The Assassination Of Forgiveness

The Assassination of Forgiveness 

In watching the news, I’ve noticed several stories where past words or actions have cost people jobs, college acceptances, and more.  It doesn’t matter how many years ago the words or actions took place, the person must be punished now.  

There have been some good and interesting points raised in response.  A common theme on the conservative side is that it is part and parcel of being a post-Christian nation.  A more libertarian approach has been to lament that one can dig back far enough on anyone to find something, and that we really need to stop doing this.  A more rational approach has been to point out that people can learn and grow, and that as such we should not hold the past against the person that exists now.  

The idea of forgiveness is not new, nor is the related concept of rehabilitation.  However, neither has been the norm for much of the history of the world.  Hammurabic and other ancient codes focused on vengeance rather than forgiveness and rehabilitation.  An eye for an eye was the norm throughout most of the world.  

Indeed, the laws of many ancient societies were quite draconian by modern standards.  Slavery and death were widely used punishments, and the actions of one could land a whole family in permanent slavery that extended to offspring.  Torture and maiming were more “moderate” responses for many.  

The key is that any such marked both individuals and family units.  Examples were made so that you saw the lifelong consequences of breaking the law.  There was very little forgiveness, and rehabilitation was largely limited to a minuscule amount that was of use to the governments/leadership in question.  Such rehabilitated were, with certain rare exceptions, never fully trusted again.  

While you can find at least some small amount of forgiveness and/or rehabilitation in some minor philosophies/religions around the world, it truly did not become widespread until the rise of Christianity.  

While forgiveness is a key point to Christianity, rehabilitation is an inferred point.  An inferred point that came to have a huge impact.  

The idea of forgiveness come from Judaic beliefs as outlined in the Old Testament.    A recurring theme is God forgiving his people when they (repeatedly) screwed up.  Which we did (and do) on a regular basis.  This led to the concept of forgiving others who wronged us.  In the Gospels, Jesus expands on this and makes it a formal part of the New Covenant:  as God forgives you your sins, so too should you forgive those who wronged you.  

There is, of course, a lot more too it than that, but this is a column and not a theology dissertation.  I’m just hitting the high points, and am going to do the same for the other key point:  rehabilitation.  

The early Church was given the mission of spreading the Gospels and conversion, with Jesus formally passing  on the ability to forgive sins, as had he, to the Apostles.  Like the concept of Purgatory, the idea of penance grew out of a mixture of tradition (sacrifice to appease God and gain forgiveness) and inference from the words of the Apostles.  Forgiveness was not automatic.  Rather, it was earned by sincere repentance and by doing a task or tasks as penance (punishment) so as to earn that forgiveness.  

Punishment, repentance, forgiveness.  This was quite a concept, and it soon found use outside the Church and became, arguably, a major philosophical concept within the Enlightenment.  The idea that someone who had done wrong could be punished and then released to “sin no more” had appeal.  It allowed productive members of society to be retained (even if they had to move to escape the stigma) while keeping them from becoming a drain on society via crippling, etc.  Yes, I’m oversimplifying and skipping a few steps/centuries.  See above.  

This is a concept that has grown and evolved over the centuries.  It is important for many reasons.  Which is why it and related concepts are hated by authoritarian regimes/philosophies.  

At their core, Christianity and the Enlightenment (and yes, I know the Enlightenment was in many ways a reaction to the Catholic Church) are about the individual.  The Gospels make it clear:  the choice is yours to accept or reject Christ as your savior.  Yes, Christ died for the sins of the world, but the choice to accept that gift is left up to each individual.  The Enlightenment took things further, holding that each individual had both the capability and the responsibility for deciding what was right for them.  No kings or others needed, you can figure it out on your own.  A radical concept that still sits bad with some — I know at least one Catholic scholar who refers to it as “The Endarkenment.”  

For the purposes of my thesis here, both Christianity and the Enlightenment support individualism.  Which is why both are attacked, derided, and persecuted by those of an authoritarian stripe.  Which also extends to the concepts of justice, punishment/penance, and forgiveness that arise from both.  

