Cheap Apologies and Unearned Forgiveness

We live in the age of the non-apologetic apology. In public and private life, Americans have become accustomed to the … Continued

We live in the age of the non-apologetic apology. In public and private life, Americans have become accustomed to the debasing spectacle of meaningless, responsibility-shifting mea culpas, followed by pleas for unearned forgiveness, always omitting any mention of exactly what the miscreant intends to do to make amends to those who have been hurt.

You know the drill, whether the offense is a personal vice or public malfeasance. The first tipoff is the passive voice. “Mistakes were made,” says Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Mistakes were made by whom? He didn’t know what was going on in the Justice Department, but he accepts “complete and full responsibility.” Except for one tiny point: he doesn’t really think thet he did anything wrong. “I made mistakes” is what you say when you think that you are really responsible. And oh yes, Gonzales wants to keep his job.

In private life, the non-apologetic apology shifts the burden from the offender to the offended. A cheating spouse says, “I’m sorry you were hurt.” Translation: “If only you would stop making such a fuss and stop crying your eyes out, we could get back to normal.”

These sorts of apologies are indecent in any system of religious or secular ethics. They are pleas for what the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in Flossenburg concentration camp for his participation in the small but morally powerful Protestant anti-Nazi resistance movement, calls “cheap grace.” In his book Discipleship, Bonhoeffer describes cheap grace as “the justification of sin without the justifiction of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentence….”

For Bonhoeffer, of course, sin was an offense against God as well as man, and his concept of repentance and forgiveness is rooted in Christianity. But his idea applies with equal force to those of us who do not believe in God and whose concept of morality–and immorality–revolves entirely around the way we treat other human beings.

In 21st-century America, unearned forgiveness is the secular twin of cheap grace. They mean the same thing: the apologizer expects to be forgiven simply because he says that he’s sorry.

I am an ardent baseball fan and an overnight sports talk radio addict who often listens to WFAN, the former home radio station of Don Imus. During the past few weeks, many white callers to the sports talk show hosts at WFAN have expressed indignation that Imus was fired after he had apologized to the Rutgers female basketball players for applying a vile, racist, misogynist epithet to them. How could the networks be so unjust as to fire Imus after he had apologized and been “forgiven” by the Rutgers women?

The short answer, of course, is that the sponsors still considered Imus a liability. What interested me about the calls, though, was the assumption that because Imus had apologized, that made everything all right. In fact, Imus didn’t apologize at all until it dawned on him that his job was really in jeopardy. Even then, he kept making the excuse that his remarks had been made “within the context of humor.”

I think that Imus visited the Rutgers team and apologized, even after he had already been fired, because he is planning a comeback and knows that he’ll need an apology on record to make that possible at some future date. If the Rutgers women wanted to forgive Imus in order to move forward with their lives, that is their admirable business. But Imus didn’t do a thing to earn their forgiveness.

Another telltale mark of the non-apologetic apology is that it is often directed toward the wrong people. My grandmother, a great lady and a lifelong Democrat, made this point in a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998–one of her last acts before she died at age ninety-nine. “Now I don’t approve of what you did,” she wrote, “but you don’t owe me an apology, and you don’t owe the public an apology. The only person you should be apologizing to is your wife.”

Last week’s prizewinner in the misdirected apology sweepstakes was the actor Alec Baldwin, who got caught on tape calling his 11-year-old daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig” who lacked “brains or decency as a human being.” Baldwin issued an apology on (where else?) his personal Web site. “Although I have been told by numerous people not to worry too much, as all parents lose patients with their kids, I am most saddened that this was released to the media because of what it does to a child…I am sorry for what happened. But I am equally sorry that a court order was violated.”

Baldwin’s language is revealing–what “it” does to a child. How about what he did to his child? Baldwin ought to be on his knees to his daughter, and he ought to be seeing a therapist who, perhaps, can make him understand the impact of such words on a young girl when they come from her father. But he probably prefers the reassurances of sycophants who tell him that “all parents lose patience with their kids.” Yes, they do. But all parents don’t call their kids pigs.

A final mark of the non-apologetic apology is the statement, “It’s time to put this behind us.” Translation: I want to put this behind me. Again, this sort of weasel-like apology occurs in both public and private life.

