Friday, May 31, 2013

Playing with Forgivenss & Redemption

By Gary Berg-Cross

It’s a big time for redemption as acts of atoning for a sin, fault or mistake). Recently we had adulator and trail hiker Mark Sanford’s successful bid in the South Carolina special general election.  He was forgiven his sins, at least by his Tea Party backers. The NRCC chose not to provide him funds.  As one religio-conservative publication put it in a post called, “Mark Sanford: Welcome Back to Washington”:

He [Sanford] has always been a consistent, principled, and courageous conservative. And he has always done it with showmanship and clarity that gets the points across to voters.

He unfurled this showmanship in this campaign of redemption, in which he was combatting not just his opponent, but also his deeply tarnished image as result of serious ethical transgressions during his second term as governor.

Standing by the flawed man was surprising in one way, since Conservatives generally are less forgiving than Liberals and ague that a politician who commits a moral error in his personal life is likely to commit one as part of official duties. Well perhaps not for members of their own team. And in very Christian South Carolina, at least, another factor was at play, the Christian idea of redemption. One read that clearly in Sanford’s  post-win self-analysis with thanks to God & redeeming grace:

“Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus,” Sanford told the crowd Tuesday night, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead. “I’ve talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign,” he said. “Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God’s grace, I don’t think you really get it. And I didn’t get it before.” (reported in NYT opinion piece)

One may be a bit uncomfortable with this version of American style religio-politics that loves sinners, who prostrate themselves before us and beg for forgiveness.  After all it shows they buy into the sin idea.  And maybe the devil made them do it.

Another religious excursion into redemption territory, perhaps a more progressive hike than the Sanford style was visible in the widely reported remarks by Pope Francis' regarding atheists who he gave credit for possible good works. .

According to Catholic News Service, the pope was speaking of a broad horizon people of all or no faith working together to do good. "The Lord has redeemed us all with the blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone," he said. Some may ask, "'Father, even the atheists?' Them, too. Everyone."

Well this simple redemptive stance didn’t last long. One day after the inclusive Every-Do-Gooder idea we were treated to damage control headlines of “Vatican Clarifies Pope's 'Atheist' Remarks.”   A less progressive Vatican spokesman (a Rev. Thomas Rosica) released a statement that clarified that redemption isn’t salvation. Quoting from Church “Catechism” we learn that people who reject the teachings of Jesus Christ cannot attain salvation.  Bad news for many.

"All salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her."

Anthony Weiner’s redemption tour as part of his announced candidacy for mayor of New York City is just starting up, so we are likely to hear more about sinners and redemption, this time with the New York Jewish twist. Lots of ideas on redemption in that Creed. We’ll see if forgiveness gets wrapped up with the condition that you seek it from god. It seems like yet another uncomfortable scene in which special speakers to god exercise some semi-official brand of religio-morality calculus using the vocabulary of sin.  Self selected people get to divine God’s plans which gets all tangled in democratic processes of judgment.  

All in all forgiveness is a good thing, but I’m more comfortable with a non-sinner. humanist take on it like Mark Twain, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."



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