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    • #2056
      Forgiving Victim

      3.1 The emergence of the Other other

      Welcome to Part Three of the course. In this session we begin an exploration of what is meant by the word faith.

      Receiving a new story

      Share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous Module showing up in your lives.

      Exploring faith

      • When you were blindfolded to play the “trust” game, what made you feel trusting? What made you feel less trusting?
      • When you were the guide, what did you do to gain trust? What may have caused your partner to lose faith in you?
      • If you have never played the trust exercise, share your thoughts on what you think the experience might be like!

      Food for thought

      • Reflecting on the typical use of the word faith in the context of normal human relationships, in whom or what do you place your faith outside of a religious context?
        • Describe the process by which you came to have faith in them.
      • Have you ever undergone a loss of faith in someone or something? How did that happen? What happened to your faith?
      • What has the word faith meant to you in a religious context?
        • Have you gone through periods of doubt as well as faith in your life?
        • What do you think of James’ idea that doubt is a natural and expected part of faith?
        • Does this change the way you understand your own times of doubt?

      Wrap-up question

      • In what ways is your perception of who God is changing?
      • In what ways is your perception of what your own culture is about changing?
    • #5331

      I played the blind game many years ago. What made me feel trusting was the nature of the group more than the person who led me. I didn’t have time to think about the specific person leading me who was a mere acquaintance. I don’t recall what it felt like to lead; now I would enjoy doing it with deep gentleness. What really made the game easy was that we were all doing it at the same time which is much less awkward than if there are just two persons doing it in front of a group.

    • #5367

      Marginel, I think you are describing the sense of true community which comes from real interconnectedness. Your wanting to lead with “deep gentleness”seems to indicate compassion and understanding for the “blind” person being led.

    • #6206
      Rich Paxson

      In the Discussion Forum of this unit, share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous session showing up in your lives.
      Forgiving Victim shows up in my life in lots of ways. Occasionally I ask a friend or acquaintance whether they are familiar with James Alison. Usually the answer is no, but that’s not surprising in rural, midwestern America.

      I raise Forgiving Victim in conversation, because studying the course reorients my awareness at a very basic level. I need to respond to these changes here in writing, but also whenever possible also in conversation, which online study does not address.

      Forgiving Victim shows up for me when, reading the daily news, I try to identify aspects of a story’s underlying conflict. Forgiving Victim shows up for me when I consider the nature and depth of the fog of falsehood covering up the story’s mimetic rivalry.

      I am looking forward to Part 3: The difference Jesus makes. Parts 1 & 2 helped me reimagine in profound and positive ways how my personal journey is situated in an incredibly larger scheme of life. Learning a fresh context for relating to a Forgiving Victim who loves and wants to be with humanity intrigues and excites me!

      • #6209

        This is great Rich. It is similar to being overcome, is it not? As if we are taking it all in by osmosis!

    • #6207
      Rich Paxson

      Have you ever played a “trust exercise” with a partner? One where one partner is blindfolded, and the other is expected to verbally guide his/her partner, the blindfolded person, around the room, and then you switch? In the Discussion Forum for this step of the unit, share your experience.
      What follows are a couple of language-based ‘trust anecdotes.’ Reflecting on them here in writing crystallized some ideas for me about foundations of faith, which I’ve summarized at the end.

      My first teaching position was in the high school on Alaska’s Kodiak Island . The student population included Kodiak town-kids, but also Alaskan native boarding students from around the state, who lived in their own dormitory. Finally, there were kids from the Coast Guard Station just a few miles from Kodiak up Woman Bay.

      With this diverse of a student population, I used a communications exercise at the beginning of each semester. While it was not strictly a trust exercise, it did include impediments to communication, which students had to overcome through mutual guidance and trust.

      One semester when I used the exercise with a class made up mostly of Inuit (Eskimo) kids, the Inuit kids started out using English, which was their second language, but switched to Inuit, their first-language in order to complete the exercise successfully. Without the comfort provided by their first-language these kids could not have achieved their goal.

