Saturday, February 26, 2011


 Forgiveness is often touted as a solid and positive plank in the otherwise often negative platform of Christianity. To our jaundiced view, though, it is one of the most negative (and in some ways despicable) elements of an often dangerous and negative set of teachings.
We all know and recognize most of those teachings. The ironic thing is that in this nation's "red" states--where fundamentalist Christianity may be at its densest--such patterns as repeat pregnancies among unmarried teens are at their highest. You see, the girls often find Jesus; at least they profess to find him when they learn they're pregnant. Then they're forgiven. And then, of course, once they're washed in the blood of the lamb, they can go out and "sin" again ... all on the tax dollars that you, and we, work so hard to pay.
Some questions occur.
1. Who decided that sex between consenting people was a "sin"? A search of their black book reveals no prohibition against copulation between consenting people who are not otherwise under contract.
2. Are we to believe in parthenogenesis, or are we to trust the word of a smart Jewish girl who found herself in trouble? Was Jesus simply a bastard, born out of wedlock?
We would probably all agree that it's not nice to cause death and mayhem; however, in the American justice system oftentimes death sentences are commuted and even paroles granted to those who claim with gasping to have "found Jesus", especially if the gaspers make noises signifying remorse. The forgiveness gene is switched on--and now that same criminal can go out and kill with impunity.
Can there be a little bit of forgiveness, or is that like being a little bit pregnant? Where do we draw the line? Doesn't that same old black book call for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Or is this just another anomaly? --just another of those squirming non sequiturs: "But that's different!"?
Given a book purportedly written by "God" "himself" (note: him, never her) of which no word can be changed, Yvonne's persistent question nags: Which god? I've got a list of gods reaching from here to the intersection. "God" is the conventional translation of HaShem, which means "The Name". Remember what the Zohar says: "No created intelligence can know the name, so call It what you will. My god does too wear lipstick occasionally."*
How do such guidelines as "forgive your enemy" and "turn the other cheek" sit with Celts--and for that matter, with Jews? These two groups among many others reflect, "If you turn the other cheek, you are likely to get clobbered again."
That's all for now. You know we're weird and deviant; so don't expect us to forgive if you insult us. We're like the traditional Yorkshireman who has been said to carry a stone of insult in his pocket until he sees the opportunity to use it on the insulter. Just once in a while when things get beyond tolerable, we're not above doing something ... educational. And we encourage you: If you're not angry now, get angry. Aren't you paying attention?
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* The book God Wears Lipstick is free from the Kabbalist Center

1 comment:

Coyote said...

I do believe that forgiveness has a place in the world.

In situations where forgiveness is not possible, it puts people who make mistakes, do stupid things, and just do _wrong_ things into a corner.

Once you take away the possibility of forgiveness, you remove the carrot of redemption through changed behavior, and only have the stick of punishment.

That can make a person react with fear and hopelessness, in which case they might even be afraid to try and make amends for something they know was wrong to do.

I don't believe anyone is owed forgiveness for anything. And I do believe that some actions, and some people, are unforgiveable.

Forgiveness, like any other social tool or coping mechanism, needs to be used intelligently and with mindfulness. There are times when it is appropriate and makes the world a better place.

When people think that they are _owed_ forgiveness, and even worse, when other people think that they _owe_ someone forgiveness, I think that tends to become toxic in a hurry.

The whole point of forgiveness should be that the person who gives it does not have to, but chooses to, because they think it will do some good.

It's kind of like that whole repentance thing that some christian types don't seem to understand. Repentance is great and all, when it is a sign that you knew you screwed up, and don't intend to do it again, and intend to make amends if possible. Some folks seem to think, however, that if you say "I'm sorry, I know I was bad," that it means that they should no longer face the consequences of their actions. Confessing one's sins isn't the point. It's _learning_ from our past actions so we can try to be better people that is the point.

I actually think, however, that one of the good things that Christians have managed to publicize to the world is the idea of forgiveness. Not that it's always used correctly, but I do think there's a use.

When the possibility of forgiveness is erased, it kind of burns a bridge.

Sometimes, you want to burn that bridge. Sometimes it's a damn good idea.

But sometimes, people who have been through the fire by making mistakes, or being the person who has done wrong to others - they learn from the experience in a way that people who have never transgressed will understand. Sometimes, if they learn from their mistakes, they bring something to the table that the virtuous-from-birth will never understand.

The Dakotah people, before the split that gave the world the Dakotah, Nakotah, and Lakotah people used to have a policy of considering liars worthy of killing. If a person told a lie, it was a worse crime than thieving or killing, because you could never trust a person who would lie not to do some other wose thing and then lie about it. A liar could do any wrong thing and never be trusted.

Eventually, the people just stopped killing liars. They decided it was too extreme. They never got the idea lying was okay, they just thought that killing someone over it was too much.

But I have to wonder if dozens of generations with no liars around to learn the habits of gave them a handicap when the _real_ liars appeared.

Another thing forgiveness does is it allows people to mess up, but still remain close enough that we can learn how to fix, repair, and deal with the things such people can do.

I don't think everything is forgiveable.

I think the act of forgiveness, like many tools, is often misused.

But I think forgiveness has a value, not just to social systems, and not just to the people who are forgiven, but to the people who forgive.

On the other hand, I'd really love to see some of the people in the banking and loan industry, who managed to get rich collapsing the whole world's economy get a little less forgiveness. Those jerks screwed up everything, then were given money so their companies wouldn't collapse. I seriously doubt they learned not to do bad things to the economy because of that.