Friday, July 28, 2006

Stealing God

I had the good fortune to run across a post about folk culture and the rhetoric of stealing God. The author describes the habit some people have of claiming that when something terrible happens to someone else, all of the bad things are the fault of the person experiencing them (kind of like Job's friends, who made me think "with friends like these, did Job really need enemies?" -- obviously his friends were the last and the worst curse satan was allowed). Such people would answer the question "who sinned master, that this man was born blind, the man or his parents" with "both" rather than the "neither" answer Christ gave.

The author also talks about how some people also ascribe anything good that happens to the righteousness of others (if something good happened, it must have been because someone else was praying for you or practicing some sort of austerity for you). In a way, they claim credit (either directly or indirectly) away from anyone else. The author, P. G. Karamesines, calls that kind of behavior "stealing God."

She then explains "stealing God" in the context of the desire that people have to create a protective barrier between themselves and misfortune by using "magical thinking" folk culture superstitions that they express in order to create a "firewall" (in quotes only because that is P. G.'s term and I think it is a good metaphor) between themselves and misfortune.

That such behavior actively harms and causes pain to people in distress isn't even on the mind of the person doing it. They do it because they are blind to the harm they cause and because they are blind to anything but their own fear and or self-centeredness.

She had a good insight and wrote a very good essay. I recommend her essay: Folk Culture/Criticism: The Rhetoric of Stealing God.

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