Saturday, May 12, 2007

Reconciliation: A Reality Check

For about a week now, we've expressed our displeasure, anger and grief in regards to some recent events in Virginia and Colorado. We then moved on to sharing a few laughs, sometimes at the expense of some of the key players in those dramas. Since I initiated many of these emotional responses, I feel the need to say a couple of words about them.

I think that it is quite important to be honest about our feelings when we are confronted by events that we find hurtful or infuriating. If we just push those feelings down, they will resurface at a later time, and my experience is that such resurfacing is usually even more unhealthy.

I also believe it to be our obligation to speak out against injustice. If we see someone being beaten, and we do not do whatever we can to assist the victim, I think we share in the responsibility for that act of violence. That is why I cannot agree with the extreme pacifist position. Violence must be stopped. To not act against it is to affirm it.

With those two caveats in mind; the need for honesty and advocacy on the behalf of victims, it is important for us to recognize the real danger of becoming that which we oppose when we engage in such behaviors. Venting has its place, for a season. Using force to stop the violence has its place, but ideally it is an extreme reaction, rarely ever used. When venting and violence becomes the norm, there is something very unhealthy going on within us. These are symptoms of a spiritual dis-ease.

Susan Russell recently offered a few words about an effort that has been ongoing within TEC for some years now that is called "The Reconciliation Seminar." Susan included a link to an essay that she wrote many years ago entitled "Longing to Hope Again." Take a few minutes to read it. Susan also points us to a post by Brad Drell, who has just finished participating in a Reconciliation Seminar in Louisiana. Some of you will recognize Brad from the HoB/D list. He can be infuriating at times, but he can also be insightful once in awhile. Let me just offer a small segment of his response to this seminar:

...But some things help healing. Reconciliation is one of them. It does not mean changing position. It does mean forgiving. It does mean acknowledging the hurt we have caused, as well as our own hurts. Yes, the emotional and spiritual wounds we have can be healed with time. But a salve that speeds healing is when the one who hurts us comes to us and asks for forgiveness and tries to restore that relationship...
Here's the point I want to make very clear. We may disagree with others, and we may feel it necessary to call out those who vicitmize others. And, on occasion, we may feel the need to blow off some steam. But we cannot let ourselves become infected with the idea that there is really an "us" and a "them" out there. There is no "us" and "them." There is only "we."

Brad Drell, Don Armstrong and Peter Akinola are my brothers in Christ. It doesn't matter if I like that or not. That's the way it is, if I'm to truly live out the vocation of being a follower of Christ. Our prayers must include those we oppose. Our goal can never be to destroy them. We must seek to transform them.

We have expressed our strong feelings. Now, let us move on, praying that through these difficult times we might all continue to grow into the full stature of Christ.

Tobias Haller has offered some words that I think will inform our discussion of our need for reconciliation. His concluding statement is one worth repeating:

...There have been enough burnings. There have been enough crosses on the hillside. No more hate, brothers and sisters. Please; no more hate.

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