Pastor's Corner

A blog of Rv. Jim's thought's studies, and meanderings.

This is in reverse chronological order

(the most recent appear at the top.)

Restorative Justice

Restoring Relationships
Sunday, September 6, 2020

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced. —James Baldwin (1924–1987)

Almost all religions and cultures that I know of have believed in one way or another that sin and evil are to be punished and that retribution is to be demanded of the sinner—in this world and usually the next world, too. Such retributive justice promotes a dualistic system of reward and punishment, good people and bad people, and makes perfect sense to the ego. I call it the economy of merit or “meritocracy.” This system seems to be the best that prisons, courtrooms, wars, and even most of the church are equipped to do. The trouble is that we defined God as “punisher in chief” instead of Healer, Forgiver, and Reconciler; thus, the retribution model was legitimized all the way down!

However, Jesus, many mystics, Indigenous cultures, and other wisdom traditions show an alternative path toward healing. In these traditions, sin and failure are an opportunity for the transformation of the person harmed, the person causing harm, and the community. Mere counting and ledger-keeping are not the way of the Gospel. Our best self wants to restore relationships, and not just blame or punish. This is the “economy of grace” and an operative idea of restorative justice.

After being wronged, few human beings can move ahead with dignity without a full and honest exposure of the truth, as well as accountability. You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. Hurt does not just go away on its own; it needs to be spoken and heard. Only then is there a possibility of “restorative justice,” which is what the prophets invariably promise to the people of Israel (as in Ezekiel 16:53-63; Isaiah 57:17‒19) and Jesus illustrates in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11‒32) and throughout his healing ministry.

While I can talk about restorative justice from the framework of Scripture and theology, this week I will rely on experts in the field. Teachers and practitioners Elaine Enns and Ched Myers define restorative justice and peacemaking as “a range of nonviolent responses to injustice, violation, and/or violence with the aim of

  1. reducing or halting the presenting violence in order that

  2. victims and offenders (as well as their communities and other stakeholders) can collectively identify harms, needs, and responsibilities so that

  3. they can determine how to make things as right as possible, which can include covenants of accountability, restitution, reparations and (ideally) reconciliation.” [1]

We all need to apologize, and we all need to forgive, for humanity to have a sustainable future. Otherwise, we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately. History easily devolves into taking sides, bitterness, holding grudges, and the violence that inevitably follows. No wonder that almost two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching is directly or indirectly about forgiveness. As others have said, “Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different past.” Reality is what it is, and such acceptance leads to great freedom, and the possibility of healing forgiveness.

Please cite the source as 

website:Restoring Relationships Theme: Restorative Justice Sunday, September 6, 2020 Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

May 09,2020 -  Thoughts on - Moral Man & Immoral Society - Reinhold Niebuhr, 1960

    Some things are timeless.  If you haven't heard of Niebuhr, he wrote the Serenity Prayer 

 

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Niebuhr was a 2oth century Theologian whose work is thick and laborious to work through but very much worth the effort.  A neighbor to my surprise, recently asked me if I'd heard of him. I perked right up because he is a classic in mainline protestant theology.  My neighbor, Randy asked about this book and I was delighted to track a copy of it down for him to read (honestly I thought he'd make it about 10 pages in and get disinterested due to the depth and thickness of the theological jargon).  To my surprise, he took his time and finished it in a few weeks.   He was completely drawn in by the ideas and principles Niebuhr laid out.  So at that point, I knew I had to brush the theological cobwebs od seminary discipline aside and bone up on this classic.  

   I wanted to share some from the introduction.  Take your time, read it in bite-size segments, and pause to digest it.    It's like the difference between a good steak and a slider hamburger.  The steak doesn't slide down like the hamburger.  You have to cut it with a steak knife in small pieces and chew and chew, and chew.  But oh so good.   Niebuhr can be like that too.  So take your time to read through a bit at a time.  Lookup any $50 words you come across and roll it around a bit.  You'll find it's worth it.  

    I'm going to share this bit and ask yourself how it lays over our current times and political landscape.

Whatever increase in social intelligence and moral goodwill may be achieved in human history, may serve to mitigate the brutalities of social conflict, but they can not abolish the conflict itself.  That could be accomplished only if human groups, whether racial, national, or economic, could achieve a degree of reason and sympathy which would permit them to see and to understand the interests of others as vividly as they understand their own and a moral goodwill which would prompt them to affirm the rights of others as vigorously as they affirm their own.  Given the inevitable limitations of human nature, and the limits of human imagination and intelligence, this is an ideal which individuals may approximate but which is beyond the capacities of human societies.  

My interpretation of this is that social conflicts will always be with us.  But if we are to move toward less social conflict this can only happen to the degree our groups and organizations in our society are able to be reasonable and sympathetic enough to see and understand the interests of others, not like their group as clearly as they understand their own interests.  In other words, walk a mile in their shoes.   But this must be strong enough that they are willing to affirm the other views as much as their own.   This is so hard to do that individuals may come close to it but human societies can not get there.  

     No wonder we have so many political fighting in our societies.  We are so caught up in our own freedom and our own rights that we can't even see, let alone understand and affirm the rights of others especially when they conflict with our own values and moral convictions. 

See? I told you this was deep and thick stuff. - Rv. Jim

 

Niebuhr, in his opening chapter, shares a cold and discouraging fact - 

Human society will never escape the problem of the equitable distribution and fulfillment of human life.

 Unfortunately,  this is true.   As noble and as altruistic is it sounds, our attempts to reach and attain something even as basic as the golden rule is riddled with our own selfishness and personal agendas.  We can try to cover it up with thoughts like "well if I can have that tax break then ultimately I can take that money saved and offer more jobs out in the job market..."  This is just a cover for the deeper greed that we all are tempted to lean into.  To think "God helps them who help themselves." has no scriptural basis at all.  It's roots come from an English political theorist named Algernon Sidney (click here for source)

It may sound well, good, and scriptural but don't be deceived.  In fact, scripture tells us just the opposite. 

4/24/20 :

The Grinch (Corona) that Stole Easter                            by Rev. Jim Wakelin

There may not be school nor restaurants these days;

   No cinema, no theater, no Masters in May.

Ol’ Corona he took March Madness away

   And then doubled down and took baseball’s first day

Hunkered down and secluded we wait for this too, to pass,

   With 6 feet of distance two gloves and a mask.

Yes, that old Grinch Corona stole so much from us now

    but he couldn’t steal Easter no way and no how!.

Easter came despite the virus, the fear and the gloom.

    It came without hesitation or doom.

Yes the cross is still barren and tomb ever bright

   The Word hasn’t changed so why all the fright?

No Easter came anyway, couldn’t hold him in the tomb

   No apocalypse, no darkness, no shadow of doom

The times may seem rough with darkness by day

   But the light of the hope, it brightens our way.

So keep your prayers going and lift up your eyes

    For Jesus is risen and will appear in the skies.

4/20/20 - Beautiful day today as high was in the '60s.  Spring is one of my favorite times of the year.  I found myself enjoying the creative power God naturally place in a spring day.  Sure we find ourselves in a strange season where Corona is king, at least in the way it moves us through an uncomfortable unknown.  But even with all that there is SO much for us to be thankful for... family, simple daily blessings, the joy of memories, and yes a hopeful anticipation when we move back to a more normal lifestyle.  Until then,  we need to daily make a conscious effort to look for the simple blessings that come several times a day.  May you discover these and other serendipitous moments in your life.  Blessings my friends - Rv Jim

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