Category Archives: Forgiveness

Was the Civil Rights Movement for Me?

I know this sounds like a strange question, but I have to ask because I wasn’t there, I’m not Black, and I don’t know if it applies to me or people like me.

I ask because I’ve heard White people (love y’all, I really do) ask too. And here’s the thing, was the American Revolution for me? Was the Second World War for me? Was the Protestant Reformation for me? I know it sounds funny, because well, first of all, it sounds sooooo egocentric. It’s like asking my parents, so when you two got married, it was for me?

Not really, would be the answer. Right? My parents didn’t get married for me. They might have wanted children in the abstract sense, but I’m sure they got a whole lot more than they bargained for when they got me (and yes, that is dripping with sarcasm (and guilt! – love you, Mom!) Interesting. I’ve never used nested parentheses in any other form of writing. I wonder if I’ll have to like do like weird grammatical tricks for this sentence to make sense, remember FOIL method?)

In any case, if it’s true in the microcosm of my parents, then it must be true that while some of the intention was that I would have a ‘better’ life because of those things that were fought for–those events, wars, and movements were for principles and ideals greater than any one person, including me. But at the same time, there is probably more to the movement than it bargained for. And again, as anecdotal evidence, I would like to offer that at times I feel absent or displaced from the effects of the movement. Who is the “we” in “We shall overcome”? Am I a part of that “we”?

When we talk about the United States of America, is that a “we”? Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m part of that country. I was always reminded growing up that I wasn’t American. When I learn about the Korean War, who am I in that discussion? What shall I say?

I think some of the racial tensions in the country today are around these gaps in “we.” It’s really about “me.” Even if “you” and “me” would be able to relate to one another, I’m not sure how we get to “we” any more.

Korean and African American communities in Dallas, Texas look like they’re on the war path. Some recent headlines: “Black-Korean Tensions Flare in Dallas”; “African Americans in Dallas Target Korean Businesses”;  But here’s an interesting excerpt from this article: “Dallas mayor tries to calm South Dallas dispute between blacks, Korean-Americans”:

Ted Kim, vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas, stressed that Korean-Americans weren’t so unlike African-Americans. “We have a very similar narrative,” he said. Kim told stories of foreigners occupying Korea, taking over its culture and cities, and forcing Koreans to learn another language. Like black slaves in America, Koreans have also seen the worst in humankind, he said. “We don’t know how similar we are,” Kim said. “If we were able to start sharing our stories with one another, we would find there is so much we can build on and find respect.”

In a passionate speech, Muhammad directly addressed the South Dallas incident and said the protests weren’t based on hate. He also spoke about black history and the ongoing struggles in black communities.“As a Korean people, you will never understand what we desire as black people as long as you don’t understand what happened to us,” he said. “We have been systemically destroyed.”

Muhammad criticized the way media stories have portrayed the South Dallas protests. He said people have incorrectly asked why the protesters dislike Asian-American businesses. “The better question is whether the Asian community targeted the black community to exploit it,” he said. “It is clear our community is under siege.”

Muhammad said American history shows that Italians, Indians, Arabs and other ethnicities have moved businesses into black communities to steal opportunities from them.“I believe everyone has benefited to the downfall of black people,” he said. “You are now just the next person in a line of people who have come to the black community and taken advantage of people who have been destroyed in this country.”

Kyrie eleison~ Lord, have mercy. Your cross was for me and for all of us. Make us a “we”.

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What are We Really Fighting For?

In the popular hype of MMA fighting, crowds cheering and roaring over the cage fights in an octagon echo the days of the gladiatorial fights in the sand arenas.  The craze of seeing two people battle it out has not waned over the centuries.  What are the combatants fighting for?  Beyond the brutality and violence, what is the ultimate triumph the fighters are aiming for?  The trophy?  The money?  Fame?  Personal accomplishment?  I think what men fight for in the octagon is a metaphor of what we fight for in society.  Why we fight says a lot about who we are.  What do we fight for?

One of the films I enjoyed most last year was “Warrior,” a film that didn’t get a whole lot of attention but had a deep, moving story with incredible acting.  It depicts a crucial dynamic of relationships in our society that stems from the condition of our souls.  Why do we fight?  If we can uncover the answer to this question, it illuminates much of why relationships are the way they are and what our souls are really searching for.  I think the film illustrated the important factor that what people are fighting for is not always apparent.  Sometimes the fighters don’t even realize what they’re really fighting for.  But they fight.  And we fight.

Here comes the slight bit of spoiler, just to warn you in case you want to stop reading here.  The story showed that what we are often fighting for is forgiveness.  In all our hard bouts with people, self and society, forgiveness is the unseen prize that we’re trying to get to and often times don’t realize that is what we’re actually fighting for.  In the surprising and revealing twist of the film, we find that the end of the fight is about achieving reconciliation that can only come by forgiveness and letting go of the anger.  But forgiveness rarely ever comes easy for anyone.  And that’s why we have to fight to forgive.  The deeper the hurt and anger, the tougher the fight.  The external fights we face in life represents the internal fights in our souls.  We’re fighting to be free from our anger, hate and grudges.  We’re fighting our way to forgiveness that manifests in reconciliation.  The true and genuine Warrior then is the one who gets to a place where he or she no longer needs to keep fighting.  When forgiveness is achieved, the fight is done.  The Warrior has won.


