“When one observes the rifts and scars of children whose parents took turns slapping, deriding, ignoring, bullying, or, sometimes worse, simply abandoning them; when one observes the wholesale life mismanagement of grown-ups who have lived for years in the shadow of their bereft childhood and who have attempted with one addictor after another to fill up those empty places where love should have settled, only to discover that their addictor keeps enlarging the very void it was meant to fill — when one knows people of this kind and observes their largely predictable character pathology, one hesitates to call all this chaos sin. The label sounds smug and impertinent. In such cases, we want to appeal to some broader category, perhaps the category of tragedy.”
‘Tragedy’, however, “implies the fall of someone who is responsible and significant. It refers to someone whose significance has been ‘compromised and crushed by a mix of forces, including personal agency, that work together for evil in a way that seems simultaneously surprising and predictable, preventable and inevitable.’”
“A tragic figure is, in some intricate combination, both weak and willful, both foolish and guilty.”
“In general we ought to pay evildoers, including ourselves, the ‘intolerable compliment’ of taking them seriously as moral agents, of holding them accountable for their wrongdoing.”
“This is a mark of our respect for their dignity and weight as human beings. After all, what could be more arrogant than treating other persons as if they were no more responsible than tiny children or the mentally maimed?”
“What could be more patronizing than the refusal to blame people for their wrongdoing and to praise them for their right doing and to ground this refusal in our assumption that these people have not caused their own acts or had a hand in forming their own character?” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be).