Tag Archives: forgiveness

A Christmastide message from 1885

Christmastide is an old liturgical word for the season that runs from Dec. 24 to Jan. 5, with specific times during those days varying within different types of churches.

Sometimes I’m curious to see how people in the United States have used less-familiar words like Christmastide because their origins tend to come from liturgical traditions more common on the other side of the Atlantic.

So I searched “Christmastide” in the Library of Congress’s database of old U.S. newspapers. That kind of search can provide a clue as to how words were used at certain times in U.S. history — or to what extent they were used.

For example, searching the database for “Christmastide” between 1789 and 1963, I found 6,385 returns.

Searching for “Christmas” during the same period, I found 1,382,961 returns.

That’s a big difference. “Christmastide” just wasn’t as popularly used during most of U.S. history, and maybe that gives some evidence toward the idea that American Christianity has tended to be less liturgical and less calendar-oriented. More “low church” and less “high church.” Possibly.

Beyond that, I can’t say the search for “Christmastide” revealed any special insights about religion in American — and I can’t say I read 6,385 returns — but I did find a seasonal message of reconciliation within a short, unsigned editorial in The Bossier Banner, Bellevue, Bossier Parish, La., Dec. 24, 1885:

And since love grows cold, sometimes with unwise estrangements, this Christmastide ought to send many out to regather and grasp the clues of ancient friendship. To those who clasp hands again after the long chill, and forgive, it should indeed be a merry Christmas.

Advertisements

Pastor Matt Chandler demonstrates healthy leadership and genuine wisdom

Pastor Matt Chandler has done evangelical and Reformed leaders a huge service, if they’ll pay attention to what he recently said.

In a recent sermon, Chandler admitted that church discipline had not been handled properly, and he asked forgiveness. As you read the list of things for which he asked forgiveness, consider the implications of each one:

  • Will you forgive us where our counsel turned into control?
  • Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize the limits and scope of our authority?
  • Will you forgive us where we allowed our policies and process to blind us to your pain, confusion and fears?
  • Will you forgive us where we acted transactionally rather than tenderly?
  • Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize you as the victim and didn’t empathize with your situation?

I haven’t been this encouraged by the words of evangelical and/or Reformed teachers in a long, long time.

Chandler gets it. Even if he and his elders really messed up, Chandler is admitting it, apparently making it right, and showing the way forward.

That is leadership.

I’m sure some people could accuse me of consistently negative comments about Christian leaders.

But I don’t want people to pay for their sins. I want people to make real changes that will prevent many bad situations from happening.

I want good leaders instead of bad leaders. I want humane leaders instead of ideological leaders.

I want leaders who know how to leave bad ideas, policies, and practices behind.

If leaders are too frozen in their dogmatic perspectives or too in love with their reputations to remain humble and open to concerns and warnings, then the second best thing I can do is point out their contradictions, failings, and secrecy in hopes of keeping others away from their ministries.

All humans have failings, and all wolves have fangs.

Sure, I’m just a tiny bit of plankton in the Internet Ocean, but I have to yell when I see people being misled and manipulated.

Matt Chandler’s recent sermon encourages me. He shows us all that he’s willing to place his flock above his ego.

Isn’t that Christ-like? To lay down oneself for others?

Matt Chandler also startles me into realizing that real leadership and insight still exist in some evangelical/Reformed churches.

Preventing a repeat

FT Magazine has as regular feature entitled “The Shrink & the Sage,” written by therapist Antonia Macaro and philosopher Julian Baggini. A recent topic for their column was, “Should we ‘get over it’?

Here are two excerpts.

reasons to choose differently next time

“A big part of getting over something is learning from past events so that we can act differently in the future.” — Antonia Macaro

The Prosecution looks to the future

“Think, for example, of the friends and relatives of people who have died due to the negligence of others. They may embark on tortuous legal processes, usually with the aim that no one else should have to go through what they did. Sometimes, it might be true that their persistence is indicative of a failure simply to accept that things happen. But often this is a principled move that has real benefits for others. The fact that life might have been easier for all concerned if they had tried to move on quicker is besides the point. Justice needs to be done, more to prevent future tragedies than to try to fix what can’t be mended.” — Julian Baggini

Aside

If you forgive someone, do you have to hang out with that person? Continue reading

Barna Group misses a major point about re-entering church life

The Barna Group has posted an article that says so many good things and intends the right thing, but in the end, it fails to address the problem it claims to answer.

“Millions of Unchurched Adults are Christians Hurt by Churches but can be Healed of the Pain” makes an assumption that reflects the worst of our culture: that problems are primarily emotional and not about truth.

The article, rightly, talks about the need to forgive, but it makes no mention of the doctrinal and theological content one should look for before re-joining church life.

Sometimes, bad doctrine and bad teaching cause pain.

Church-inflicted wounds are not always just about people. They can be the result of a pastoral failure to consistently and thoroughly teach the truth of the Gospel, grace, and love.

