Forgiveness and the Future Schism (Part 2)

Forgiveness and the Future Schism (Part 2) January 6, 2022

Ego and the desire for power afflict many people. A new issue enters our discussion on forgiveness. George Lucas in an interview about The Revenge of the Sith observed, “Evil people don’t know they are evil.” Is forgiveness possible in such situations? As I stated in the first part, the first step toward forgiveness is to acknowledge the truth. What happens when a person neither knows nor can be persuaded of the truth? Where does that leave us?

Evil In God’s Name

“Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so, they are offering worship to God.” (John 16:2b) The Gospel of John knows that evil is often mistaken as service to God. It is one of the arguments people make against religion. We know very little has changed. But, most of us, do not think of ourselves as perpetrators. We claim to be victims. “Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

We went for some barbecue for the 11th day of Christmas. We overheard the discussion from the table behind us. An older gentleman dressed in flannel shirt and overalls was holding forth in the name of the Lord. He may be a preacher. I can’t say. What I can say, is that he suffered from the fundamentalist persecution complex. “If you try to talk to people about the Lord anymore, and they will kill you.” It is curious to me how someone makes such a claim in public. Fundamentalists convince themselves that despite being able to meet in public areas, build church buildings, and openly claim religious exemptions they are somehow in danger. White evangelical churches welcome police presence to their services for protection.

A victim who retaliates is often justified in the minds of people. It is the myth of redemptive violence. The fundamentalist persecution complex allows untouched people to justify their own violence against other people and property. The justification is “they deserve this because of what they are doing to us.”

Unrealized Evil

A recent social media exercise surprised many people. Dungeons and Dragons allowed players to choose the moral alignment of their characters. A player then role-played based on the character’s, well, character. A curious addition to the moral labels of good, evil, and neutral were adjectives of lawful, neutral, and chaotic. The latter three depicted how a character went about doing good, evil, or amorality. The exercise asked participants to answer “moral dilemma” type questions. What surprised many who considered themselves good people was being labeled “Lawful Evil.”

The problem for them was simple enough to understand. They lived ordered lives. These were people who did not break any major laws, minded their own business, and helped their friends. Their responses to the questions seemed logical to them. They did not recognize their own evil. I must say here yours truly got the rating of neutral good.

We then ask what happens when we recognize our own evil? Ideally, we change what we are doing. But how tempted are we to justify our evil when others do the same thing? Or, as in the case of overalls guy, imagine others doing worse than us.

Forgiveness and Unrealized Evil

My grandparents were southern racists. They were raised in and spent their young adult years under Jim Crow segregation. They practiced and supported an unrealized evil. My grandfather walked away from that attitude eventually. But he was well into his eighties.

My grandparents did not like me attending a desegregated school at first. In their minds, every social evil could be traced back to “integration.” They got used to it. All we grandchildren who did not share their views could do was love them. For the life of me, I could not wrap my head around evil being done by good people. How could they be friendly to blacks and still call them what they did?

What I came to learn though was they were more honest in their racism than most of my neighbors. They, at first, did not see anything wrong with racism. Our neighbors and other family members were racists who did not see themselves as racist. It has been harder for them to overcome it.

One thing I learned was my love for my grandparents that allowed me to forgive the racist attitudes they tried to teach me when they changed their minds about it. Love is the true first step toward forgiveness. Love leaves the door open…at least a little. And that makes it easier to open again to the person who acknowledges their own evil.

It is interesting too to note that Return of the Jedi shows Darth Vader overcome by the love his son, Luke Skywalker, demonstrates toward him. Love will help someone realize their evil sometimes. The third installment will talk more about how love may be practiced in the face of schism.

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