I see that John Podhoretz is taking some unfair abuse in one of the comboxes below for his reflection on hate and the Amish situation. I find a lot to agree with in John's post, the substance of which is here:
All the same, this story disturbs me deeply — because there can be no question that anger can be as righteous as forgiveness. I'm not sure I would want to be someone who succeeded in rising above hatred of those who murder children. Does this mean that those who harbor hatred of child killers have somehow achieved a higher level of Godliness than those who succeed in banishing such hatred from their hearts? That seems to be a necessary corollary of the idea that it is heroic to "instruct the young not to hate," and that seems very wrong to me.
That's a serious moral point, and deserves to be taken seriously. As Christians, we are commanded not to hate by Christ -- a command that we obviously cannot expect non-Christians to obey. Beyond that, though, I've had to deal in my own life with the practical value of forgiveness. What I'm going to say here is imprecise, and my own thoughts are not conclusive, because I'm still working my way through it. But here goes.
My anger over the abuse of children by Catholic priests and the cover-up of these actions by bishops and their staffs was bottomless. And justified, considering the crime. The more I learned, the deeper my anger grew, and it was hard for me to grasp why more good people weren't as angry as I was. I thought then and I think now that they ought to have been. And I hated, and do hate, the bulls**t line from so many clerics about forgiveness -- not because it is untrue, but because so many of them clearly mean it in a self-serving, cheap-grace way.
But anger, and hatred, has a way of distorting your vision, and poisoning everything it touches. You start to let go of the anger, and you wonder if perhaps you are compromising with evil. But what we don't often consider is whether or not we are compromising with evil in a more subtle way by holding on to the anger. I personally could not find a way to get out from under the anger I had over the injustices perpetrated against children and their families by pederast priests and bishops who protected them -- and it has had a devastating effect on my own spiritual condition (more on which later).
Forgiveness is in some sense irrational. But look, who do we admire now, the black radicals who took up weapons to fight against the very real injustices and cruelties waged by whites against blacks, or Martin Luther King, who refused to hate those who hated him? Why do we admire him, and not those who returned hate for hate? Is it because King's actions represented the conquest of evil, a denial of its power. King never said that racism wasn't evil, but he refused to allow his own humanity to be violated by it. I don't know how he found the strength to do so, but he did, and our country rightly reveres him today.
If you didn't see it, take a look at this incredible series of stories by a Lutheran pastor who served time in a communist prison in Romania, and who bore witness to a love that passes all understanding as Orthodox prisoners forgave their tormentors, and treated them with love. I don't know how they did it, but I know that I want to be like them. I want to be like Corrie ten Boom's sister, who begged her in the concentration camp, where the ten Boom's had been sent for hiding Jews, not to hate their Nazi tormentors. I want to be able to say, if ever in that position, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." And to mean it.
Let me be even more personal: if one of my children were murdered as those Amish children were, I would either have to learn how to forgive, or blow my own head off in grief. Those are the stakes. Forgiveness, and refusing hatred of the detestable, is irrational, as John Podhoretz understands. It is also the most sane thing in the world. There's a paradox with which we all struggle.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
More on the Amish from Rob...
over on , here is Rob's take on the Amish, again. As always, very thoughtful: