forgiveness

It is a Feature Not a Bug - Conflict in the Church

The most naive among us, believe that the Church is conflict free, or if there is conflict then it is minimal and quickly resolved. This is not the case.

It is sometimes the case that people will work in the Church and see the “other side” of things and decide to leave Church. Others are victims of the conflict within Church, and this is painful. Still others seek out Church conflict because there is something about the conflict that they are addicted to or get some need met by being a part of the conflict.

The truth is conflict is universal and unavoidable. There is not just the conflict we have between one another, but we also have internal conflicts. Conflict is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.

The Church understands that with conflict there is the chance to practice reconciliation, forgiveness, listening, compassion, mercy and justice. Without conflict the Church cannot practice these things. And like all other parts of our lives, the things that we do not use, atrophies and dies.

What is remarkable about the Church is that it sees conflict as a feature of the institution, and not a bug.

Some worry that too much conflict for too long will lead to a sort of war. The assumption is that war is the ultimate form of conflict. We have been taught to think this is the case. However, comedian Dylan Moran makes the point that war is not ultimate conflict but it is the inability to have conflict. Moran’s point is that waging war means you would rather have the other person dead than have conflict with them. War is not the ultimate conflict, it is our inability to have conflict.

What if by refusing to be in conflict we are not choosing peace. What if it means that we are choosing war? If we believe that it would be better (more peaceful) when the “other side” is gone, then are we engaged in a sort of ecclesial war?

Conflict is the feature we have in the Church that gives the chance to practice repentance, mercy, forgiveness and justice. Taking the conflict away may not lead us to the peace we say we desire. It may lead us marching into war.

Living My Future Self Now

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There are many self-help and self-improvement advocates out there lauding the ways we can live our best life now. I don’t know about any of that, but what I do know is that we can live our future selves right now. At least in one way - forgiveness.

Think back to when you were a child and made a mistake that you have some amount of shame or embarrassment about. Many times we look at that act and forgive ourselves because we were just “dumb kids” doing things we did not think through very well. We can be quick to forgive children because children often do not know any better.

As you think of that memory and extend kindness and forgiveness to your past self, take note. Because your future self will be as forgiving to your present self, in the same way that your present self is forgiving my past self.

When you were younger you might have even thought that your future self would forgive your actions/behavior. And so, forgiving your past self in the present means you are living you (previous) future self now.

All of this to say that your future self will be as forgiving to your present self as you are presently forgiving your past self. And so give yourself a break and know you can live your future self right now by forgiving present self.

Be Good To The Imposters....

Who likes an imposter? They are fake and phony. They are a shame and a con. Of all the people in the world, those double-crossing pretenders are among the worst.

I think we can all agree.

Among the worst types of imposters are those who use their fake-ness in order to freeload off the hard work of others. We all know the type. They are everywhere, and the last thing you want to do is encourage the behavior. Which is why I don’t give money to anyone who I know is faking it. They are taking advantage of the welfare of others and, if I had my say, we would eliminate all welfare everywhere.

There is a Talmudic teaching about the potential risks of freeloaders on the welfare system that instructs the faithful, “to be good to the imposters, for without them our stinginess would lack its chief excuse.” (source).

Ouch.

The great thing about this teaching is how it calls us to pay attention to where the source of the sin or problem is. The one who is stingy, needs the freeloader in order to justify being stingy. For without the freeloader the stingy person would not have an excuse to be stingy and they would need to become generous. And if there is anything a stingy person does not want to become it is generous. So if you want to remain trapped in being stingy, then you better be kind to the freeloading imposter.

Be good to the one who angers you, for without them your superiority would lack its chief excuse.

Be good to the one who wrongs you, for without them your resentment would lack its chief excuse.

Be good to the one who you hate, for without them your hate would lack its chief excuse.

The Voice of Jesus, Grammatically Speaking - Guest Post

Virginia Parrish (@texpatnj) is among the intelligent people I know. I asked if she would write about the grammatically passive voice of Jesus in the Gospels. What follows is a theological and philosophical exploration of the additional meanings found in the voice of Jesus, grammatically speaking of course. (I added the image and all underlines and bolds to the text.)


How can we make war not war?

How can we make war not war?

