“Jesus used the concept of forgiveness to change society,” Sarah Moon writes. “So why, today, do we use it to keep oppressive hierarchies in place?”
Moon’s post is insightful and, I think, important. Read the whole thing. Here’s a bit more:
Forgiveness is no longer a radical tool that gives new life to those who have been cast out of society. It is now a tool of the oppressors. A tool that rips away the little autonomy and power that the powerless have managed to gather for themselves. A tool that uses even the most horrible sins of those in power to remind the powerless of who’s in charge.
Forgiveness, as used by most Christians today, makes me feel lost and hopeless. It makes me want to give up. It means that my hurt doesn’t matter and my desire for change can be twisted and construed as oppression itself.
Forgiveness, like humility, is a word that those of us who believe Christianity is liberating need to reclaim. Forgiveness means that the powerless have access to God, even when the powerful try to bar us from God. Forgiveness means that God gives the powerful a second chance to humble themselves, give up their power, and join in solidarity with the oppressed.
Grace of Are Women Human? builds on that post, applying it to her ongoing argument with Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson, two of the more outspoken male-supremacists of the Gospel Coalition. Again, read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:
A frequent refrain when egalitarians or progressive Christians call out oppressive theology is that we should all show “grace” to each other even when we disagree. We shouldn’t judge people’s “hearts” or “intentions.” Let’s sit together and listen and cultivate community because we’re all part of the Body of Christ, etc. etc. We should acknowledge when people ask for forgiveness or change even a little bit, because God’s working in them and we should honor that.
… The problem with evangelical assumptions, including liberal ones, about living out “Christian virtues” and in “Christian community” is it implicitly assumes everyone is (or should be) approaching the table with equal stakes in the conversation and should give each other an equal hearing. This is the case even when liberal or egalitarian evangelicals are working to hold pastors accountable for abusive theology or actions. There’s an awareness that harm is being done mostly in one direction, and that the playing field is inherently uneven as a result. But the politics of Christian virtue often leads to evangelicals doing and saying things that undermine their own efforts to make church a safer space.
Giving everyone an “equal” hearing and “equal” benefit of the doubt actually reinforces inequality in a discussion about systematic abuse of power. Insisting that we give the intentions of abusive pastors significant weight in a discussion about considerable and concrete harm they’re doing makes the abstract feelings of people abusing their power equal to the tangible pain of they people they’ve abused.
Praising other Christians for showing the barest modicum of comprehension or decency on issues this serious isn’t gracious, or loving. When showing “grace” means soft-pedaling justified criticism in the name of fellowship, that people have to stop to acknowledge every little act of “dialogue” or “change” no matter how small or superficial, “grace” ultimately means accommodating the status quo and catering to power.