May 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm #2069Forgiving VictimParticipant
3.5 Undergoing Atonement: Venezuelans
In this module we are going to see how we often need someone to be bad to know we are good.
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.
Answer the following questions:
- Have you ever experienced Schadenfreude, a feeling of pleasure at someone else’s misfortune? This feeling is often directed at people at a distance from us, such as politicians or celebrities.
- Why can it sometimes feel good to think of someone else as having failed or having been caught doing something bad?
Food for thought
- How has your understanding of the role the Gerasene demoniac played in his community changed after listening to this video?
- In what ways did the community rely on having the demoniac around to know they were good people?
- Is there someone who has played the role of the demoniac for you or your community?
- Have you ever found yourself in one of the roles in the Fernando story: as a member of the popular or “in” group, as the one who is bullied like the class fairy, or as an also-ran?
- How were different participants in the situation maintaining their sense of goodness over against someone else?
- Whose voice went unheard in those situations?
- How would their perspective have changed the stories being told by others?
- How does the story of Fernando willingly occupying the place of shame for his classmates change how you understand Jesus going to his death for us?
Now that we have completed the three imaginative exercises around Atonement, has your explanation of what is going on in this image and what it means to say that Christ died for our sins changed? If so, how.
January 4, 2016 at 6:27 am #46661
God reaches out to humanity in atonement through love and with love. God is not vengeful, seeking satisfaction for humanity’s sinfulness. No. Atonement is about reconciliation, not retribution.
As I’ve reframed my personal understanding of the theology and practice of atonement I’ve been tempted to paint knowledge of God’s nature into my new the picture. After all, I now know that First Temple Atonement liturgy reflected God’s coming among the people in the veiled person of the high priest. David’s negotiations with the Gibeonites helped me understand that God can initiate Atonement through a kind of interests-based bargaining, an iterative process beginning with God’s deep understanding of the parties needs, desires, and expectations.
The Forgiving Victim course offers and validates ideas that turn the widely accepted view of Atonement, God seeking payment for human sin through the crucifixion of God’s son, on its head. I am tempted to think that because I’ve learned to see Atonement differently, I’ve also initiated a new personal relationship with God. That’s the temptation.
The truth is that discovering a new drawing of Atonement makes me want to know about the Artist. I want to get to know the One behind the veil, the facilitator inviting me to model my life on His love. But God adds those colors over a lifetime, not just in one online course!
January 18, 2016 at 5:33 am #46675
Yes, the course really turns the traditionally accepted view of a punishing God seeking payment for men’s sins through the death of His’s son, as you say ‘on its head.’ But why not a new personal relationship with God Rich, while remaining in awe and, being aware of the ultimate mystery of God?
January 13, 2016 at 6:45 am #46672
Does schadenfreude permeate our thinking? Is it a prime driver of competitive success? Students desire to avoid that place of the loser. Fear of this failure, some teachers believe, motivates their students to achieve.
Ben Carson, American Presidential primary candidate, recently (January 2016) asked his audience at a campaign stop at the Isaac Newton Christian Academy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:
Do you know who’s your “worst student”?
Before Carson could say this was a ‘joke,’ according to Politico http://politi.co/1Si386U, several in his audience began pointing at one fifth-grade boy. Carson went on to say that he had occupied that place of the loser when he was a fifth-grader, and yet he became a world famous neurosurgeon now running for President. After his speech, Carson met with the student encouraging the boy to realize that he could achieve in his life accomplishments similar to Carson’s own.
The media excoriated Carson for his question. I think Carson’s mistake, or ‘unspeakable sin’ in the probable parlance of the Isaac Newton Christian Academy, was uncovering the schadenfreude that drives us all and that each in our own way know we must deny.
January 18, 2016 at 5:50 am #46676
I must admit to having an aversion to the word ‘loser’, Rich. For me it always evokes Simone Weil’s extremely insightful thoughts on idolatry and striving foe success in the things of the “world” or the “great beast” as she expressed it. However, in this context, designating a person as a ‘loser’ is a mechanism whereby we achieve group cohesiveness by ganging up on someone. Typical scapegoating behaviour, so evident in the class bully and also the ‘also-rans’ who, being afraid that they will be the next target of abuse, side with the bullies as an act of self-defense.
January 18, 2016 at 5:51 am #46677
I must admit to having an aversion to the word ‘loser’, Rich. For me it always evokes Simone Weil’s extremely insightful thoughts on idolatry and striving for success in the things of the “world” or the “great beast” as she expressed it. However, in this context, designating a person as a ‘loser’ is a mechanism whereby we achieve group cohesiveness by ganging up on someone. Typical scapegoating behaviour, so evident in the class bully and also the ‘also-rans’ who, being afraid that they will be the next target of abuse, side with the bullies as an act of self-defense.