I am not entirely sure why these disgusting non-apologies have metastasized in American culture in recent decade. Conservatives like to place the blame squarely on the downplaying of traditional concepts of sin in many liberal religious denominations, but I doubt that is the real reason. Many religious fundamentalists, who certainly have a well-developed sense of sin, seem as hell-bent in their search for cheap grace as anyone else in American society.

A case in point is the Reverend Ted Haggard, who, after being outed for having sex with a male prostitute and buying illegal drugs, checked into a Christian rehab center for three weeks and pronounced himself completely cured and “completely heterosexual.” (I should make it clear that I do not consider homosexuality a sin–in a religious or a secular sense–but Haggard surely does.) And he thinks he can put it behind him after only a few weeks of Christian rehab. I would assume that Christian rehab is like any other form of rehab–you get out of it only what you put into it. Is three weeks enough to redeem yourself? Not likely.

I do think that the American desire for shortcuts, fostered by media that publicize magic solutions for everything from obesity to “sex addiction,” has something to do with our penchant for morally meaningless apologies. Our mindless celebrity culture, in which crude and vulgar people are “forgiven” repeatedly by their fans, certainly provides an unending model of bad behavior. But I also think that celebrities are reflecting a culture in which Americans view forgiveness as a right rather than something that must be earned through true, long-term amends and repentance.

This epidemic of non-apologetic apologies, in what is supposedly one of the most religious nations on earth, does not speak well for religion as a force for ethical behavior.

For example, most of the high-level Roman Catholic Church officials responsible for trying to cover up molestation of children by priests–an egregious betrayal of their ecclesiastical as well as American civic responsibilities–have squirmed and evaded personal blame in the same fashion as their secular counterparts in government, business, and entertainment are accustomed to doing when caught in indecent situations. If these bishops and cardinals had been true to their own religious teachings as well as to universal ethical values, they would have tracked down every victim and met with him personally. Instead, most members of the responsible hierarchy hid behind lawyers. Mistakes were made….

All Americans need to think seriously about why we have developed such a responsibility-shifting culture. When JetBlue CEO David Neeleman appeared on television to apologize for the fiasco that left thousands of passengers stranded on airport runways in February–and followed up his apology with rebates to customers and a Passenger’s Bill of Rights–he was praised throughout the nation. Why? Because we are used to chief executives, from the President of the United States on down, who either refuse to admit mistakes or blame their mistakes on others.

Of course, a bad management decision by an airline does not belong in the same moral universe as beating one’s wife, emotionally abusing one’s child, or covering up sexual molestation by the clergy. But the ethical issues surrounding all apologies, amends, and the expectation of forgivenesss are remarkably similar.

Whether we are talking about pure evil or failures that fall more within the realm of ordinary human fallibility, no one merits forgiveness for simply saying, “I’m sorry.”

It may be true that to err is human and to forgive is divine, but we should not expect those we have hurt to behave as some imaginary divinity might. Americans need to start issuing mea culpas in deeds, not words.

Susan Jacoby
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  • Jihadist

    Ms. Susan JacobyGreat article. There is a new form of apology too, “I am sorry for your reaction, but I don’t regret what I’ve said”, or “I regret your reaction, but is not sorry for what I’ve said”, used by politicians after public reactions on their remarks. This, of course, is qualified as freedom of expression and as a right to free speech, and as a precursor to open discussion. Ironic that we would not stand for thoughless and insensitive remarks by an individual re another individual, but may be all right if an individual made it re a group. Certainly, this would, again be subjected to public sentiment as to how they feel re the group in question – to chastise the individidual for the regretabble remarks (again subjective), or to rise to his/her defence to speak the truth. To err is human. To forgive is human. And to err again and again is human. We, are, after all, as humans, is not exactly divine in our behaviour. Darn, a short one that can be managed here as I’m travelling and working. Best regards.

  • Andrea

    Short-cuts and misguided senses of entitlement. Jihadist, I appreciate the time you take from your extremely busy schedule (from what I’ve been reading) to comment on here. I always look forward to what you have to say.Susan, Great post! I don’t really have anything else to say but “yeah.”

  • Andrea

    Luke and Concerned,Another can of worms is this : who should be doing the “arping” ?Should all people from the offending country “arp,” or just those in power when it happened? This thread is starting to sound like the sea lion habitat at the zoo.