Authoritarian regimes can brook no dissent and demand the individual be subsumed to the greater good that is the authoritarian state.  Religion is despised for many reasons, with Christianity despised above all because of that core of individualism as well as its allegiance to a higher power.  There can be no power, no religion, but the state and what thoughts it has right then.  

The same goes for forgiveness and rehabilitation.  Authoritarian regimes can’t afford to forgive and forget.  That enemy will always be an enemy, as if they break with any part of the system they break with all.  Therefore, examples must be made, and since authoritarian regimes must always have an enemy against which the people to hate and rage…  

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a master of this.  Dissidents and others were persecuted; those who broke the law became permanent examples to the rest.  A few political types were “rehabilitated” if they admitted they are wrong and the State/Party were right and to be obeyed — but they were never trusted again and a number seemed to fade away permanently not long after.  The National Socialist German Workers Party (yep, the Nazi’s) did it too.  

And today we see it again.  Once a thought criminal, always a thought criminal.  The concepts of personal growth, forgiveness, penance, and such are verboten.  The concept of context is verboten:  there is only wrongthink and it must be destroyed.  That it also eliminates all other outside reference to any other systems/civilizations/etc. is a benefit since no authoritarian regime/philosophy can last if there is anything else to which it can be compared (the Taliban and the Buddha’s), especially if that comparison can show that things were or could be better.  All speech, writing, art, broadcasts, thoughts, etc. must be controlled.  

There is more to this, of course, but this sets the basis for continuing discussions and explorations.  There is a very deliberate attempt to assassinate forgiveness and other key beliefs of Western Civilization.  What we are witnessing now, and have been for a while, are the opening volleys aimed at removing them from our lives.  

The Need For Debridement

About three years ago, I began attending an “old school” Catholic Church:  as in one of the few in this state that routinely performs the high Latin Mass.  In it, I found something that reached me on levels I’ve not felt in some time.  So much so, I began the process to join the Catholic Church.

The RCIA program, designed for adults desiring to become Catholic, varies a bit from church to church.  At this church, it is intense and through it one gets a full history of the Church as well as a thorough grounding in the theology, dogma, and — most importantly — how both the theological and dogmatic aspects of Catholicism have evolved over time.

In this RCIA program, there was often some frank discussions of various problems the Church has faced, theologically, politically, and otherwise.  The fact is, while the Church is the bride of Christ and is intended to be a bedrock of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, it is an institution of man.  Man (male and female) are fallible, and one sees that fallibility time and time again in the history of the Church (all churches, to be honest).

One of the things I enjoyed most about that process was that this program took the time to get into how theology and dogma developed and why.  We got “into the weeds” if you will of what lies behind the modern beliefs of the Church as contained in the Catechism — the beliefs and “laws” of the Church.  Of how and when the Church has adapted the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and of how and when the ceremony of worship (the Mass) have changed and why.

Continue reading “The Need For Debridement”

Politics Above All?

Some posts are easier to write than others. The last few weeks have seen some truly horrible people exposed for what they are: sexual predators. Sadly and predictably, that is now devolving. Frankly, I hope the spotlight will stay on the real predators, and that justice be done in court where possible. I particularly hope that stays true for politicians, but I want all the real predators to face justice as it hits home for me in ways I won’t go into at this time.

One bit of the devolving involves a candidate (who I am glad lost for many other reasons) who has a chorus of virtue signaling harpies calling a pedophile though his alleged behavior is not such. If true, wrong; but, it was not and is not pedophilia. The screeching bothers me on several levels, especially as it provides cover to real pedophiles and does harm to the real victims of same.

I’ve reached out in private to more than one such person, explaining things and have gotten positive responses. I’ve also, predictably, gotten responses were “the cause” and politics matter more to the person than the real harm they are causing. While I am tempted towards a very intemperate response, I instead pray for their souls.
Understand, I know people who were victims of real pedophilia. I have some as readers/fans/other. They are trying hard to not just be survivors, but to thrive and become victors despite the horrible things done to them. This is personal for me.

