david herndon

the victim card

I grew up with 2 older brothers who could, on occasion, be very good at being older brothers.  I was scrawny and a little under-confident when it came to conflict, so I didn’t have a lot to play when it came to holding my own in the “brotherly love” department.  But one thing I could do very well – play the victim card.  Tears.  Exaggeration.  Screaming & Yelling.  I had it all.  Once I slapped myself in the face and blamed it on my brother just so I could watch TV by myself.  It is a powerful tool… unless you overplay it.  

I discovered this powerful truth: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.

Eventually my cries and woes became a nuisance to my family.  Instead of getting what I wanted, I was labeled a crybaby and sent to my room.  I had overplayed the victim card.  No one cared what I had to say anymore.  The only choice I had left was to mature, become responsible, and start standing up for myself.  I had to stop being selfish and start thinking about the other people in the family… even when I disagreed with them.  

I saw this cartoon floating around the internet last year, and I saw it again last week when a student shared it with me.  



In true over-confident teenager form he followed up by saying, “This is what’s wrong with our world.  Nobody cares about Christians anymore.”  Really?  This cartoon is all that is wrong with the world?  He’s half right I guess.  

Sometimes I don’t think anyone cares about the Christians anymore either… at least not in America.  His use of this cartoon is a good example of how (American) Christians play the victim card.  Someone or some group is doing something we don’t like, no one is listening to us, so we whine and cry and point fingers at the mean old non-Christians (which often really aren’t non-Christians, they just don’t “do christianity” the way we do).  

Today its a cartoon about Tim Tebow being shut out of the media and gay rights.  Yesterday it was about Target not saying “Merry Christmas” when you go shopping at 3 AM on black Friday.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but American Christians will probably find something to complain about.  Some judge okays it for two guys to get married or a Christian film gets bad reviews and we all scream “Persecution!”  

Really?  Persecution?  Even if it were true, no one is listening.

Remember: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.

A lot of Christians do a lot of whining and crying because they think they are victims.  I am not saying they are wrong for believing what they believe.  I am not saying they are wrong for wanting the world to look differently than it does.  I am saying they are wrong in playing the victim card, because quite truthfully, American Christians are anything but victims.  Christians in America have more freedom and rights as a group than anywhere else in the world.  

Christians in the middle east and other parts of the world woke up this morning wondering if they would be martyred as a part of mass genocide.  Christian Solidarity International puts up a map of current attacks on Christians and genocide warnings.  I don’t see America on this map.  When you visit the CSI website you don’t read about Tim Tebow.  You read about people being murdered.  You read about people being stolen from their homes and forced into slavery.  You read about real persecution.  

I almost find it hysterical that Americans play the victim card so well considering that Christians who are truly persecuted, both in the past and present, hardly ever play the victim card.  And they really are victims!  Just consider some of the things people like Paul and Peter said about persecution.  When the apostles write about persecution they don’t use words like “boycott” or phrases like “write your congressman.”  They use words like “endure” and “rejoice.”  They use phrases like “so the world will know Christ.”  Peter and Paul (and probably Mary too) knew that the victim card is not a powerful card.  They understood that to truly defend faith in Christ, you simply have to display faith in Christ… especially in times of persecution.

There is no stronger evidence of the power of Christ than acceptance in the face of rejection, love in the face of hate, and faith in the face of attack.

It is no secret that the American Church is in decline.  I believe a large part of that can be attributed to American Christians playing the victim card.  In a country of 80,000 member mega-churches, multi-million dollar progam budgets, Christian movie studios, and… oh yeah… freedom of religion, no one feels sorry for us.  No one feels the need to come to our defense.  Rather, they want to distance themselves from us and send us to our room for a permanent time-out.  They see us using our resources and freedoms to complain instead of using them to serve a hurting world.  Sometimes they can’t see the love in us because of all the agendas being pushed at them.

What a hurting world needs is to find a loving body of believers who empathize them and a group of people who are ready to come to their defense.  We encounter people “different” than us and all we think is “don’t engage, don’t empathize, don’t be influenced.” What we should be thinking is “engage, empathize, influence!”  John Wesley said it best: “No one cares what you know until they know that you care.”  We are so worried about having something taken from us that we have forgotten to freely give of ourselves. 

We have a wonderful message of hope that this hurting world needs to hear. But how can we win anyone to Christ when we fail to display His love?

It is time that we, the American Church, decide to mature, accept our responsibilities, and start thinking about the rest of the people in our family.  The acceptance card is much more powerful than the rejection card.  The love card is much more powerful than the hate card.  The communication card is much more powerful than the screaming and yelling card.  The empathy card is always more powerful than the victim card.

We are not called to be victims.  We are called to be defenders, to be peacemakers, and (above all) to be reflections of Christ.

I am challenged more than ever these days to make sure that I complain less and display faith more, that I judge less and that I accept more, that I whine less and that I rejoice more… especially when it is difficult to do so.  I hope you are too.

