Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's God Work

I think I've noted before that when I read books, I typically avoid non-fiction because I see reading as a pleasurable enterprise, not something I do to learn. While reading has helped me learn a lot, that's just an added benefit to the main benefit of being entertained.

When I do read non-fiction it typically deals with the history of black folks in America. I'm fascinated by the lives lived by my ancestors, by the evils they overcame and the hardships they endured. I like to get behind the scenes of those pivotal moments in black history and develop a true understanding of just how this minor miracle was accomplished.

Yet, there are drawbacks to that subject matter. Without fail, the more I learn, the harder it becomes to stomach the collection of lies that passes for "common knowledge" in America. It is a constant battle to control my anger, and an even more difficult battle to forgive.

Forgiveness is important to me.

As a Christian, I believe it's my duty and my salvation. I believe that forgiveness of others reinforces Christ's forgiveness of me, and is the only way I can grow into the man I need to become. But, it's so damn hard.

When the tales of injustice and evil are stacked upon each other like so many dead carcasses, it's hard to find the sweet aroma of forgiveness among the stench of decay. At times I wonder if it would be better to remain ignorant of the true history if only to protect my sanity and mental health since I find it increasingly difficult to be cordial to people who make idiotic statements based on a history they don't even know.

Ignorance isn't just bliss, it's absolution. There is no need to forgive if you don't know the crime. There is no need to be angry if you're unaware of the offense. You don't have a duty to spread truth if you're never exposed to it. You can be free.

But, can freedom truly be found in ignorance? Is a man being cuckolded by his wife "free" if he is ignorant of her transgressions, or is he simply unaware of the depths of the evil being done to him? Would abandoning the past and its truth make it easier to succeed in the future, or only doom me to a half-life sopping up lies like country folks with gravy and biscuits?

I don't know. And, that is the question I struggle with as a contemplate the God Work known as forgiveness.

 Can I forgive and still remember? Is it possible? Is it smart? Is it required of me?



Darth Whitey said...

Although I myself am not a Christian, I have read the bible cover to cover and the books of apologists such as C.S. Lewis. Hence, I feel qualified to answer your questions.

I do find the basic message of Christianity appealing, more than that of any other major religion, but my reason will not let me get past the supernatural, highly suspicious background of the story (a woman who _really_ stuck to her story and got away with it, odd miracles that sound more like party favors, a dozen guys deciding to ditch their families and all their responsibilities to follow a hippie, etc.)

But ignoring all that, I do agree that life is an exercise in forgiveness, and if you believe that Christ's forgiveness of you depends on you forgiving others, then indeed you must overcome it.

However, if you wish to lawyer up the new testament, you can say that forgiveness can only be granted to those who recognize their wrongs and seek the forgiveness. I myself reject the notion that I have anything whatsoever to be forgiven for by my maker, hence I have no claim to forgiveness from Him. Thus you don't need to forgive Sean Hannity, he doesn't want it, he doesn't think anything is wrong.

C.S. Lewis said something to the effect of like surviving gypsies from the holocaust forgiving the gestapo is best left as "advanced" forgiveness, better to start with your mother or what not and work your way up. It probably gets easier as you near certain death pumped full of morphine in diapers at the hospital.

1) Can I forgive and still remember?

Yes. Ask your wife.

2) Is it possible?


3) Is it smart?

Your anger hurts nobody but you.

4) Is it required of me?


Go in peace, my son :-)

Here's a couple awesome books to take your mind off it:
* The Name of the Rose

stephen matlock said...

Why do you want to forgive?

Because someone told you you had to?

Because you want to?

Both are probably important.

I am mixed about whether I must know everything in order to forgive. I am reluctant to fully investigate a matter because I want the unpleasantness to go away. That's just me.

But I can't just paint over the problem hoping it will go away. Sometimes there has to be a full revelation of facts.

Maybe it's a process where you forgive, you discover more, you forgive some more, you discover more, you forgive...

What a great topic, though. I have to really think about this: can I forgive what I don't know? And should I dig deep in order that I might forgive if I might find something unforgiveable?

Imhotep said...

Big Man, Forgive if you can, if it makes you sleep better at night, then forgive. You being a Christian, forgiveness is something you want to work on to be consistent with your faith. I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor if it brings tranquility to your soul. But the ability to forgive is not a pre-requisite for being a Christian. Accepting Jesus as your savior is the pre-requisite. So if you can’t bring yourself to forgive, don’t worry about it, consider yourself human.

As an agnostic, I leave the decision along the act of forgiveness to the Gods. My forgiveness is purely conditional. The condition being that you admit your wrong doing against me, look to correct the situation and make me whole. If those conditions are not met, I interpret that as your way of telling me that your transgressions against me were intentional, or if not intentional, you don’t care to remedy your wrong against me. In which case you don’t need my forgiveness, and I sure as hell will not give it.

