Wired to Place Blame?

Mar 14, 2023 | 2 comments

-by Peggy Hahn (She/her), Executive Director of LEAD

We can be so fast to resist someone who doesn’t match our own worldview or who questions our own formation. We all know that feeling of “don’t rock the boat”, or “move the cheese”, or whatever analogy you prefer.

We hardly hesitate to reject something that feels like it might threaten our perspective. Especially our religious point of view. Have you ever wondered if people are just wired to blame or shame others if they don’t fall in line with their thinking? Why is THIS our default instead of curiosity? Trust me, I am saying this to myself as well as to the universe. And apparently, this is not a new reaction for this day and time.

The disciples of Jesus were quick to ask the same kind of default questions of Jesus – “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” (John 9:1 The Message)

The religious leaders of his day were typically stuck on the wrong side of the story. Rather than asking who is this guy that gives sight to the blind, they say (can’t you just hear the attitude?) “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16 MSG)

The courage it takes to step away from this default behavior is huge. The work calls us to ask questions, to listen more deeply, to assume the best, and to know that we are not as brilliant or as foolish as we often think we are.

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:3-5 MSG)

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us. Forgive us when we are blinded by our own prejudices, worldview, or personal preferences. Open our hearts and minds that we might be lifelong learners who see you even in the most unlikely places. Keep us in a posture of discovery and guide us when we default to being less than you created us to be. Amen.


  1. Wayne D Walther

    The study practice of placing blame was the life work of French philosopher (and Christian convert) Rene Gerard. He highlighted to practice of scapegoating, and called the sacrifice of a scapegoat the societal method of relieving social tension. He claimed this as an anthropological character, and saw it as the foundation of all manner of lynching, ethnic violence, and racist ideology.
    For more details on its application to Christian theology and preaching, look up the website “Gerardian Reflections on the Liturgy” kept for years by an ELCA pastor. He does weekly commentary of the lessons of the day, and references many works of Gerardian theology.

  2. Robin Pantermuehl

    By placing blame, whether consciously or subconsciously, we act with a certainty and superiority rather than compassion and loving kindness. We are certain WE know what is right, how every should behave, speak, believe, dress, view the world, vote, etc. I found the way Peter Enns addresses “The Sin of Certainty” in his book by that name to be very eye opening.


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