            I’m a language person, as you know if you’ve seen my Twitter rants on the incorrect usage of words like notorious and fulsome. Words matter. Not only that, but the arrangement of the words matters, giving us that thing we call grammar. I love grammar, partly because I like the orderly structure of it, but even more because grammar allows us to be precise in communication. Grammar is about things like tense, which tells us exactly when something happens. I eat cereal and I’m eating cereal are both present tense sentences, but the first is the simple present and the second is the present progressive. If your friend calls in the middle of breakfast and asks what you’re doing, you automatically respond with the second, even if you never heard of the present progressive tense. Grammar is hardwired into our brains, and we make grammatical choices every time we open our mouths.

            We now also have computer software that checks our grammar, just in case we don’t have English-teacher friends to do it for us. When I write something, I always run a grammar check, just to be sure everything is clear. It usually reminds me not to start sentences with conjunctions. I know that’s incorrect. But sometimes I want to emphasize a point. My grammar check may also tell me not to use sentence fragments. Seriously, though?

            One thing almost everybody gets snagged on with grammar check is the use of passive voice. Most grammar software programs hate passive voice. If you’re not a grammar person, you probably aren’t sure what passive voice even is, but it just sounds like it must be weak writing, right? You don’t want to be a passive person. Software seems to look at sentences as if they were people – let’s make sure they all stay active!

            Except sometimes keeping all sentences in the active voice is ridiculous or impossible. Here’s a sentence in the passive voice, taken from an HGTV show today:

The house was built in 1890.

            It’s passive because the subject of the sentence, the house, performs no action. The actors – those doing the building – aren’t in the sentence. That may well be because we don’t know who they are. If I try to change the sentence to the active voice, I get

Some people whose identities are unknown built the house in 1890.

            That’s a silly sentence, so HGTV’s original passive-voice sentence works much better, and they’re right to use it. When we’re writing sentences about houses, it seems logical not to expect them to be active, but what about human beings?

            There are times when there is a good reason that a sentence focuses on the person receiving the action rather than on the actor.

Thousands of soldiers were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk.

            That headline and others like it in 1940 gave hope to those at home. Later, maybe, they would hear about how the rescue took place and who performed it, but their immediate need was to be reassured that thousands of soldiers, their loved ones, were safe. In that moment, those who had been rescued were the most important.

            Here’s another use of the passive voice.

Stones and bottles were thrown during the demonstration.

            Now things get a little murky. This sentence uses the passive voice to focus on stones and bottles without saying who threw them. We’re writing a journalistically neutral story, and we don’t want to place blame. Besides, it looked like everybody was throwing stones and bottles, so how can we know who started it? The grammar is correct, but the ethics? Maybe not.

            Later, maybe the follow-up story on that demonstration will say things like.

A man was injured.

Arrests were made.

Laws were broken.

            Grammatically, the subjects of these sentences did nothing; something was done to them. They did not act; they were acted upon. We don’t know who injured the man, who made the arrests, or who broke the laws. The passive voice can be a convenient grammatical hiding place. Listen to how often a politician on the news says, “Mistakes were made.”

            In the Gospels, Jesus uses the word forgiven nineteen times; in eighteen of those instances, he uses the passive voice.

You are forgiven.

Your sins are forgiven.

Their sins will be forgiven them.

            There’s no question about who is doing the forgiving. In each instance, Jesus could have said, “I forgive you.” Why did he hide himself grammatically? When he could have been naming himself as the divine actor, he instead excluded himself from the sentence, pointing us back to ourselves.

            We have adopted that use of the passive voice. We are forgiven. We are loved. We are blessed. But have we taken what Jesus did and turned it backward? In grammar, as in all things, God has acted, and we have received. Jesus made us the subject of those sentences, and we accept that gratefully in our repetitions. The difference is that Jesus spoke in the second person – you – and we repeat in the first person – we. Jesus kept himself out of the sentence to focus on us; our repetition in the passive voice focuses us on – us.

            Maybe Jesus put us in that grammatical place because it’s usually the subject that performs the action. His use of you as subject moves us into an active role. If we are forgiven, loved, blessed, it’s because God has acted on our behalf. If Jesus makes us the subjects, it’s because we are to act in his name. We forgive. We love. We bless.