We Have Only Ourselves To Blame

We Have Only Ourselves To Blame November 16, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is a reason for everything. Every act brings about an effect. The potential used in an act is given over to the effect, which might be, and often will be, different from what was intended. For ignorance of the world and how things work in the world leads people to act contrary to their own benefit; they seek after and follow what seems to be the easy way to meet their desire, but as easy as their desire was to attain, so it shall quickly fade away and leave them empty

What happens in the world, the reaction of the people in the world, comes out of and from what was previously done in the world. Our actions create the environment in which the reactions to our actions are going to flourish. If we are wise, we will work to make sure we receive the reactions which we want instead of suffer the reactions which we fear. If we want goodness to prevail, we must act to make sure goodness prevails. As Christians, we should know this, for the Apostle Paul made it clear, by ignoring the good and seeking God in and with that good, we find ourselves seeking after those things which bring about our own self-destruction:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them (Rom. 1:28-32 RSV).

What happens to us in the world comes about by what we have previously done in and to the world. When we ignore the good, we act without wisdom, and so establish the conditions for evil to thrive. Such evil will not stand apart from us, but will come to and adhere to us as the consequence to our actions. If we want to know why things are as they are, we need to look at what we did in order to make them the way they are. We cannot ignore the consequences of our actions. We cannot blame those who we have thrown down into the pit of despair, and broke their lives, crippling them so that they cannot walk on their own for not getting up and walking. We have crippled them. We should not blame them if they want recompense, for we are the ones who have caused their suffering. Likewise, we cannot expect those whose homes we have invaded, those whose wealth we have taken, those whose livelihood we have destroyed will sit back and do nothing about it. We cannot blame those who we have harmed if they are trying to take back that which we took from them. They will be angry. If we are not willing to help them, in their desperation they might seek to take back what they have lost by force. But we have only to look in the mirror and see who it is to blame for what they do, because how we mistreated them is why they now seek for justice.

We the people of the United States of America cannot ignore how our policies have harmed the world. We cannot ignore that we have destabilized regions, creating the conditions which brought forth a refugee crisis. We have taken from these nations. We have harmed their natural environment, making it impossible for them to thrive. We have created the very regimes hinder the people living under them. We have created brutal militant groups which turn on us when they get the chance, thinking that they can do to us what we have done to them. We have done this, not only in the Middle East, but all around the world. The fruit of our labor is before us, and it is rotten to the core.

Brutal regimes bringing violence and poverty, from the Middle East to Latin America, have been raised up by the people and polices of the United States. We have sought our own gains at their expense. We now bear the responsibility of our actions. Not only must we find a way to stop the escalating violence in these nations, we must recognize any refugees which flee from these lands are our responsibility because we have helped produce the conditions which makes them flee. The United States need to act proactively, seeking to right its wrongs, both in the lands where the refugees are coming from, but also in and with those refugees if they seek asylum with us. We are responsible for the refugees. We created them. The crisis is ours. The responsibility is ours. To ignore them, to throw those who risked their lives to reach the United States, and throw them out, telling them to fend for themselves or die, not only adds to our guilt, but increase the destabilization in the world and the negative results which we fear. By being inhumane to those whose lives we have already wrecked through our selfish relationships with the nations of the world only adds to the sin which cries up to God, and if it is not pleased, we will see vengeance rain down across the land. We must fix the situation and heal the suffering now, or we will have to face the worse, rough justice to come.

We need to understand this before it is too late. We need to act with loving compassion and seek justice now. Wisdom cries out, but will we hear? God will! As the cries which call up to heaven come together, those who make the cries will come together. What they do when they are together is to be blamed not on them, but on those who caused them harm. The crisis which is to come to the people of the United States lies at the hands of the people of the United States. Their greed, their pursuit of power over the other nations, their disregard for the suffering which they have helped generate in the world will create the backlash which the people of the United States will not be able to bear. It is coming. As the guilt continues to increase, as the disregard for the harm we have done to others and the denigration of those we have harmed continues, the cries to heaven continues, and at the end of it all is either transformation through penance or the end of the United States as we know it.

There is time to change. There is time to repent. There is still time to heal the harm we have done. We can welcome with open arms those whose lives we have destroyed. They might be angry. We might fear what they will do because of their anger, but we must remember, we created their anger and now we must find a way to appease it before it is too late. If we fear what they shall do with their anger and preemptively strike back against them even more, we will only create more anger, more judgment to come. We must stop the scapegoating of strangers and remember we are the ones who are to blame for their wandering around the world, seeking a new place lie. We made the world as it is today. Our selfishness, our self-centeredness, our imposition of our immorality upon the world is about to come to an end. Either we stop our wickedness now and become a force of grace and healing, or we suffer the fate of previous empires as they collapsed under the weight of their sins. As the weight of those sins increase the more the people who sin have heard what is right and reject it, so the burden which is imposed upon a nation which has heard and accepted the virtues of the Christian tradition is greater and the consequences of failure will be that much greater.

But, some will say, look at those strangers. Look at them. Do they not sin? Do they not act immoral? Are they not self-centered? We can talk about the sins of the oppressed all we want. We can talk about their anger and violence, but we must remember, we made them oppressed, we made the conditions for their sins, we made them and so we are to blame for them. We who had more power and more knowledge of what is right have created the people that we hate, and instead of overturning what we have done and making them the people they should be, the people we should love, we denigrate them further, excusing our hate because of the way they have become due to the pressure we have put on them. If we have treated them rightly from the start, we could have encouraged them not to follow those same paths which we have followed, but because we are in power, they will not listen to us as we tell them not to act the ways which we do. Perhaps, if in the far future, the roles are reverse, they might have to suffer the consequences of their sins; but that time is not now. Right now we are in charge and we are the ones who created the situation which we all live in. We are to blame, even for their sins.

Just as the barbarian invasions of Rome, and their subsequent victory over Rome, can be seen as the consequence of centuries of Roman oppression, so we can and must see that our empire, our way of life is going to fall due to our sins. If, then, we see refugees coming here, and we fear the dissolution of our way of life because of them, we must remember these people come with the judgment of God, and they can be the means by which we face the consequences of our sins. We have made them a people who no longer have a home, so we should not be surprised they come to us to try to find a new one for themselves. We have created them, just as Salvian the Presbyter said the Romans made their oppressors: “There is nothing strange that there are invasions and the destruction of states. We have been for a long time been striving toward this by the oppression of the many, so that by capturing others even we ourselves have begun to be captives.”[1]

By Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
We have long abused the various peoples of the world in and through the world system we established. We have turned a blind eye to our abuse, putting off the consequences of our sins. The time is up. We must make satisfaction for our sins now. We must welcome the stranger seeks refuge with us, despite whatever fear we might have, because we have to deal with the problems we created which led them to come to us, seeking our aid. To avoid responsibility due to fear is to only make sure those things we fear come to fruition. We cannot build walls and create new laws to keep them out, for neither will overturn their cries to God. We must rather find ways to heal the harm we have caused. If we do not want them here with us, we must find solutions for them in their own lands, so they have no need to be with us, but when we cannot do so, we must welcome them here. We must repent and make satisfaction for our sins. Anything else, and providence will only bring God’s judgment, and then we will know the woe we have created for ourselves.

 


 

[1]  Salvian, The Governance of God  in Salvian the Presbyter. trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 145.

 

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