Working Out Reconciliation
February 14th, 2008 by Sonja

I remember when I first heard about blogging. I was not impressed. I certainly never thought I would actually have a blog. That sort of thing was for silly-hearts and people with nothing better to do all day. I, of course, would never be so nerdy as to need a place to write my thoughts on the internet for all to see.

Then I was introduced to blogging more seriously and I was intrigued by it. I began to read other people’s blogs and realized that I could participate in them. I thought that perhaps I could write one too. There are things that I have grown to love about blogging. I love the relationships that have developed across the country and around the world through this funny system. I hope that one day I will get to meet some of these cyber-friends I’ve made. I love the new perspectives on life, the universe and everything that I am exposed to through blogging. There is one thing I don’t like about blogging though. That is it’s immediacy. Conversations happen in the blink of an eye and require instantaneous thought. There is little time for reflection and processing or the conversation will move on by. It is, of course, life in the information age. Life moves faster and so must thought.

For a variety of reasons, I have had an intense week this week and blogging has taken a back seat. I had a number of other things going on that required my time and attention, so yesterday I finally had some space to turn to my clogged reader and do some catch up reading. There I found a small bit in Emerging Women pointing me to a somewhat lengthy conversation at Josh Brown’s place entitled Challenging the Critiques of Emergent: A White Man’s World. I came late to the conversation; Josh had put up his original post on Feb. 11 and I think there were already 50 someodd comments when I stepped into the conversation. In his initial assessment of the critiques of Emergent it’s “just a bunch of white men sitting around talking theology,” Josh makes some valid points that are really worth considering.

In the comment thread that follows, there is a lot of discussion about the very different perspectives that come out of more mainstream Christian churches contrasted with the perspectives of people who come from a more fundamentalist or evangelical background. It is well worth reading the post and the comment thread. I found it worthwhile, though I felt that there was “something missing,” but could not put my finger on it.

At the same time, around the world, Kevin Rudd (Australia’s Prime Minister) announced an apology. He apologized to the Stolen Generations of the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia. Please take a moment and read the full text of the apology. It is an apology … a full apology. It offers no excuses, no outs; it is an acceptance of responsibility for wrongs done and offers a way forward to right them. If you use that link, you’ll see an audio-slideshow in a sidebar to the right. One of the voices near the end says, “Sorry is just a word.” She’s right. It will be interesting to see what the government of Australia does to make good on it’s promises. Things are very hopeful right now as I hear from Matt Stone that Mr. Rudd has reached across their aisle to his opposition to ensure that the necessary laws will be passed unanimously.

I woke up this morning with these two things on my mind. Playing back and forth, as if on a teeter-totter. I couldn’t get White Man’s World off my mind. The post, in general, had a sense of validity, but yet, I could not fully agree. What was missing? I was chewing on it. The Australian Apology was giving me hope. I was in the middle of a conversation about it with Matt. Since my childhood I have felt that our Native American population has been in similar straits as the Australian Aboriginals. We know from the history of South Africa of the great power of an institutional apology and the great lengths to which it can go towards reconciliation.

I am accustomed to having ideas play around in my head for awhile. So I let them go. They were having fun on the teeter-totter, after all. Who wants to be a kill-joy and pull ideas off of a perfectly good teeter-totter ride? And I went about my important morning business of drinking coffee and reading a few blogs to wake up. I read Christy Lambertson’s Throwing hand grenades at Jesus: This isn’t what I was going to write. She quoted Matthew 23 and went on to write:

There was a point in my life where chapters like this would tap into my cold fury at Christianity, Inc. and inspire me to launch into my well-rehearsed speech of “Why you people suck!” – delivered with fervor. Today, though, I’m mostly just sad – sad that Matthew 23 feels so very very true, that underneath the anger is still a well of pain. Even after all this time and all this work, some scars never go away, and I may always feel locked out of the kingdom of heaven – whatever that is. Sometimes it still feels like they won, because there is so much about religion I just can’t do: praying and expecting a tangible answer, believing in a personal God who loves me, all the creeds and liturgies and trappings, and a certain simplicity of faith in the goodness of God and things in general.