  • Russell D.

    ” ARP,ARP,ARP!”Can I have some fish now?

  • sok7

    Despite so many people’s attempts to attach more baggage to the word, an Apology is an acknowledgement that you did something wrong and that you know what you did had a negative impact on someone else.Repentance is the expressed desire to repair whatever relationship you may have had with those you wronged. And Forgiveness is when the person or persons who were wronged say that the offered apology and repentance are sufficient to right the wrong, without any additional penalty or injury. If you place conditions on the forgiveness, then it’s not really forgiveness.What we in this country are no longer capable of is determining if something we find offensive was malicious or just plain ole hoof-in-mouth. We no longer care if what was said was inspired by real hate or if someone made a bad judgment call. There is an important difference unless you are so jaded as to refuse to see it.If you think the person offering an apology needs to pay some penalty or suffer some consequence for his words or actions, then you are not interested in Forgiveness. If ‘an eye for an eye’ is what you seek, then perhaps you want Justice. If you want more than an eye, then perhaps you seek Retribution. And if you expect an apology when the offensive comments or actions were not directed against you, then you are a Voyeur. What Imus said is between Imus, the Rutgers Team, and every person who happened to be listening to those particular airwaves on that particular morning. I think it was appropriate that Imus offer an apology to the Rutgers Team and his listeners. I think it was gracious of Rutgers to agree to meet with him, to accept his apology, and to say they forgave him. But by then, the voyeurs were already neck deep in the issue.It was not Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton’s place to say Imus was or was not forgiven. Nor do I think it was for Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to determine Imus’s fate. Jesse and Al are the voyeurs in this case, despite their opinion that the color of their skin automatically entitles them to a say in the matter. They are not the injured party. Their insistence that Imus be taken off the air would seem to me to be an indication that they were interested either in Justice or in Retribution. I don’t think either one was interested in Forgiveness, no matter now many time these Baptist ministers like to throw that word around.As for Alec Baldwin, could you have found a worse example to use than this? Alec and his ex-wife Kim Bassinger have been involved in years of public slander toward each other with in intent of removing the other from their daughter’s life. What I find more offensive than Alex Baldwin’s venting of his frustrations (I’m thinking probably innocuous here) is Kim Bassinger’s release of the message in defiance of a court order (sounds malicious to me). Why isn’t Kim apologizing? But then as Voyeurs, why does Alec Baldwin, or Kim Bassinger for that matter, owe you or I an apology at all? The person they are really out to hurt is their daughter.Jet Blue? What did Jet Blue do that was in any way malicious? I think the last thing they wanted to do was inconvenience even a single one of their customers. CEO David Neeleman apologized (acknowledged that mistakes were made), and Repented (expressed a desire to repair the damaged relationship they had with those affected by their mistakes). As a gesture of his sincerity, he has offered additional free flights to the customers that were affected. Susan, he did the right thing under the circumstances. Some customers will forgive, others won’t. Exactly what is it that you expect from this?This whole notion of an apologetic verses a non-apologetic apology is just plain wrong. Who is such a mind-reader that they can tell what lies in someone else’s heart. Are the glasses always half-empty in the world of the Free Thinkers and how many of these apologies are yours to accept? Have you been flying Jet Blue lately?Thank goodness the Rutgers Team took the moral high-ground instead of relying on the Court of Public Opinion. These ladies are the only individuals touched by this event that have risen above it – and the fact that they have risen above it is not dependant on exactly how sincere Imus is or is not in his apology.I guess what I’m trying to say is that Forgiveness is not earned, it is given. It is a measure of the injured party’s character, not of how deserving the offending party is of being forgiven. As ministers, I would have thought Jesse and Al knew that.

  • Russell D.

    Well said SOK7, well said.

  • Anonymous

    Russ D,If you want fish say:”CARP.CARP.CARP”

  • Russell D.

    Anon:I am dyslexic.”Crap, Crap, Crap!”

