A wise (?) man once gave me this advice: “Before you start anything new, work out who you will blame if it goes wrong”!
This advice was given with tongue firmly in cheek, but several years on it sounds less and less silly. “Who gets the blame?” seems now to be the first question that arises whenever anything goes wrong, closely followed by, “How much compensation are they going to pay?” Once guilt is established and blame attached, vengeance can properly be extracted. No doubt you’ve seen the TV ads: ‘Have you had an accident or injury in the last three years … you could be entitled to compensation.’ No institution or group is immune from this: church, police, hospital, school – all now face extra burdens because of the increasing likelihood of litigation. I’m writing from a British perspective of course; other countries, notably the USA, have been going down this road far longer than we have, and perhaps take it for granted.
I’m not saying that negligence should go unnoticed and incompetence unchecked, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be persuaded that there is always someone to be blamed and punished for every mishap. Worse still is the pernicious suggestion that an accident may be turned to good fortune thanks to the cheque book of an insurance company. In the end we all pay for this – in the increasing reluctance of people to take on responsibilities, the ever tighter regulation of voluntary activity and, not least, through the insurance premiums that we all grumble about.
Ultimately, the determination to find someone to blame and extract cash from them is a symptom of a culture which has encouraged the priority of the individual to the neglect of the communal life of society. The demand of the gospel is that we live not for ourselves but in the service of others. In an age which wants blame and vengeance, Christians are called to the task of repentance and reconciliation.