I’m at peace on my path, more or less, but I still sometimes think I might be missing something, that there was something I was supposed to be able to believe and participate in, and that faculty of trust got taken away. It would be nice to once, just once, hear someone in a pulpit get up and speak of God and not wonder what he’s hiding or who he’s hurt along the way. I would like to feel like I don’t have to keep my distance if I want to save my soul, like I don’t have to shut myself down completely just to walk in the goddamn door.

There’s so much more to what Christy wrote that you really, really must read it for yourself. If you’ve never read Dry Bones Dance, you are really missing out. She is a voice in the wilderness. I can’t speak for Christy and I’m not entirely certain about all the different bits that she might be referring to, but … when I read her post the teeter-totter in my mind hit perfect balance and I knew the needful thing.

An apology.

I want to be very, very clear. This is not just about Josh. This about men in the church in general and in the emerging conversation specifically.

Men: We women need an apology. We need it from the leaders and we need it from our local leaders. I understand that many, indeed most, of you are not now part of the problem. We understand that most of you are working to change things. But I think that until you recognize, acknowledge and admit that there is a problem and apologize for your part in being a dominant culture (because you are … I’m not blaming you, it’s just the way things are, until they are changed), we are going to be stuck in some sense.

There is a well of pain underneath the skin of all of us women of evangelical background. Some have it deeper than others. That well needs to be drained during the working out of gender reconciliation. Or that work will not be complete. It will always have something missing. Women cannot drain the well on their own. The path to opening that well and allowing it to drain begins with an apology.

That’s all.

15 Responses  
  • Cathy writes:
    February 14th, 200810:50 amat

    Ow. You hit a nerve. and a longing. Thanks

  • Patrick writes:
    February 14th, 200811:04 amat

    The trouble I feel with apologizing is that I’ve lived my life. I’m white and I’m a male. I also grew up with a lot of poverty. I have been repeated pushed aside, rejected, ignored. My gender and my skin color haven’t been a pass to anything. I don’t get invited to the cool kids parties, and I don’t get noticed.

    So what happens is that to apologize, I’m objectified. Which coming from my place of rejection and frustration puts me completely outside of every camp. I’m not allowed with the victors, and I’m not allowed with the outsiders.

    It’s a very lonely place.

    On the other hand, the response to my book has been very interesting. It’s almost entirely ignored by the powers that be. I’ve no invitations or requests or any push to somehow join in. Comments and notes are ignored.

    But I do get some good responses. Responses from a lot of women, like you Sonja, who saw something in the book. And I’m getting some very good responses from some black Christian women, who are very outside my own cultural experiences but resonated with what I talked about the Holy Spirit as being exactly what they felt was needed in their churches. Some of my vague descriptions even worked for me, as one said she assumed Luke was black. And my response, “maybe he is.”

    So I can’t apologize. I refuse to accept both the crushing of struggles and rejection past and present and some kind of burden for someone else, who often oppress others. Where white men are a majority there are those in power and there are those in the trenches.

    All I can do is be myself, before God, and seek to express how the Spirit is working in me, and seek to help bolster how the Spirit is working in others.

    All I can do is let go the frustration of past rejection put on me, and keep moving forward, because Jesus didn’t say, “I’ll wait for an apology.” He said, “Father forgive them, they no not what they do.” Then he died for such as them, and us.

    Maybe it’s growing up in the relatively diverse culture of Southern California, but I just can’t see labels anymore as helpful. White men oppress, but given half a chance so do all men, and women. It’s power. And it’s excuses.

    And it’s comfort. I can’t play the role of someone else, and if being a white male means I can’t really be Patrick, but have to be someone else, some representative, then I say screw it. I can’t fight that fight. I can’t feel bad for some supposed advantage when my whole life I’ve felt crushed and rejected by exactly the same kinds of people others feel rejected by. Only I have no label for it. It’s not racism or sexism. It’s just isolation.

    I didn’t do anything. I didn’t gain any advantage. I feel broken and crushed and ignored myself. So, I can’t apologize. I can only be.

  • grace writes:
    February 14th, 200811:20 amat

    I have had the same jumble of thoughts this week with the australian apology, the native american issues in our country, the gender issue, privelege, power, injustice, reconciliation, etc.

    My thoughts are still spinning around the merry-go-round, unwilling yet to be corralled into a coherent idea, just the inkling that there is a connectedness to it all.