I, like you have read a fair amount of books over the years, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m however partial to non-fiction and history to boot. And the history of Black folks in the diaspora over the past 500 years speaks to a certain ruthlessness based on pigmentation perpetuated by Western European whites. If the brutality was a onetime thing, with remorse shown, and forgiveness sought, then maybe I could muster up some forgiveness, but when the evil continue century after century, I can’t forgive. When I look at what has happen to the native population of the “New World”, how can I forgive?

Can I forgive and still remember? Is it possible? Is it smart? Is it required of me?

Yes, Yes, Maybe, No.

Deacon Blue said...

Comment part 2:

Can you forgive the "founding fathers"? I don't know that you can. They were shaped in a different time with social mores and societal factors we don't understand today. No doubt they were aware of many of their evils and no doubt ignorant of others. But even if you could forgive them, is it any more useful than forgiving a deadly tornado or hurricane?

Can you forgive a white man who chains a black man to his truck, drags him around until he is dead, and shows little or no remorse? Probably not, and maybe you shouldn't.

But a man who killed one or more blacks out of racism but later renounces racism, shows remorse and teaches others to treat people as people and avoid violence? That's someone who probably should be forgiven.

But what about a white person who labels non-whites as the problem and ignores every statistic that proves otherwise? Trickier, because how much can you assign to willful ignorance? Probably a lot, which makes forgiving harder, as does the person's continuing sins.

How about a white person who's never shown racism of any significant sort to you, but then goes on a rant about some specific non-white group or generalizes something or tells a racial joke? Does this new facet cancel out everything else you know about the person or believe about him or her? Does it make forgiveness harder or easier because you liked that person? Tricky shit.

In the end, I don't have any answers, but blanket forgiveness is a tricky thing. Better to focus on people in your closer circles, and point out when they have harmed you and others, and see if they are willing to admit fault, show remorse and/or learn from the error.

Trying to forgive society is too big, I think. But at the same time, one needs to remember not to let knowledge of horrors automatically assign blame to everyone around you who looks like the people who did the horrors. Because that's when you might start seeing more villains than there are (and there are plenty already, let there be no doubt) when in fact what you simply have is a lot of people who have been kept in the dark so long it's hard to recognize the light when they see it.

Forgiving is probably the hardest task Jesus gave us, and probably little wonder that so many of us fail at it.

But at the same time, we are only human, and we have to recognize our limitations. Don't try to bite of so much forgiving that you get discouraged and can't even forgive the little things one day.

Deacon Blue said...

Well, here's hoping that comment makes sense on its own, since part 1 didn't post (I went over the character limit for comments and had to split it in two), and my attempt to re-post it didn't work either.

Oh, well...

Chimaobi said...

Peace, my Brother.

I'll join in.

Depending on what branch you adhere to, I am not even sure if you are charged with being forgiving.

However, I am with Darth Whitey on most of what he says in terms of forgiveness.

The question you must ask yourself as a descendant of people that were stolen and brutally maligned is; does forgiveness empower you, does it prevent evil to rise again, deos it stop what is going in todays world... or does it just enable you to forgive, and then 'turn the other cheek' or turn a blind eye?

If we are to honor and remember our ancestors or all of humanity, we must seek to rectify and battle the injustice that was done. This does not mean we cannot forgive, it simply means we must not forget or ignore - that is in itself a sin.

But if we HAVE to forgive, is another questions - and a personal one. Wilfull and vile transgressions against our continent, our people, should be treated like all other transgressions. And if nothing else, to sin against innocent men, children and women for no good reason is to sin against God himself, wouldn't you say?

Be at peace no matter what you do with your anger Christian, for even Jesus preached peace through righteouss action Matthew 10:34.

The 'sword' is not senseless aggression, it is speaking the truth to power, it is acting on what is right, it is on putting down those that are evildoers fradulent characters. The sword is Malcolm, is Rosa, is the Black Panthers, is Garvey, is Biko, is Lumumba, is Assata etc - and the sword should be you too, lest you wish to let things remain they are. Use the knowledge you have attained, it is God given/granted - for a REASON, just like free will.

My Brother, do what is in your heart - but most of all, do what we NEED you to do: stand up for the Greater Good of 1) your people and 2) all of humanity. God, nor Jesus will have a thing against that.

Besides, there is a limit... not even Jesus or God forgave everything. Why must you?

Big Man said...

I appreciate all the comments folks. Good thoughts.

Brotha Wolf said...

You know the old saying "forgive and forget". I can forgive, but I can never forget.

It's best to learn about the past, but not let the past dictate your life. You can use it to empower yourself and help you ensure a good future.

Raving Black Lunatic