If your politics, of any stripe, matter more to you than the truth, including that you are doing real and demonstrable harm on this issue, then I will pray for your souls – and cut you out of my life for you are a cancer on both the body politic and society as a whole. Neither I, nor real victims of pedophiles, need that in our lives.

I’m a big believer in both positive growth and in redemption. I want those who were victimized to become victors, and will do all I can to support that. I will hope and pray that those who don’t get that may have their eyes opened, and if they do I will welcome them back into my life. Otherwise, no, and I ask you to pray for them as well.

Christianity And Immigration: A Starting Point For Discussion

Recently, a discussion started on my Facebook page about faith, and the duties of Christians towards refuges, as a result of my response to what was then the latest round of continuing outrage.  This specific bit of outrage was directed towards Christians, rebuking them over the EO issued by President Trump.  As noted then, my response to that and some comments raised deserves a fuller and thoughtful reply.

In the hopes that some may actually read it and consider the comments, I present that response.  I’ve been slow to post as I both have limited time, and because giving a more thoughtful response does take time.  I hope you will forgive me for suspecting that none of the commenters were truly interested in a theological debate.  I strongly suspect that for many or all that the responses were far more religious than Religious, in terms of Dr. Barnes outstanding work on rational discourse and persuasibility (see http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/09/repost_rational.html).

That said, there are three parts to this:  theological, philosophical, and factual.  The three are, as always, intertwined.  Trying to separate the three is a quick way to be wrong, as well as a logical fallacy.  On the first part I note that I am not a theologian, and I speak for myself.

I don’t think anyone, in my post or elsewhere, tried to argue that Christians (and those of the Jewish faith) don’t have a duty to Charity, or to charity.  This does indeed include charity to foreigners.

A quick search shows that there are (at least) 46 verses that deal with strangers/foreigners/resident aliens.  Of those 46, some involve smiting those with ill intent towards the Children of Israel.  Others deal with taxing foreigners/resident aliens, and giving unto them unclean foods that could not be eaten by the Children of Israel.  Others, commend particular care to do for foreigners/resident aliens as the Children of Israel had once been strangers in a strange land (Egypt).  One reason for the delay in response was the interesting find that one of the terms from original scripture (Hebrew and Greek) does appear to translate as resident alien, a legal term then as it is today.  One or more translations of scripture does use that term, and I’m actually wanting to explore that more.

If there is a faster way to doctrinal/theological error than cherry picking scripture, I am not sure what it is.  A full understanding requires consideration of Scripture as a whole.  One of my few quibbles with Dr. Barnes work is that I have found that faith and theology require not blind faith, but full discussion and discourse of any single verse in the context of the whole.  And, yes, I note that faith and understanding of what scripture means has changed as we as a people have grown, studied, and debated.  It has indeed led to what I call ‘Oh, that’s what you meant’ moments for all.  Leaving aside Charity, I would note that charity does not demand that one aid and abet those of ill intent towards you.

For those who still want to focus on a single bits of scripture, may I commend to you

Psalm 82:3-4 and Romans 13:1-2.

With all that said, yes, scripture can be, has been, and will be, cherrypicked from now to the end of time.  Anything can be taken out of context, and Man — with his free will — tends to find those things that justify his desires.  Just as I noted above, however, cherrypicking is in and of itself a wrong act, philosophically and theologically, as it lacks the context of the full.

In fact, if you read the fullness of scripture, evil is to be resisted; and, unjust governance is to be resisted by passive and active means.  Active does not mean, in all cases, armed.  Rather, it is primarily resisted by peaceful actions to enact positive change by reason, discourse, and example.  Keep the faith.  Only at last resort, or to protect from imminent harm, is one to turn to violence.

In the great experiment that is our Constitutional Republic (not a democracy), we have voting, state and federal legislatures, and the courts as means of peaceful challenge and change.  The peaceful transition of power in the Republic was a novel thing at the time the Great Experiment started, and few born here realize how rare it is even today in many parts of the world.