    Patrick, I can also identify with what you are saying.

  • Sonja writes:
    February 14th, 200811:20 amat

    Wow, Patrick … I hear you. I’ve been there as well. Well, I haven’t written a book, but … 😉

    Read my post again … I was talking about and to leaders and institutions.

    Given your background, I’d say you are neither an institution nor a leader of one. Maybe you need those same leaders and institutions to apologize to you as well. Maybe on some level everyone of us needs an apology. Because the more I read and/or hear, the more pain I hear. The gap seems to arise out of some glorified bait and switch that happens in churches. “Be part of us and X will happen.”

    I have no idea what or where to go with that. I can only tell you that I hear you, brother. I hear you.

  • Peggy writes:
    February 14th, 200812:05 pmat

    The Abbess sticks her nose in for a moment to float a thought:

    I have a big issue around all issues of entitlement. Hold on, now, and hear me out! 8) When we begin to call for someone to apologize to us for their wrongs, I think we step away from Papa’s heart. For too long it has been about justice that punishes rather than makes right. And there is often a fine line between them.

    But when those who follow Christ demand an apology from anyone, it strikes at my newly-tender-from-reading-The Shack-heart! This heart that says Papa will take care of seeing justice done. If we are hurt, we must begin the process with forgiveness.

    I know that the process must move past forgiveness in the hearts of those who have transgressed in order for justice to actually happen.

    But everything I know and have learned and have experienced about being terribly hurt is that the power is with us when we choose to forgive and send out a pulse of love rather than one of resentment.

    Nope, it’s not fair. But it is true.

    If we are to speak of love, it must come from within us. And there is a time for speaking the prophetic condemnation … but I believe that time is meant to be within a speaking the truth in love context in real time and in real space between those directly involved in the issue.

    The power of the apology is with the one who humbly and sincerely offers it. It cannot be demanded.

    I am still processing all of this within the context of a church family that has a lot of apologizing to do … and not just to me and my family! But God is showing me that I may not demand the apology … I must truly and completely forgive them as part of loving God and loving neighbor. Because others do not love God and others well does not let me off the hook.

    The power of the Gospel is in humble service….

    …and, regardless of what anyone else may say or think, God wants you to know that he is especially fond of you — and wishes you a very Happy Valentine’s Day. And until that is enough for you, nothing will ever be enough.

  • Sonja writes:
    February 14th, 200812:23 pmat

    Hmmm … Peggy … I hear your heart for this. I think. And after reading your comment and Patrick’s, methinks I have some re-writing to do … because I have not connected the dots in my writing that connected in my head.

    In the midst of my epiphany, I did a poor job of communication. Now I must apologize and go back to my drawing board. And ask for patience on the part of my reading audience, while I gather my thoughts together. Make sure I’ve connected my dots. AND communicate them this time. I should have allowed this more time to percolate before allowing it to see the light of day. Mea culpa.

  • Christy writes:
    February 14th, 20081:42 pmat

    Hey Sonja –

    Thanks for your kind comments about my blog, and before you do a re-write, let me just say that I agree with you – at least mostly. I don’t think men in the emerging conversation need to beat their chests and apologize for being a white man, but all of us who have been a part of a dominant culture need to fully recognize and admit the full magnitude of our systems of injustice, recognize our privilege, and make an attempt to enter into the pain of those who have been oppressed to the extent that we are able.

    When people say – in the face of institutionalized sexism, racism, or any other ism – that everyone is just supposed to forgive, I’m sure they mean well – but “forgiveness” has been used as a tool to keep the same people in charge many times.

    It’s not about asking people to feel bad and guilty – it’s about recognizing that all of us are responsible to do our part to work for justice. That can be complicated, because as Patrick said, many of us can be on both the underside and the dominant side of things simultaneously.

    As a white middle class American, I need to admit the full reality of what my people have done in the past and present, and recognize the tremendous privelege that I have and my responsibility to use that privelege to work for a more just world. As a rape and incest survivor and a woman who grew up in a religious environment of Deity-approved sexism, I have a responsibility to let go of hate and also to speak the truth of my experience – no matter who it makes uncomfortable. If, say, men in the church refuse to admit their male privelege in the church or refuse to make any attempt to understand the experience of women who grew up evangelical – well, it’s my responsibility not to hate them for that, but I am under no obligation to trust them or release them from their responsibility to change unjust systems in their context.

