Our only way forward

In the early 1990s, bloodshed was commonplace in South Africa. The tumultuous period of negotiations to end apartheid was marked by almost daily violence. At the many public funeral services for victims of massacres, a bespectacled, impish man was often found behind the pulpit: Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In 1992, after the Boipatong massacre that killed 45 people, Tutu was able to defuse the outrage of the thousands of mourners in a township soccer stadium. Instead of whipping the audience into a justifiable fury, he led the crowd in songs, singing with the people as they declared their love of God and themselves as a community.

Tutu, who died this past Sunday, became known for his gracious, effective leadership in the face of agonizing horrors and injustices.

When Nelson Mandela became president, he appointed Tutu to lead the truth commission that sought to create racial reconciliation in the bitterly divided nation. While listening to testimony after testimony of the numerous murders and tortures, the archbishop often wept. And yet, as the commission published its findings and held many accountable for human rights violations, Tutu said, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.”

Despite the terrors that his people had suffered for decades, Tutu knew that the only way for his nation to heal was to forgive. He later expanded on this difficult concept, saying:

“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”

Tutu lived what he believed, and his life leaves us with a powerful reminder: Forgiveness is not weakness or passivity. It’s our only way forward.

Excerpt from this week’s Story Matters.

. . .

These two boys had a very merry Christmas. All of the trappings of Christmas—the lights, the trees, the stockings, the songs—are much more fun to me now that I have these little dudes. It is clichéd, but their wonder at the little things of the season makes my heart continually glad.

Intellectual sloth

MontanaSam turns 30We went up in the mountains this weekend to celebrate non-brother-Sam’s birthday. A really lovely, much-needed time away with dear friends.

We also sit around and talk about Paris and Beirut and ISIS and the elections and fear and realize: We have no theoretical solutions. We are at a loss. (To solve the human condition?)

In light of this, Paul gave a helluva sermon yesterday, All Is Forgiven, which I recommend heartily. He speaks about the deeply, undeniably offensive nature of Christianity.

“Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great.” — William F. Buckley

Waiting for @jacktarpey's visit... #pyrrhagramPyrrha doesn’t care about any of this. She just wants to know who put her on a diet.

Can you stand to be forgiven?

The Corrections

The gospel, as perhaps unintentionally portrayed in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.

(Back story: Chip owes his sister, Denise, $25,000, which he has borrowed over the course of a few years.)

His sister turned and raised her face to him. Her eyes were bloodshot, her forehead as red as a newborn’s. “I said I forgive the debt. You owe me nothing.”
“Appreciate it,” he said quickly, looking away. “But I’m going to pay you anyway.”
“No,” she said. “I’m not going to take your money. I forgive the debt. Do you know what ‘forgive’ means?”
In her peculiar mood, with her unexpected words, she was making Chip anxious. He pulled on the rivet and said, “Denise, come on. Please. At least show me the respect of letting me pay you back. I realize I’ve been a shit. But I don’t want to be a shit all my life.”
“I want to forgive that debt,” she said.
“Really. Come on.” Chip smiled desperately. “You’ve got to let me pay you.”
“Can you stand to be forgiven?”
“No,” he said. “Basically, no. I can’t.”