We are not victims.  Let’s stop acting like it.

Since we are no longer victims, now we can be defenders. Try taking one of these steps this week:

1. Pray for the Christians, both American and foreign, who are facing persecution in foreign countries right now.  Visit CSI often and find out how you can help to defend the people who need it most.  

2. Reach out to someone who is different than you in their beliefs, their lifestyle, or even their neighborhood.  Look for ways to accept, embrace, love, and help them.  Invite them to church or to share a meal.  An easy way to do this is to find a local outreach and get involved.

3. When you want to complain this week or you are tempted to play the victim card… Don’t.

*Please note:  If you want to comment on this post, I encourage it.  However, this is not a post on anything controversial.  It is not a post defending any one position.  This is a post addressing the need for the American Church to regain its potential at reaching a hurting world through love and grace.  If you would like to talk about that, please comment.  If you only want to “attack” another side or criticize any particular group, please do not comment.


40 days later

So I gave up Social Networking for Lent, some 40 days ago.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Blogging.  I threw it all out of the window.  All in all it was an interesting experience.

I’m not going to lie – in the beginning it was difficult.  I’ve never been aware at how much I participated in social networking.  I knew I was in pretty deep, but once I gave it up my eyes were opened to how I was borderline obsessive with it all.  Two days into lent I found myself sitting at a red light – not a traffic jam, no accident, not in a work zone, no funeral procession, nothing out of the ordinary.  I was sitting at a typical 30 to 45 second red light and I had the overwhelming urge to immediately pull out my iPhone and scan Facebook to find out the latest, greatest developments on what people are eating and what their 3 year olds just said.  It was confirmed.  I had a problem.

Luckily for me (and all the other drivers on the road that day) I had deleted the Facebook app from my phone and was thus unable to scan any news feeds.  But I know in my heart I would have if I could have.  So sitting at this normal red light wondering what everyone was eating for  lunch that day, an even bigger question popped up: Why do I care?

And there lies the greater problem.

I know its just human to feel the need to be needed, to be valued, to feel like you’re contributing somehow.  We all want to feel “in the loop.”  I’m certainly not the first person to feel it or the first to vocalize it, and I certainly won’t be the last.  But that doesn’t make it any easier when you feel like you’re not in the loop.  Even worse is to feel like no one cares that you’re not in the loop.  Somewhere in my wildest dreams I half-expected people to start calling and emailing me, asking me to return to Twitter or to start blogging again.  But no one did.  On the more realistic side, I kind of thought a few people might reach out and complain about how hard it is to get in touch with me since I left the Social Network world.  But no one did.  Maybe one person might call and want to do coffee and lunch because he all of a sudden realized he didn’t know what was going on in my life since I was updating my status every 5 minutes any more.  But he never did.  I realized that I didn’t care so much about everyone else’s life as much as I cared that they knew about mine.  (PS – this has been the hardest paragraph I have ever written in my life.  Honesty hurts so good)

I did get an email from Twitter yesterday reminding me that I had an account that had not been active in some time.  Thanks, Twitter execs.  I know you’re just doing good PR, but I appreciate that you noticed.

So there I sat at a perfectly normal red light, swimming in self-pity, when the person behind me honked their horn.  I’m not an expert lip-reader, but if the horn wasn’t enough the hand gestures indicated that some choice words were involved too.  Apparently the light was not red anymore, but I was too self-focused to notice.  It wasn’t social networking I needed to give up.  It was selfishness and self-involvement.

So for the past 40 days I have tried to speak less, listen more, and use my time a little more efficiently.  Words are important, but if I abuse my freedom of words then they become pretty useless.  Paul says it better in I Corinthians: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  When my focus is others and when my words are for others and when my love is directed at others, then good things come, God’s will is done, and the kingdom of God advances.  But when my focus is limited to self and my words are for merely self-accrediting and my love is wasted on my own desires, then its just noise.

It was a hard 40 days, but it was a quiet 40 days.  And that afforded me much more opportunity to listen to God more, to listen to others more, and to speak less.  Moving forward I am returning to Social Networking, but hopefully this time around the apps and the blogging and the statuses will be used as a way to truly care for others and to encourage others as opposed to being used as means to simply making myself feel more important than I really am.  Facebook and Twitter and Blogging are not evil things, but all too often the guy on the keyboard behind them is.  This has been a season of repenting, for I am guilty of abusing God’s gift of words. I have in no way conquered my sin, but hopefully I am moving more towards a Hebrews 13 life of dying to self, encouraging others, and all in all glorifying God.

All in all I have been reminded that MY call and MY purpose and MY life, really has nothing at all to do with ME.  What a freeing thought!  Life is so much more amazing when it is not wasted on self.  We were created to serve each other and our thoughts and words are created to encourage each others. When I really live in these truths, its a good day.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

Also, since I had so much more free time, I grew this awesome stache!

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