Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
-Isaiah 1:17, NLT
Is it just to treat victims the same way as you treat perpetrators of sins against them?
God calls those in power–like pastors and church leaders–to seek justice as seen in this verse from Isaiah.
- How can we discharge this call to seek justice if we do not see the difference between a victim and a perpetrator?
- Or more to the point, how can we protect a victim or help an oppressed individual if we deny such individuals exist?
Such are my objections to the in vogue movement to avoid “victim mentality” at all costs. While I think such teachings are well-intentioned and have some merit* (e.g. like helping victims to avoid dangerous passivity and encouraging victims to start the journey to forgiveness), I have seen such teachings taken to the extreme. This extreme is where Christians are quick to deny the reality of the existence of victims.
Such adamant teaching against victim identity creates a church culture where justice for the victims is impossible as they are not seen. They do not exist.
To be fair, I do not use the terms adultery or infidelity victim much on this blog in part because of how teachings against these identities are so forceful in the evangelical culture. To use those terms regularly is to take on baggage that I rather not address.
That said, the extreme teaching of avoiding mentioning of adultery victims needs addressing. It minimizes and hides what has happened. Furthermore, I have experienced this particular spiritually and emotionally abusive technique at the hands of my former father-in-law and my former wife. So, I know how effective and damaging it can be. It works quite well in silencing infidelity victims and in denying them justice as it shuts down any discussion of wrongdoing done against them with just a little sentence:
“It sounds like you are stuck in a victim mentality.”
Let me share an analogy explaining how absurd this extreme teaching is:
When I was working out at a local gym a few years ago, I came back to the locker room to discover a missing combination lock, my wallet taken, and bolt cutters sitting nearby. I was a victim of theft. It was reported to the police, and I do not remember them successfully finding out who did it.
I did not have to worry when reporting my stolen wallet that the police or even other Christians would worry that I might be stuck in “victim mentality” by acknowledging the fact my wallet had been stolen. Nor did I have to worry that the police would not listen to me denying the facts of a missing wallet and bolt cutters presumably used to commit the crime. To this day, I am not walking around stuck in “theft victim” mentality even though that was a part of my story. I won’t belabor my point any more.
Do you see how absurd these extreme victim mentality teachings are when applied to any other situation other than adultery?
Let me be clear:
Victims exist in this world. More specifically, adultery victims exist. Adultery is never a victimless sin.
It harms the faithful spouse.
It harms their extended family.
It harms the children.
It harms friends.
It harms the community.
And God calls it evil (see Deut. 22:22).
So, next time a sister or brother in the Lord tells you they are a victim of adultery, please do not rush to labeling the faithful spouse as stuck in “victim mentality.” Listen to their story, if they are willing to share. Validate their feelings of hurt and injustice for they have experienced injustice!
Remember how you would feel if someone essentially told you to shut up about your pain after having your soul raped and your world turned upside down. And don’t be that “guy.”
*I recognize my identity is not “adultery victim.” I am far more than what was done to me–i.e. I reject passivity. I am a faithful spouse! However, I am not less than an adultery victim either. It is a part of my story. The reality is my former spouse committed adultery against me. That makes me a victim of her sin. It is a historical fact. To deny this is to deny reality and agree to a lie that it did not happen.