Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Pointing the Finger of Blame

March 10th, 2016 by G.


I was out with the missionaries last night.  The woman they were teaching had read 1 Nephi 8.  The missionaries asked her what she thought about it.  She said she had really noticed all the fingerpointing.

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit


And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

The fingers are being pointed to single out people for mockery. But she also saw it as a way of shifting responsibility. I think she is right.

The pointing finger is the finger that assigns responsibility. When it points to mock, it is designating the scapegoat. If the scapegoat is not explicitly given the blame, then the role of the scapegoat is to validate the existence of the inner circle by creating someone who is not part of the inner circle. And in an inner circle, by nature, questions of responsibility do not arise. One is not judged on merit but on membership.

The great and spacious building is key to understanding the modern structure (the Cathedral, That Hideous Strength, the Clerisy, the New Class, the Polygon, etc.). It explains its relationship to status. It highlights its divorce from reality, its existence in a purely social and symbolic world.

Understanding that the modern structure is a way of shifting blame and avoiding responsibility is also a valuable insight. It explains the victim sweepstakes and the grievance mongering. (A spiritually degenerative pursuit, obviously).

In Lehi’s dream, one can shrug off responsibility in the great and spacious building, or one can accept responsibility and lay it at Jesus’ feet at the tree of life. There does not seem to be any other alternative. Absent religion–specifically, absent Christ–real responsibility seems to be psychologically unbearable.

Comments (4)
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March 10th, 2016 10:44:30

March 14, 2016

Nice post, Adam. A high counsel speaker once commented that if we have rejected the atonement and forgiveness, when faced with evil we either completely eliminate forgiveness as a possibility (how we treat the worst criminals) or we explain that there is nothing to forgive because the criminal is only a product of circumstance. Your comment that without the atonement, real responsibility is unbearable reminded me of that.

March 14, 2016

a valuable comment. Both ways of treating criminals are partly to excuse ourselves too. If we absolutely respond with fury to the criminal, we are trying to say that we have nothing in common with them. If we try to excuse the criminal, we are acknowledging that we have something in common with the criminal, but also excusing ourselves.

March 16, 2016

You know, it’s not just how we treat criminals, either. It’s also the lies we well ourselves. Many of us say we believe in Christ, but refuse to admit that without him we are powerless and desperately need his grace because it is the only thing that can save us from ourselves. We withhold forgiveness from ourselves because we are convinced deep down somewhere that we really do have the power to change ourselves and that once we finally do, once we finally check off all the boxes, then we will be worthy of the atonement. The reality, that absent the atonement, we are incapable of goodness, is unbearable.

On the other hand, there are those of us that say we believe in repentance, but refuse to actually admit that we are responsible for the evil we have committed. We say God will forgive us because of our faith in Christ, but somewhere deep down we excuse our sins, rather than actually repent of them, because, after all, we’re only human, and it isn’t our fault, we are incapable of goodness, so it’s not like God can really expect that of us.

In reality, both are wrong: we are only human, and because of the fall, we are incapable of goodness unless and until we are converted, but we are also responsible for the evil we do, because although we are incapable of goodness without Christ, we are rational and we are accountable for the evil we commit.

Put differently, the two most effective satanic lies are (1) that repentance is not necessary because it is not your fault and you are not responsible, and (2) faith in Christ is not necessary because you have to first repent and reform yourself before you can expect to receive grace.

The one extreme is “tomorrow we die and it shall be well with us”, or in other words, because we’re not responsible for what we do, there’s no punishment to fear, and nothing to repent of. The other extreme is “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes” and we’ll be saved, or in other words, our own “stripes” can save us, so as long as we’re willing to accept our penance, there’s not need for true desperate faith in Christ alone.

The best way I can think of to explain it is that we all play the role of an addict. An addict may very well be incapable of overcoming the addiction, but the addict is still undeniably responsible for continuing to indulge his addiction. In this life, unless and until we are converted, we are addicted to sin, and like other forms of addiction, if we are denial about our responsibility we will never change, and if we are in denial about our incapability to change ourselves, change will only ever be surface-level, temporary and not lasting.

March 16, 2016

Let everyone say amen.

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