Polls tell us that everyone is distressed by what is happening in our country — politically, economically, and socially. Whose fault is it? The President? Congress? Corporate America? Hollywood? We like finding someone to blame. But rather than placing this on a select group of people I wonder if it’s not appropriate to place it on the backs of humanity in general. If you believe the doctrine of Total Depravity to any degree, you know this is a worthy consideration.
Total Depravity reminds us that all people are corrupt. Part of that corruption involves playing the blame game — something portrayed in Eden by Adam when he basically said to God, “I ate that because THIS WOMAN that YOU gave me gave it to me!” Our society is filled with examples of this erroneous human tendency to place blame outside of ourselves, and in so doing try to escape the guilt that comes with personal responsibility. It’s what one consumer is doing in suing Vernita Lee for extending her more credit than she could afford. She ran up $156,000 in debt and won’t pay it because she believes that the store should have never given her the credit. When she says, “It’s not my fault, it’s the store’s fault,” she’s paraphrasing Adam in the garden: “This CREDIT CARD that YOU gave me….” I think the store and borrower share the blame. But the existence of the suit serves as an example of our depraved tendency to escape personal responsibility for our actions. Suggesting that the consumer should not be held accountable because she’s unable to act responsibly with her money is taking a belief in her depravity to a whole new level. And it’s a bit elitest and classist. Perhaps when looking at our messed up world, we’re well-served to remember that we share blame here.
That doesn’t mean we should excuse the behavior of leadership, whether political, economic, or social. We must not write their behavior off by saying, “Boys will be boys.” But I fear that practically speaking we will. Because, again, the problem is bigger than just “those people.” It’s humanity. Unethical congressmen will continue to hold their seats because of the perks they bring their constituents. In their selfishness, fallen people will continue to vote for their same representatives and senators. It’s a human problem.
That’s why you might say that most voters get exactly what they deserve. The people who are in power are the ones we elected to care for our selfish interests. A recent example of human selfishness in politics would be the attitude of those in Philly concerning the tolling of I-80. Their position on this was, “Yeah — toll that. It will kill rural PA, but who cares? It won’t hurt me.” This attitude wasn’t just in the minds of Philly politicians. It was the people — the constituents. Somewhere along the way we got the idea that the basis of our vote should be what lines our own pocketbooks without regard for ethics. So we elect people who will look after our selfish interests and then wonder why they are looking after their own.
The doctrine of Total Depravity shows up in living color when one looks at the unbridled greed of many corporate executives. Greed — isn’t it one of the seven deadly sins? But again, that sinful, selfish lifestyle is something that doesn’t only mark their lives. It’s not just the execs. It’s not just the politicians. It’s human nature. It’s us. O’Reily, Cafferty, Dobbs, Hannity, and the other talking heads never ask us to look at the man in the mirror. That doesn’t attract viewers. They heat us up to an emotional boil and teach us to blame others. They add to the self-deceit of Adam. The result is that the real problem of the universal nature of human depravity is never addressed.
In my never-humble opinion, the gospel is the only hope for humanity. The gospel says individuals must change from the inside out and that change must come from an encounter with God through Christ. Without that encounter, giving humans great power and asking them to use it altruistically is like asking me to jump to the moon.