    Sorry this is so long – I got on a roll.

  • Peggy writes:
    February 14th, 20088:45 pmat

    Great comment, Christy.

    Forgiveness absolutely does not mean restored trust!

    Forgiveness takes responsibility for one’s own story. When I am hurt, I must move to forgive so that Papa can begin to work his miracle of restoration in my heart. When I wait for someone else to own their responsibility for hurting me first, I too often get stuck in a quagmire.

    And let me honor both your transparency and the incredible pain that you have had to bear. None of us, really, can understand the pain another has experienced — only Jesus, praise his name, knows the depth of our pain, because he is there with us. What hurts us hurts him.

    The challenge is how to respond to those who have hurt us after we have forgiven them. They have broken our trust and that trust must be repaired, is possible. This process is so poorly done so much of the time that it is almost unbearable! So much discernment is required, as well as capacity to bear the incredible pain of bringing hurtful deeds into the consciousness.

    Christ, have mercy….

  • Peggy writes:
    February 14th, 20088:51 pmat

    And Sonja, sister, we all are challenged to translate dots connected in our head to words typed or written or spoken. The thing that makes the conversation blessed is the freedom to speak into each other’s “dots” and emerge with better understanding, appreciation and respect.

    Love you….

  • Mike writes:
    February 15th, 200812:50 amat

    Wow Peggy! That is awesome!! Can I use that?

  • Ravine of Light » Back To the Drawing Board writes:
    February 15th, 20082:00 pmat

    […] when I wrote yesterday about reconciliation, apology, power, dominant culture and oppressed culture, I was coming to it […]

  • Peggy writes:
    February 15th, 20085:56 pmat

    Hello, Mike! Anything useful or helpful should be shared. Sharing makes Sonja especially happy. 8) So, The Abbess says that whatever it was that was awesome, feel free to use it.

    I dashed over to your blog for a minute…and just didn’t have time to “poke my nose in”…I have three young boys!

    Be blessed.

  • Jemila writes:
    February 15th, 20087:03 pmat

    Good thoughts. I once once read ‘we all need to get an apology and give an apology” and I think this is true. Whoever is filled with love should leap to be the first to apologize, even as a “representative” if it will bring healing and open the floodgates of love for another. To demand an apology does put one in the position of victim, which isn’t empowering, I agree. Asking for one, and also opening oneself to other avenues of healing is appropriate, as long as the one asking is aware that A) she/he can’t control the other, and B) If the yearned-for apology is not forthcoming, it isn’t a reflection of the worth of the hurting person.

    The trouble with asking someone to forgive being in hurt in God’s name, who has also been hurt by people is that you cannot forgive unless your sense of worth is healed, and where will you be filled with that sense of worth and love if the broken trust of the church and people has severed your ability to receive, and then freely give love and forgiveness?

  • Peggy writes:
    February 16th, 20081:09 amat


    That is the rub, isn’t it? How do we forgive those who hurt us when our sense of self worth and trust are not healed?

    But I believe that this is the very answer that is found through experiencing things like the journey in The Shack. We too often look for healing in all the wrong places. It is only Papa who can heal…but we too often neglect his love and care because people have done us harm in his name.

    It is not an easy thing…not at all. And I don’t think anyone can ask anyone else to forgive — unless, of course, it is the transgressor, who has humbly apologized. I can only choose to forgive in my circumstances as an example of following Christ on the cross….

    Blanchard’s “One Minute Apology” is a great book, as well as Gary Chapman’s new book (co-authored Jennifer Thomas) on “The Five Languages of Apology.” Just as people have a primary love language, we also have primary apology languages. And when someone doesn’t apologize in a way that we “feel” then we reject it as insincere. Very thought provoking. The five languages apology languages are expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

    Makes me want to go back and look at these two books again. No matter how well you’ve done with hurt and forgiveness in the past, it never gets any easier, it seems. But it can happen if we are willing to let God help us.

    …so late…starting to ramble…blessings.

  • two hearts one love invitations writes:
    July 18th, 20081:27 amat

    two hearts one love invitations…

    I can’t believe that I missed your point, I will have to do some research on this….

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa