Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

WHAT A DAY!!! Obama's speech was fantastic! "The time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness." Beautiful words.

I was struck by the following as well: "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."

I was pleased by these words...a critical uplifting of Americans who claim other paths to God, as well as of those who claim no religion...and a sharp contrast to The Rev. Rick Warren's Jesus centered invocation that was not appropriate for the inclusiveness of the nation. I was shocked when Warren used the Lord's Prayer...

Also in lovely contrast to Warren's invocation was Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction:

"And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other."

I'm so moved by it all, that I'm trying something new: entering the blogging world once more!

9 comments:

Scott said...

Your post seems to suggest that Warren was exclusive and that Lowery was inclusive. Okay ... But what am I to make of Lowery asking "forgiveness?" Moreover, from whom is he hoping to receive forgiveness? And why? Because asking of forgiveness suggests that there are standards that have been violated, which in turn implies that there is a deity that holds the right to set the standards. And as soon as you go down that road, you enter the realm of exclusivity.

jacque said...

I hear what you are saying. I think I heard, and read, differently.
I do not think that morality in this context is a simple set of dictates of one religion or diety. It goes much deeper than that. As a "non believer," I heard his prayer in a larger context. I believe he was asking forgiveness as a call for national catharsis for, as he mentioned, greed, social and economic inequality, environmental degradation. These have affected each one of us and each one of us has contributed to the perpetuation of these wrongs. I think forgiveness in this context, while he was clearly evoking the Christian notion of forgiveness, does have a larger and more poignant meaning. As a society to move forward, to "give up childish things," we need to acknowledge honestly where we are now and what we have done that we would like to change, take responsibility for our actions, ask for forgiveness from each other and from ourselves, and let go of the past to start fresh with renewed energy and purpose. Forgiveness, in a larger context, is the process of acknowledging our mistakes and misdeeds personally and as a member of our society collectively, absolving ourselves and each other so we no longer dwell in the hurts of those actions, cleanse ourselves of those actions and move forward. The key is not in the relationship with a diety, it is in the internal process of letting go and moving forward. What can be more inclusive than collective forgiveness, letting go and moving forward, together?

Fran said...

Kurt, I am testing whether this will let me post a comment.

Kurt said...

Thanks for your post Scott. I see your point, but I hear Lowery's "forgiveness" as the hurt we have done to each other as members of a society...specifically in terms of greed and corruption. Now, I can certainly apply my Christian perspective to "failing to love my neighbor," but it's not the only way to understand the saying. I could also hear it, as you suggest, of needing forgiveness from some deity...but because he left it at "forgiveness," I think it's pretty open to interpretation...which is the point of an "inclusive invocation or benediction." In contrast, Warren's praying the Lord's Prayer makes it clear as it's the Christian God that he is holding us accountable to.

Kurt said...

Jacque...I think you're right on!

Scott said...

So I tried to leave a response earlier, but my post got eaten by blogger. All that to say, if blogger finds my original post, this will be a repeat. Apologies if that is the case.

Also, before diving in, I just wanted to say that I find conversations like the one we are having to be nothing less than fascinating. But I do understand that they are often fraught with potholes and roadblocks that can lead to bad feelings. Please know that my intent is not to hurt or to offend. I am merely engaging in a dialog in the hopes of learning how others think and feel. If at any point, you feel the need to end the conversation, please do not hesitate to ask to step away. I will not mind.

So ... I've been thinking about what you (Jacque and Kurt) have been saying and I think I know why I can't follow you down that road. It has to do with the understanding of forgiveness. Let's take it out he realm of theology for a moment.

When an individual asks for forgiveness, she/he is openly admitting that there has been a "wrong" done that has harmed at least one other person. For if there was no "wrong" committed, there would be no reason to seek forgiveness.

Given that, the question becomes one of justice and of power. When someone has violated another human being by acting in an "unjust" or "unfair" manner, something must be done to compensate the individual that is harmed. Otherwise, they are a victim not only on the individual that wronged them, but a victim of a society that tacitly allows that "wrong" to go unchecked. In other words, justice (or balance) must be restored.

But how do you restore justice? In your post, you suggested that people need to forgive themselves. But I would suggest that the power to forgive does not lie within the individual that committed the wrong. The power to either seek compensation or to release the individual from the debt of their wrong actions must lie with the victim. Else, the victim is once again brutalized as he/she is forced to face a future that includes the fallout from the original grievance as well as the fallout from the realization that she/he has been denied any opportunity for justice because the wrong-doer has forgiven themselves.

In short, our society does not operate on that level and it would be dangerous for it to do so.

So that is why, when I read your post regarding Lowery's prayer, I could not follow your interpretation. Because self-forgiveness, as best as I can understand, is a concept that denies justice to those that have been victimized and it is a concept that in some level, leaves the wrong doer with a a lingering sense as to how the victim now sees them.

Ultimately, forgiveness is about the restoration of a broken relationship -- not a relationship with one's self, but a relationship with the wronged individual. And to move us to a place where we are allowed to morally absolve ourselves of guilt is act that ultimately perpetuates the problems within society as negative consequences are ultimately divorced from negative actions.

Now, having said that, if your analysis of Lowery's prayer is accurate, and this was a call for people to self-forgive, than I actually think that this prayer was harmful in that it undermines the concept of justice and true restoration within society. If, however, my analysis was correct, than I still maintain that his asking of forgiveness within the context of a prayer implies a deity, which is a move towards exclusivity as it immediately removes atheists and anyone who does not share a similar conception of deity from the community.

Thoughts?

Kurt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt said...

Really thoughtful stuff Scott! I'll have to look over the text of Lowery's speech before I respond (and I have to get some work done first, so it might take a day or two.)

Let me just say that this is the type of dialogue I hope to have with this blog...I'm not looking for agreement or even consenus...but only respect and dignity towards each other as we talk. Your comments reflect that perfectly, and I hope you'll keep coming back!

Kurt said...

Scott...I still plan on thinking and writing more about your forgiveness comment, but it occurs to me that some of what I just wrote in the invocation post (concerning the limitations of language when talking of "God") seems to be connected at least in part to your comments.