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure someone will be serving that up to you in any minute…

  • Andrea

    SOK7,You are right that the spectators have no say in these matters. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that Forgiveness is not earned, it is given. It is a measure of the injured party’s character, not of how deserving the offending party is of being forgiven”I can see how you think this way about instances such as someone being offended by what someone else said. But, what if the situation were a bit more serious than just a derogatory statement or sitting in an airplane for a while? Should an “I’m sorry” suffice?

  • Luke

    My point was that we can’t apologize for everything. Being an atheist, I won’t apologize for the acts of fellow atheists. Why should I? Is it so wrong not to forgive anyway?

  • Viejita del oeste

    This gets to the heart of what is offensive about these insincere public apologies. I don’t really care what is in Imus’s or Nifong’s heart of hearts, I’m just glad they’re not currently in a position to repeat the abuse.

  • Andrea

    Luke,”Is it so wrong not to forgive anyway?”Only if it causes you pain, but if the offender hasn’t taken steps to adequately earn that forgiveness back, I don’t see why you should feel the need to give it.

  • Susan Jacoby

    I would like to point out, since several people have touched on the question of whether one is obliged to forgive, that forgiveness as an absolute virtue is a Christian ideal (one that also appears in many other religions). I do not regard unconditional forgiveness as a good thing for the forgiver or for the one who is forgiven. The alternative to non-forgiveness is not necessarily vindictiveness. Between the two lies a vast realm of thought and emotion in which, although you have not and will not forgive an offense, you no longer allow the offender any power over your life. In my essay, I was speaking more about the social than the personal consequences of insincere apologies and unearned forgiveness. If anyone wishes to dole out unearned forgiveness, that is his or her personal business. But it is surely a bad thing for society if people do not understand that unless they truly attempt to make right what they have done wrong, apologies are meaningless.

  • Andrea

    Susan,Thanks for jumping in and clarifying your point.”Between the two lies a vast realm of thought and emotion in which, although you have not and will not forgive an offense, you no longer allow the offender any power over your life. “I completely agree with this. In college, I worked with a domestic violence shelter as an add-on to a women and interpersonal violence class. This is exactly how we counciled women who survive violence. The same thought can be used in any context of offense.

  • VICTORIA

    what if something causes you incredible pain, and has a lifelong effect? do you hold your anger inside you like a corrupting cancer forever? this doesnt make sense- i think people are forgiven by god every day and given new chances that are completely undeserved- forgiveness and forgetfulness of the wrong done it is not easy to grow- but forgiveness exercises our spirit and goodness- forgiveness held back constricts the heart i can never understand how people can find a way to argue for non-forgiveness it seems to be the cause of so much that is wrong in this world just my humble opinion

  • Luke

    Rather than forgiveness, how about apathy? What is with this “tinyheartedness” and “non-forgiveness seems to be the cause of so much that is wrong in this world”? My heart is probably larger than yours, but my circulatory system is probably bigger as well. How do you “exercise goodness”? Do you flex an ignorance muscle? Sometimes it is better to lose your emotional attachment to that person. Why should put my hand on a plate that once burned me? What if there is no payback? Sounds like a lot of mystic chatter, if you ask me.

  • victoria

    it seems we were making posts at the same time- how can one possibly equate forgiveness with weakness or lack of wisdom in future decisions? forgiveness is the most strengthening and powerfully freeing experience one could have my last job i worked in a homeless shelter for women and children and most were victims of abuse and one interesting thing is this- the counselors who just had a degree and no experience always felt they had the right to pronounce judgement on the abused ladies- like if they werent hard steel inside they were failures- we had 80 single women in one, and over 150 women and children in another- no one ignored their anger, or right to be angry-

  • Luke

    I find it quite easy to equate forgiveness with a lack of wisdom. Just because I don’t forgive someone doesn’t mean that some “black cancer” is eating me from the inside. I just am apathetic to them. I don’t think about them anymore – they become a non-person. I am not missing out on anything, and based on the poor decision they made, they obviously aren’t missing out on much either. If someone kills my parents, but spends the rest of their life in prison, it doesn’t matter much if I forgive them or not, does it? They just become a non-entity…out of my scope of being. What is wrong with that?

  • Ghostbuster

    Jihadist: Adding to your statement, “I regret your reaction, but I’m not sorry for what I’ve said. You have misunderstood me. I’m sorry that you implied something into my statements that I didn’t mean to imply”.In fact, the implication is perfectly clear and intended in most cases.Susan, you should write a book called “The Art of an Apology”.