January 25, 2016 at 6:13 am #46679
This January weekend I attended Trinity Institute 2016 “Listen for a Change | Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice”. http://bit.ly/1QsmqFG The conference was located at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York. Our group of eight settled in at the parish hall in St. John’s Church in Mason City, Iowa attending the event via online, live-streaming video. We were our own ‘small group’ so when it was discussion time we just turned our chairs around. Groups like ours were scattered across the country, maybe even around the world.
The movie “I’m not a racist … am I?” aired Friday evening. http://bit.ly/1ZN1nOx A phrase from the film connected with the Fernando story for me. One of the characters in the movie stated that ‘whiteness’ is never defined. The underlying process of excluding those who are other than ‘white’ boils down to the message, told through endless variation, that ‘you are not white.’
In the Fernando story in-groups were bound together through defining Fernando as not one of them. These acts both excluded Fernando and created a cohesive sense of group identity. The Fernandos of the world can respond in ways that recognize neither the existence nor the validity of the excluding group’s negative messages. But, ignoring, or worse, returning in love as Fernando did threatens the stability of the excluding group so often triggering a violent reaction.
The weekend movie and the Fernando story triggered a long-ago memories for me. One evening in the 1950s after dinner at a restaurant in Chicago our family of four was driving home in our 1952 Chrysler. I was in the back seat, a boy around ten years old. We must have been driving through a low-income area where most of the residents were Negro (in the language of that era). I remember saying something like ‘they don’t deserve such treatment.’ Yes, they do. My parents replied. They are different from us.
Growing up, I attended physically integrated schools in Chicago but at a time when de facto segregation was the dominant reality in this northern American city. It took me many years before I uncovered the beliefs about persons who are not white that the ‘social other’ had conditioned me to accept. As an adult, I realized that these deeply buried attitudes about race were inaccessible without peeling away the smiling facade I had created to cover-up my ‘not one of us’ orientation that determined until I could look at it, much of my identity. Thankfully, at some point in my adult life, I opened that big, right-rear 1952 Chrysler door and got out of that car.
Gwendolyn Brooks http://bit.ly/1Pfva0O was an African-American poet from the same generation as my parents. Her poem about driving through the Beverly Hills Chicago neighborhood where I grew up is available on the Internet here: http://bit.ly/1UlOKbV. I am very grateful to hear her ‘Fernando-returned’ voice.
February 1, 2016 at 10:01 am #46681
Well, Rich, you explain beautifully how you were inculturated into racist attitudes, and I very much like your metaphor of how much later as an adult, you ‘opened the door and got out of the car’. The return of Fernando is a very powerful story which must touch every one of us. Today we seem to need more and more the lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation that it teaches us.
January 31, 2016 at 7:32 am #46680
Now that we have completed the three imaginative exercises around Atonement has your explanation of what is going on in this image and what it means to say that Christ died for our sins changed? If so, how.
My understanding of Atonement has changed radically as a result of the three imaginative exercises. Recently I attended an online conference on racial justice at my church. Now when I look at Jesus on the cross in the altarpiece, I see Michael Brown, killed August 9, 2014, by police in Ferguson, Missouri. http://bit.ly/1TuUL7R
I don’t mean to say that Michael Brown’s life was equivalent to that of Jesus’s life and teaching. As far as I know, Michael Brown was no prophetic sage. No. What I see in the altarpiece is Jesus occupying the place of the ‘social other’ victim. Michael Brown in many ways leading up to and including his death also lived in the place of ‘social other’ victim. We create this brutal place of the ‘social other’ victim by telling ourselves who we are in saying who we are not.
Now God is always coming toward us cloaked in the gold-flecked robe of the High Priest in the first temple Atonement liturgy or present with David and the Gibeonites bargaining over the fate of Saul’s sons. (This moment of Atonement is one I need to go back and review. I’m not sure I get it.) And then, God returns as did Fernando saying He always loves us. Even as we mistreated him, Fernando loved us. God’s atoning presence is personally immediate as God continually returns to the places of our iniquities.
I’m finding that the personal immediacy of Atonement shatters the ‘social other’ sense of who I am in an antifragile breaking apart. In 2012, Nassim Taleb published his book ‘Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder.’ Crystal vases are fragile. Drop one on a concrete floor and there’s no returning it to wholeness. But the athlete who loses a contest shattering all her hopes can get up again to practice harder to win the next time around. That’s antifragile.
God shattered God’s self as the Lamb in the place of the ‘social other’ victim. But, the Lamb, who is antifragile, returns to reveal our true identity. The Risen-Christ shatters the prisms of our ‘social other’ lives and then reintegrates the Light that was captured and broken apart by those prisms. Gods want to pray us into new life through intimate relationship. As we listen and obey God, the ‘Other other’, we discover our true identities in God’s eternal and Antifragile presence.
February 1, 2016 at 10:14 am #46682
Beautifully put Rich. It’s quite a journey we are all on, is it not?
February 1, 2016 at 10:14 am #46683
Beautifully put Rich. It’s quite a journey we are all on, is it not?
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