During the Season of Lent, UCiM will be engaging line by line with the Lord’s Prayer. This week’s exploration has delved into the fourth line of the prayer. I hope, therefore, that these Lenten blogs, honour those faithful conversations, which are occurring within our community of faith.
Forgiveness …. it happens to be one of those touchstone words for many Christians. Some like to pontificate, others speak more with body language that indicates tension at the least and abhorrence at the worst, while others want to deconstruct the word, strip away connotative value and try to find (often not well) any way in which it might fit in the 21st century.
I suspect that I could likely repeat this Lenten blog every year for the rest of my years and still not arrive at any place that does the word service in respect to depth and/or nuance. That having been said, I realise that my step stone – this year – is the discussion around forgiveness of one who does harm and, in particular, something virulent and horrendous. I will let you fill in the image for yourself … because the reality is this was also hard for Jesus. As the Sacred Story goes, while suffering and enduring the torture of the Cross that would eventually lead to his execution, even he had to ask God to forgive those who had done what they were doing!
Though that is the place from which I began, I quickly departed from that trajectory. In other words I shifted from forgive those who trespass against us -> and forgive us our trespasses. Let’s face it; we live in a victim culture.
This person did this, I was affected this way, this institution made this choice or that star crossed my equinox when … yes I admit there is a certain flip to this paragraph and yes I must acknowledge that sanitising one’s context with a simple ‘get over it’ often actually does re-victimise! And I in no way do I want to diminish, simplify or be paternalistic! What I mean in this victim-hero-of-our-own-story mentality is that it is often grounded in the privilege I possess and those with whom I share this space … which ironically is likely most everyone reading this!
We really do not want to think that we have caused someone else harm, whether intentionally or unconsciously! In fact, I think there is a certain import that deserves some reflection next time I pray this prayer. The first part of this fourth line has nothing to do with me receiving hurt, but refers to me as the agent!
Elie Wiesel, on 27 October 1986 said the following:
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.
As I wrestle with these questions the Journey of the Nishiyuu stands as a stark reminder of this indifference. This 1000 km journey to Ottawa, our nation’s capital, receives no conventional media coverage. As a denomination that struggles to live into Right Relations the reality of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) now faces a paradox: though the intent of the TRC may be to encourage mutual healing, the very fact that the TRC now has to take our government (from whom it received its direction!) to court in order to fulfil its mandate echoes a colonial ‘get over it’ mentality. Canadian dominant non-aboriginal cannot do its own healing if we deny the need for mutuality as we confront our benefit from a legacy of racism.
Whatever this forgiveness thing means, I think the Jesus’ Prayer reminds us to begin with ourselves – to skip to the last line is not only dangerous, I believe ethically it is immoral and theologically it is sinful. I most certainly know I am not perfect and hope this week’s blog sounds more challenging then judgemental. I also know that until those who wear privilege acknowledge it – for all that difficulty implies – we simply perpetuate cultural chauvinism and a colonial mentality that limits our own ability to be fully human, need alone those who must bear the burden of our myopic nature!