  • Russell D.

    Good Post, I enjoyed it.

  • Anthony

    Probably one of the most effective arguments supporting why atheism is a morally and humanely bankrupt belief system. You cannot hope to treat your fellow humans in a humane fashion without the ability to forgive. And the ability to forgive requires a level of faith. Not faith in God or a god, but faith in your fellow human beings. I would hope that we do not require God’s forgiveness in order to offer our own forgiveness.I was happy to see after the tragedy at Virginia Tech that a lesson taught most poignantly by the Amish during their own response to a similar event had been learned … at least, learned by a few if not many. Cho Seung-Hui, without asking and considering his manifesto, without desiring, was offered forgiveness in the memorials left for his victims.If forgiveness is not a foundation stone for secularism and atheism, then neither are humane or of value to us as a society.Your argument to “prove it” is ridiculous.

  • Russell D.

    I am an atheist, and I can forgive. You make a good point Anthony. It does require faith in people. Not in God, in people. Because when it comes down to it, who are you standing in front of when asking forgiveness? God? or the guy you just insulted?

  • Mike K.

    I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea that one owes an apology to someone who is offended by a comment, a thought or an idea. There’s no right in this country *not* to be offended.I’m offended by some of the anti-atheist rants here but I’d never suggest that I’m owed an apology. The same should go for everyone else. If you don’t like someone else’s thoughts or words, that’s the price of freedom of speech.

  • Tonio

    Anthony, you’re right you about having a level of faith in fellow humans in order to forgive. However, I don’t understand why you believe that atheism rules out having that type of faith, as opposed to faith in supernatural beings.

  • Andrea

    “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea that one owes an apology to someone who is offended by a comment, a thought or an idea. There’s no right in this country *not* to be offended.”Mike,I agree with you. But with the right of free speech comes the responsibility to choose your words wisely and consider how your actions will effect others. Understanding that every action has consequences is fundamental to life. I just don’t understand how so many people can completely throw that out the window: consequences-schmansequences. To get back to your point, Mike, I don’t think people should always be offended by what others say, and certainly people can learn to take a joke once in a while. The Don Imus thing was meant to be funny, but he should have known better than to call a group of collegiate women what he did. I don’t think the Pope was joking, is he allowed to joke? But he should understand that with his high level of power and influence that what he says can come back to him in his holy butt and he should be ready to take more responsibility for it.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    There is not enough apologizing, repenting and “penancing” (“arping”) e.g. The Catholic Church should start “arping” for claiming it is the one true religion. Ditto for Islam. Ditto for Mormons. The Catholic Church should start “arping” for the Inquisition and the treatment of Jews. Islam should start “arping” for the militant and anti-female passages in their Koran. Add your own suggestions for “arping” and let us know what they are.

  • Luke

    Wow concerned, you opened a can of worms. Whites should start “arping” for treatment of blacks and native americans. Protestants and Catholics should “arp” for everything they’ve done to each other in Ireland. America should “arp” for Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. England should “arp” for Dresden. Actually, while we are at it, we should quit our jobs, and “arp” until everyone has covered all of their own history, and then our kids won’t have to.

  • Viejita del oeste

    Tonio said “I have no problem with people believing in the supernatural, but I do have a problem when they use that belief to define anyone but themselves.”That is dead on. We have to be secure enough in our views that we don’t need to be continually validated by those who disagree with us. I might think there is a divine spark acting through Tonio and everyone else here (everyone on earth, actually). What I don’t require is that he acknowledge it, or that anyone be forced to describe their experience as being exactly like mine. Nobody’s experience is exactly like mine. And the divinity I believe in as a Christian might feel like rationality or personal strength to someone who is uncomfortable with supernatural explanations. It is the strength that is important, not where you say it comes from.