      I think at times all of us want to use to a comfortable, first-language to get our meaning across. I had dinner recently with an old friend who’s lived in Hawaii for the last fifty years. In conversation MItch used many Hawaiian-origin place names, reflecting his current first-language. Most of these place names were multi-syllabic, melodious, beautiful sounding words, but which were tough for me to make out, much less to pronounce. I wanted to expand my vocabulary to include these Hawaiian names. When I interrupted Mitch to repeat back particularly tough names, then Mitch corrected my pronunciation, saying ‘You’d get along just fine in Hawaii … after a few days!’

      My point is the necessity of a common, but expanding language as a condition not only for clear communication, but also for mutual trust, discernment and guidance. So what about faith? Faith, I think, is no ‘ephemeral something’ existing in a vacuum, but the ability to act in our particular day-to-day world in a relationship with God that is informed within the bounds of a mutual, comfortable but expanding first-language.

      Jesus spoke to the people of his time in Aramaic, their first-language, not the more universal Greek. In so doing God in Jesus chose to share God’s unconditioned love and forgiveness in a Way that was accessible to all. We experience God’s love, the essential underpinning of faith, in relation with one another, trusting in God to share God’s love and guidance within the bounds of a mutual, comfortable-but-expanding first-language.

      • #6210

        I think you are saying that love and forgiveness are the universal language, are you not Rich? And as James expresses it “faith is the habitual disposition which knows and trusts the regular certainly of what is around us, without any need to see it or to think about it at all”. Have I understood you correctly?

    • #6215
      Rich Paxson

      What has the word faith meant to you in a religious context?

      I’ve thought of faith as a gift from God for a long time. And yet, I’ve had no real understanding, or theology for the meaning of faith as gift from God. Now comes James talking of faith in terms of expectation and reliability; about the reliability of God’s love and revelation; about the expectation that God the Other other, calls out, inducts God’s love in those who notice, who turn toward, who respond to God’s presence in their lives.

      God, the Other other who is not one of the gods, revealed God’s self most completely through the Apostolic witness to Jesus’s life; which produced a concavity in human awareness and action. The Apostolic witness invites me to allow God the Other other to induct the self-same concavity into my life. It is not something I can grasp onto, but something I will receive as I let go of my old, self-achieving, moonshot beliefs about religious goodness; turning in faith to hear and respond to what God the Other other is saying.

      • #6216
        Rich Paxson

        Yes, you understand my meaning. Except, I think of love and forgiveness more as underpinnings of the universal language, rather than language itself. What I was trying to get at in what I wrote above, in terms of love and forgiveness, is that some kind of common language is necessary in order for love and forgiveness: reciprocity of empathy, to become truly active.

        • #46488

          Could love be the common language?

    • #6219
      Rich Paxson

      When we talk about our own faith in God we are talking about undergoing a huge psychological turn-around just like the apostolic group.
      The phrase “… undergoing a huge psychological turn-around just like the apostolic group,” speaks to me. I remember also James, in one of his books, using an analogy to describe this turn-around, writing something like: ‘it’s like being dragged through a bush backwards.’

      At this point in Forgiving Victim, I find ‘being dragged through a bush backwards’ an apt metaphor for this process of induction into new practice of God’s gift of faith. That is, the process of giving up self defensiveness, the process of responding in my daily life to the presence and challenge of God’s reliable love and forgiveness.

      Discussion of Moses and the burning bush was a big help in changing my perception of the nature of faith and its practice in daily life. The burning bush happened along the periphery of one of Moses’s days. Moses ‘turned aside to see why the bush burned and was not consumed.’ According to the account in Exodus 3, God waited until: ‘God saw that Moses had turned aside.’ Only then did God speak.

      The burning bush is one example of God speaking into a person’s life. God’s call to Samuel comes to mind as well. Just like the burning bush was unexpected, so also God’s call to Samuel was unexpected, coming during the nighttime margin of the day. Samuel did not recognize God’s call until the priest Eli told Samuel it might be God calling him. Eli told Samuel to respond by listening.

      Good advice, listen for God’s call in the spatial and temporal margins of the day. Quiet the mind that was created and conditioned by the social other. Respond to God by listening. Begin the process of re-creation.

      • #46489

        To respond by listening is a wonderful thought, Rich. To quiet the mind, or as Girard describes the process of conversion “to redirect desire towards God”, away from the social other.

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