Now, let’s move from scripture to theology and philosophy.  Both are in agreement that the ends do NOT justify the means.  If one seeks to do a bad thing, that is wrong, even if the desire is to obtain a good thing, especially a “greater good”.  To accomplish good, one must do the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time.  It is good and right to fast so that the money that would be spent on food can go to the poor or other good cause.  It is philosophically wrong (theologically a sin) to fast and give that money if the goal is to gain fame and notoriety for oneself — in other words, doing the right thing simply to virtue signal others and glorify yourself is a wrong act/a sin.

Theology and philosophy both take note of the Principle of Double Effect, i.e. the law of unintended consequences.  One can undertake something good, for good reasons, but still cause evil.  if those consequences were indeed entirely unknowable and unintended, then great wrong has been done but theologically it is not a sin.  If, however, one knows that these consequences are quite likely/inevitable, there are other reasonable courses of action, then one has committed a wrong act (sin) if you proceed.

Now, to current events.

First, every nation has control of its borders and regulates who comes in for a visit or permanently.  One excludes visitors that you know are up to no good.  One welcomes people who want to assimilate and become a net positive to the society of that country.  The definitions on both applied by countries do vary quite a bit, as each has its own ideas on those principles.

Some are quite open.  Our own country is, despite the outcry, a very open and welcoming country to visitors, though not quite as much to immigrants.  Our Immigration Service and laws/regulations seriously need overhaul.  A woman I come close to marrying was, in fact, was a resident alien and her efforts to become a citizen exemplify a good bit of the problem.  She spent years and thousands of dollars in her effort, and to my knowledge still has not achieved her desire.  Whatever my thoughts about her, the system is essentially broken in regards those who want to come here, become citizens, and pursue the American dream legally.  That said, our system in regard to illegal aliens is also broken.  Both need serious reform, especially in regards illegal aliens who come here and commit minor things like rape, robbery, and murder.  We must do better by all.

An even better example is the plight of the interpreters who have aided us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  These are people who have proven themselves under fire, and almost all were being recommended and/or sponsored by the troops with which they served.  They were supposed to be fast-tracked, as their service to us literally put a target on not just their backs, but the backs of their immediate, and sometimes extended, families.  Instead, those applications were at best slow-tracked, far more often than not taking years.  The appearance was that this was both deliberate and malicious, and is something on which the military community has been working with members of Congress and others to address.  Sadly, there was not a lot of success with those efforts and it is my hope that the new administration and Congress will work together to address it.

As for why I talked about appearances, compare and contrast the extreme vetting and slow-rolling of the interpreters to the rapid and apparently cursory vetting given to other refugees from the Middle East.  What was taking years for people who had proven themselves took literally days for them.  Interesting, no?

That said, we are far from the most draconian, and I invite you to take an honest and objective look at them.  Want to have some fun?  Try immigrating to Mexico and buying land.  Take a look at visiting Iraq, Iran, Somalia, North Korea, Nauru, Butahn, and Libya to name a few.  We are not the best, but those claiming we are the worst need a serious reality check.

Every nation vets/checks visitors, and especially immigrants, in a variety of ways.  That is simply being responsible to the greater good.  In other words, governments have a duty to protect the people there (and their way of life).  America has taken in the lowly and oppressed from around the world, and overall done very well by it.  Hybrid vigor is a good term for it, and it comes from a variety of people coming here, assimilating and embracing the opportunities, and becoming good and productive members of society.  It is part of the great experiment that is our Republic.  However, not all individuals or groups have done so, and it is right (and a right) to deport them if they can not obey the law.

Daesh, which is the better name for ISIS/ISIL, believes in establishing a world-wide caliphate, along with starting a war between Muslims and all those of other faiths.  It should be noted that those Muslims who do not agree with them are considered as bad or worse than Christians and others, and they spend considerable effort exterminating and/or enslaving them.