Elements of Reconciliation – Memory

I have trouble sometimes trying to describe what I do – I educate others on the work of reconciliation.

Reconciliation? they ask, Like in marital situations?

Well, not really. Think bigger – like people groups and on issues like immigration, race, class, you know?

And then, I get a few nods and oh’s and Okays. And then the conversation peters out.

I try and return the vocation volley, so what do you do?

And the answers usually can be divided into two categories, those that deal with the present – selling homes, technology consulting, writing, etc.; And those who work towards the future – insurance, community development, teachers, researchers, etc.

Reconciliation falls into a different category because it is somewhat a work that deals with the past, it is historical work that is trying to tie up loose ends with the present; but because we who live in the present are preoccupied in the moment or in the transaction at hand, or we work towards the future, reconciliation seems like a step backward, a constant, nagging pull keeping you from taking the next step forward. Which is why I understand it when people grow weary of the discussions necessary, but we are dialoguing with the past, a past that we cannot change, but neither does it go away without being addressed. Our pasts have a way of coming back to haunt us if we are not careful. And Christians who have been associated with power and influence, particularly being historical bedmates with power, really need to be transparent about that past – whether it  was Constantine, the Crusades, the Holy Roman Empire (which by many historian’s accounts was neither holy, Roman, or an empire!), the Great Schism, the Inquisition, the wars, the conquest, the bloodshed, the imperialism, the slave trade, the nativism, the silence, the exclusion acts…all that. If you call yourself Christian, then you have to own this history to some extent. Why?

Because Christians have to remember what happened because history, personal and collective, is that which puts a  backbone in our posture of confession. Confession is an act of remembering the past. Reconciliation can only be had with confession. In other words, reconciliation requires a good memory.

That is why even now, when you tell someone the full story of the gospel, you have to go back to the beginning – at some point, you must explain the story of a garden with two trees. Then the story of Christ as messiah makes sense. Because reconciliation is what adds symmetry to the story back in the beginning – Christ hung on a tree. The death that was promised to Adam and Eve was fully owned and purchased in the person of Christ. And we are taught to remember that story for it is also at the genesis of our stories. For like crack babies, we were also born with an addiction we inherited, and addiction that came from the curse of one tree, and at the intersection of two other trees, we are now the recipients of grace. We remember because reconciliation requires that we remember who we were and what happened and why we can lay claim to the new.

Without memory, we cannot understand the reason for a Savior; without remembering our worst moments in church history, we dismiss the ghosts of the past as though they had no bearing, no place to land in our lives now; but you cannot confess what you do not remember, and you cannot be forgiven if you have no awareness of the gravity of the infraction; a key part of reconciliation is the purposeful act of bringing the past before our very eyes and ears so that we might fully have the opportunity of being the new creation we are promised to be.

Here’s Desmond Tutu recounting why bygones will never be bygones without our ability to face it. Listen closely and enjoy.


A Series of Honest Questions

I picked up this book a long time ago but recently decided to take a peek because I’ve been wondering how justice and forgiveness relate to one another. If you’ve ever given it any thought, the two don’t always go together — in fact, I would say on an initial assessment, they seem mutually exclusive.

But I was immediately humbled by an opening litany of questions. Check it out:

Can Forgiveness Get Into Our Hearts?

I have felt God’s love and care for more than six decades of this life. I know God. Yet I have questions. why do I become offended so easily? How can rejections and betrayals, which in looking back are so slight, cause me such pain and wound me so deeply? I am a follower of Jesus and have God’s Holy Spirit living within me. As Paul says, we are “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37), yet I too often lose battles of self-control. Why do I act unjustly? Why am I not more loving, compassionate, sympathetic, empathic and forgiving? You might have experienced such dissatisfactions with your own self-control.

My defeats crop up in sneak attacks. Recently a group that I work with had an impassioned discussion. Someone has said that the battles in academe are so fierce because the stakes are so low, and this was one of those cases. As it turns out, this time I happened to be on the winning end of a close vote. So I was feeling good.

But as I walked out of the meeting shoulder to shoulder with a colleague on the other side of the vote, she couldn’t resist getting in a payback jab. “Well, the old boys network rammed that through,” she said.

To me, being subtly (or not so subtly ) blamed for sexism came out of the blue. But what disturbed me was my reaction. I was hurt. I could y face freeze into a mask. You know the kind–intended to tie away nothing, it actually gave away everything. I quickly disengaged.

Weeks later I still felt like cutting off relations with this coworker. How quickly little wars begin! How easily they are maintained!

Such experiences raise other questions. Can we avoid little  wars? If so, how? Can we heal wounded egos? How? Can reconciliation occur if we hold ten thousand little grudges?

Sometimes the questions prove the answer is worth fighting for. And these types of questions means that we are fully present and invested in bringing about a peace that surpasses understanding. Looking forward to reading this book…I’ve had some of the same questions.