a person “high up” in the church confronted him in his office. He was speaking to a community gathering. I knew it was a lie when I watched the video. When asked how I knew I replied, “When I am called to account, I get either a phone call or am summoned to their office.” It is still that way.
As far as I know, that lie brought no consequences. It is likely because the person would claim martyrdom. In the meantime, they are allowed to destroy as much as they can. The reason is faithfulness is not upheld. Claiming persecution means one is punished for being faithful to certain convictions unless those convictions cause harm to someone else. When a person causes actual harm they are no longer victims of oppression.
The real victims of the UMC split are the members who remain United Methodists but lost to the 2/3 majority in their congregations. We are trying to provide places for these folks. And to show them we reward faithfulness while others seek to punish it.