I suspect that a majority of people in the U.S. have only a limited idea of what Daesh has done and is doing.  They routinely throw gay men from roof tops; what happens to lesbians is horrific; they crucify those they regard as apostate, as well as Christians and others (per the Koran, which lists crucifixion as one of the acceptable means of death for such); they enslave men, women, and children; they engage in sexual slavery, particularly women and children (male and female) of the Christian faith; and, I could go on but why bother.  Few seem to care.

That is a bit of a blanket statement, but it comes from both watching efforts to help minority populations in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, and to aid or start new efforts to do so.  I can make a very good argument that the UN has done little for them; and, will note that efforts by religious charities have done far more.  They and the Martyrdom they have endured for their faith is astounding — and they deserve all we can do to help provide them security, healing, and more.

For much of last year, I had a housemate who was a practicing Moslem from Libya.  He and other members of his extended family were forced to flee Libya because of Daesh.  He shared a few things with us, and in regards Daesh some of what he shared can only be described as horrific.  For purposes of this note, I will simply share that he accepted as a given that Daesh was using the crisis to export believers/fighters.  Not a possibility, but a fact.  For all that I think discussion of the demographics of the current refugee crisis is often used as a red herring, I will note that a mass influx of military-aged males (who are not interested in assimilation or adhering to the laws of the countries being entered) was in the past called an invasion.

I will note and accept that the latest wave of refugees is not the start of such a problem, though it has caused the issue to explode.  England and Europe have long provided pretty much open and unfiltered immigration.  I will simply note that few seem to know about Rotherham (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2769601/rotherham-sex-abuse-gang-allahu-akbar-jailed/ as a start); the wave of rapes and murders in Germany (and elsewhere); and, the terrorist acts committed by those immigrants in Europe, of which the spate of attacks in Paris are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many valid citations of those problems, and I leave researching them to the (few) who are truly interested.  I will also recommend you read https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/world/asia/isis-messaging-app-terror-plot.html?_r=0 as part of this.

Again, none of this is news to those who have been paying attention.  it has been a topic of extreme interest to the intelligence community, and those interested in terrorism and those interested in helping those who have truly suffered from Daesh and others.  Again, while I think discussion of demographics allows those who want to ignore reality a great opportunity to do so, almost all sources agree that out of the refugees let into the U.S. that are part of the current crisis, less than one percent come from those being persecuted and martyred.

The recent EO was a 90-day ban on people from six countries — not a ban on Moslems.  It was, in fact, half the time of previous such orders — and again as an exercise for those truly interested, go to the Congressional Research Service and look at previous bans, which administrations had the most, and the length of them.  It is a fascinating and telling read, all the way back to FDR turning away Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

The idea behind the temporary ban was to force those countries to do a better job of helping vet the refugees, while making improvements to our own vetting process.  Will it miraculously make us safer immediately?  No, it won’t.  What it will do is allow the government to start a process that hopefully (and, no, I’m not sure it will given the nature of our bureaucracy) make us safer in the long run.  Was it well handled/initiated?  No.  Was it a step in the right direction?  In my opinion, yes.  Is making those who are truly suffering a priority over those who are not the right thing to do?  Yes, politically, philosophically, and theologically.  Is doing all we can for them here and abroad the right thing to do?  Yes.  It is the least we can do.

Now, back to the law of unintended consequences/Principle of Double Effect.  Given the multitude of evidence of what happens from unvetted immigration, the fact that rape, murder, terrorism, and other crimes against law and humanity will occur is NOT an unforeseeable side effect.  It is, instead, a given.  Which mean that those who demand such are complicit in those acts, and committing philosophical and theological wrong.  Take your pick of either, it is the same in both.

Some of us have been paying attention to, and trying to address all the issues listed above for quite some time.  From the issue of the translators on down, I have to echo the question asked by this man at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/world/asia/isis-messaging-app-terror-plot.html?_r=0.  Further, I will not just ask where you were then, but where are you now.  Are you virtue signaling, or are you engaged in any meaningful effort to address the multiple problems in our system or in general?