Let me use an exaggerated example to make my point clear. If a woman you know walks down a small city street and is attacked, you may commend her — after much time — for forgiving her attacker. But you would not require her to walk down that street again.

Or, for a less-exaggerated example, what if a young man becomes sucked into one of the Bible-based cults — horrible vortexes that are indistinguishable from nondenominational churches in our current American Protestant malaise. Surely we would say he should forgive, but we not suggest he return. In fact, we would give him books and counselling to shore up his understanding in direct opposition to the cult’s twisted teachings on Scripture.

If adults hurt by churches should forgive, they still shouldn’t repeat the same mistake twice: if the church they attended is weak on the Gospel, grace, and love, that church will hurt people on a regular basis. The Barna article only goes so far to address “insensitive and ignorant” actions. What about theological illiteracy? What about fashionable legalisms?

It’s wrong to make yourself vulnerable to certain groups, ideas, and beliefs when you are trying to heal. Just like it would be wrong for a woman to walk back down the same dark city street where she was once attacked; just like it would be wrong for the young man to return to the cult.

Furthermore, as Yale theologian Miroslav Volf rightly points out in The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World:

“As trauma literature consistently notes, the healing of wounded psyches involves not only remembering traumatic experiences; it must also include integrating the retrieved memories into a broader pattern of one’s life story, either by making sense of the traumatic experiences or by tagging them as elements gone awry in one’s life. Personal healing happens not so much by remembering traumatic events and their accompanying emotions as by interpreting memories and inscribing them into a larger pattern of meaning – stitching them into the patchwork quilt of one’s identity, as it were.

“For example, as I relive in memory the humiliation and pain of my interrogations by military police, I can tell myself that that suffering has made me a better person – say, in the way it has drawn me closer to God or made me more empathetic to sufferers. Or I can decide that my experience has contributed in some small way to exposing the injustice of a regime that controlled its citizens, curtailed their freedoms, and sacrificed their well-being out of a commitment to an unworkable ideology. In either case, healing will come about not simply by remembering but also by viewing the remembered experiences in a new light. Put more generally, the memory of suffering is a prerequisite for personal healing but not a means of healing itself. The means of healing is the interpretative work a person does with memory.”

I first found the Barna article via Kendall Harmon. Thank you, sir.

Memories, forgiveness and the prophetic voice

Is it ever right to talk about the bad experiences within a group or a movement?

If a group or a movement mistreated me, should I warn others to avoid the group or movement and give reasons why?

If I warn others, should I generally be characterized by my lack of forgiveness, or by my bold prophetic voice?

Is it possible to forgive an individual while holding his group or movement up to scrutiny?

Is the test of allegedly moral ideas indeed good moral outcomes?

Is the test of spiritual ideas indeed good spiritual outcomes?

Can I talk about the reasons why there was a bad outcome without being accused of “living in the past” and un-forgiveness?

Consider this quotation from The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World by Yale theologian Miroslav Volf:

As trauma literature consistently notes, the healing of wounded psyches involves not only remembering traumatic experiences; it must also include integrating the retrieved memories into a broader pattern of one’s life story, either by making sense of the traumatic experiences or by tagging them as elements gone awry in one’s life. Personal healing happens not so much by remembering traumatic events and their accompanying emotions as by interpreting memories and inscribing them into a larger pattern of meaning – stitching them into the patchwork quilt of one’s identity, as it were.

For example, as I relive in memory the humiliation and pain of my interrogations by military police, I can tell myself that that suffering has made me a better person – say, in the way it has drawn me closer to God or made me more empathetic to sufferers. Or I can decide that my experience has contributed in some small way to exposing the injustice of a regime that controlled its citizens, curtailed their freedoms, and sacrificed their well-being out of a commitment to an unworkable ideology. In either case, healing will come about not simply by remembering but also by viewing the remembered experiences in a new light. Put more generally, the memory of suffering is a prerequisite for personal healing but not a means of healing itself. The means of healing is the interpretative work a person does with memory.

What does that say about the writer’s decisions in the face of past, peculiar, especially bad experiences? Should his testimony, his witness to awful things, remain unwritten?

Convert burned, family forgives

DHAKA, Bangladesh – A 70-year-old woman convert from Islam died on Friday (Feb. 1) from burns she suffered when unknown assailants in a Muslim-majority area (about 150 miles northwest of the capital) set her home on fire last month. Rahima Beoa of Cinatuly village suffered burns over 70 to 80 percent of her body after the home she shared with her daughter and son-in-law, also converts, was set ablaze the night of Jan. 7, said Khaled Mintu, Rangpur regional supervisor of the Isha-e-Jamat (Jesus’ Church) Bangladesh denomination. Villagers were upset over her conversion to Christianity and that of her daughter and son-in-law, he said. “Before her burial, the family members forgave those who set fire in the house and prayed to God that this kind of incident not occur anymore in this country,” Mintu told Compass. “They also prayed for a situation where Muslims and Christians can practice their own religion side by side peacefully.”

-Compass Direct News