Monday, April 3, 2017

Yearning for forgiveness, redemption, and justice

Western societies today present a paradox. Truth and morality are said to be relative and contextual. But in reality, people seem to be more passionate than ever about what they think is right, whether in politics or social behaviour.

David Brooks has a fascinating column in the New York Times, The Strange Persistence of Guilt. Here are a couple of extracts.
American life has secularized and grand political ideologies have fallen away, but moral conflict has only grown. In fact, it’s the people who go to church least — like the members of the alt-right — who seem the most fervent moral crusaders....Sin is a stain, a weight and a debt. But at least religions offer people a path from self-reflection and confession to atonement and absolution. Mainstream culture has no clear path upward from guilt, either for individuals or groups. So you get a buildup of scapegoating, shaming and Manichaean condemnation. 
Why can't we escape this yearning for righteousness, justice, and redemption?
It seems to be hard-wired into us.


  1. Regarding the quote in bold font: in my mind the concept of forgiveness was broader than only religious. This should offer a way out - a path from ... to... .

    Asking for forgiveness when experiencing guilt, and (quite importantly and often falling by the wayside...) accepting forgivenes when it is extended should offer a path from guilt to "freedom" (of guilt) - regardless of whether this is done in the context of religion.

    Maybe in the secular world that is even easier because one does not need God to extend forgiveness, circumventing the issues of how to know what (or if) God answers if one asks something such as forgiveness.
    (Maybe this is also related to my remark about accepting forgiveness; "knowing" that he will extend forgiveness through Jesus does not make it feel like being forgiven...)

    Obviously my first and second paragraph are an idealized description because it is based on individual bilateral interaction. I do not know how to implement this concept in group (-dynamics). And that is indeed what David Brooks is alluding to.
    Could be an interesting sociology/group psychology research project: forgiveness in groups/society/...

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Some research has been done at Stanford

      There has also been work by the Harvard Law School Dean