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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The critiques of forgiveness in recent days are strikingly similar to the critiques against nonviolence during the civil rights movement. In both cases, some advocates for social justice misunderstood the allegiances of the black Christians they criticized. Dr. King and the Charleston families believed forgiveness and nonviolence are on the right side of history. They believed they would be served well on this earth by those tenets, but also that their reward is in heaven. And, clearly, they saw no conflict between forgiveness and full-throated, sacrificial advocacy for change. People so often underestimate the Christian conviction that the ends do not justify the means. The ultimate goal is not to achieve justice on this world, though we pursue that with all of our souls, but to be faithful to God. We believe, ultimately, that faithfulness is justice.
I do not think I could forgive Roof. Forgiveness is not a burden I would place on anyone in the situation of those families. We should reject all calls from those who wish to sweep under the rug the culture and systems of racism that infect people like Roof. We should reject all calls to make excuses for the evil Roof actively embraced and acted upon. He was no passive actor. He was more than simply a result of cultural, economic, or social circumstances. He had agency. And his actions were evil.
But we should also reject all calls to strip the agency and dignity from the mourning families as well. I am not mature enough in the faith to so quickly pass the burden of judgment to God. But I am inspired by those family members to grow in that direction. I am a Christian because of the black church and black faith. When I was far from God, it was the unashamedly Christian black culture, movies, and music of people like Lauryn Hill and Fred Hammond that introduced me to Jesus. It is the black church that so consistently embodies the confounding, radical love of Jesus. What other American community today displays less shame, less reservation, less self-awareness about proclaiming the Christian faith? I will not turn the Bride of the living Christ into a cultural artifact.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Psychology Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
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Previous entry (below): (NYT Op-ed) Roxane Gay—Why I Can’t Forgive the Killer in Charleston
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