  • Athena

    If a person takes responsibility for their actions, admits their mistakes, and makes an honest effort not to do such actions again, I am more likely to forgive them than if they just do a quick “I’m sorry” in the media and go back to being a jerk. Or worse, say “mistakes were made”. What ever happened to saying “I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I’m going to try to fix it”? That being said, many self-proclaimed religious people have a LOT of trouble with forgiveness. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton took advantage of the Imus situation to further their own agendas. Sharpton has never apologized for the Tawana Bradley affair, so he had no right to call for Imus’ head on a platter. Didn’t some guy teach “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who would trespass against us” 2000 years ago? Or “love your enemies”? But, I guess the current view of Jesus was that he didn’t teach forgiveness or loving one’s enemies. On a historical level, the current conflicts of Islam vs. the West, religious fundamentalism vs. secularism, Catholics vs. Protestants, Shia vs. Sunni, etc. need to take a step back and forgive the trespasses of each other. We are so busy fighting each other because of injustices that go back hundreds or thousands of years that we can’t see what we’re doing to our future and the future of Human life on Earth.

  • Bobby

    “It is the strength that is important, not where you say it comes from.”Both things are intertwined. An honest witness acknowledges the source of the events he witnesses or the strength he is given. Discomfort from others to that named source while unfortunate should not cause the witness to deviate from his testimony.An incovenient truth so to speak….:)

  • Anonymous

    What does the Pope have to appologize for? I do not think that stating your opinion about a religion is something wrong. If that were the case, why do the Muslim clerics appologize for saying that Christians and Jews have falsified their holy books and for their utter lack of respect for people who have other religions.

  • Viejita del oeste

    AndreaBut as a Catholic Christian, i.e. someone who by definition believes in a lot of unlikely phenomena, I don’t feel right criticizing other people’s silly superstitions. Especially those I share.

  • observer

    Bobby loves Tonio.

  • speed123

    Yes – pass the blame around and make sure that you pick points that prove your thesis: the European American Christian men are the devil.Typical feminist, atheist propaganda coming from the this “free thinker.” Talk about a mis-nomer when applied (rather self-applied) in the case of Jacob.PS – did you know that sexual abuse is 3 times as great in public school systems? These are secualr institions and I think we should blame all atheists.Also, in terms of context for sexual abuse in clergy, a point that the Jewish dominated media never like to point out, 4 percent of Catholic clergy are accused, 8 percent of protestant clergy are accused, and…wait for it… 11 percent of RABBIS are accused of sexual misconduct. (public schools are probably around 15 percent)Never hear that on NBC will you?

  • Muddy

    Just Because you forgive someone, doesn’t mean that you want to associate with them or give them opportunities to reoffend. Holding a grudge is self-destructive and revenege is never justified no matter what the offense, however everyone is entitled to take actions to protect themselves from those that endanger them. This may mean not associating with those that say hurtfull things, or it may mean jailing murders.

  • speed123

    PS – who the hell would place the pope in the company of wolfowitz and imus for making academic statements on theology? The anti-Catholic run Washington Post/ Time would!What bigots! Dont even try that antisemitic crap…

  • Ralph

    It appears the southern christians forgive this administration no matter what they did wrong. Is it because they are not really true christians? Why do true christians wan to be politically involved in a process that is so corrupt and stains the word of the loard?

  • IMSOTI

    We are told not to let one scabby sheep taint the whole flock; then we find out that more than one sheep are shielded by the shepherds.

  • Russ

    when it comes to apologies, one size never fits all because as individuals, each one of us has our own language of apology according to “The Five Languages of Apology” by Jennifer Thomas and Gary Chapman. Therefore an apology from a high ranking government official has to be given in five different ways in order to reach the hearts of the five different receivers in his audience. For example: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, acts of service – represent the channels through which a genuine apology must be aimed in order to be received by the heart of the offended party. Anything less will appear superficial and therefore insincere.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    SPEED123,Your statistics might be correct but if you are going to cite them, please provide references.

  • speed123

    Hello Concerned,I picked up from the panelist Anthony Stevens-Arroyo – not sure where he got the stats but, considering the public nature of the forum, I doubt he would make them up out of the blue.In any case, the point is that the media takes events out of context to vilify specific groups. A la the Moyers presentation of PBS last night on how the media took intel out of context to promote the war in Iraq.Dont trust what you read!! Esp. NYTs or Post.

  • patrick

    Apoligies are only efective when the word and the action are consistent with one another.What a person says; apoligies; can only be measured by the actions they take after the negative act the committed, otherwise the apoligy is not a real apology, but merely words used to soothe others without any real intent.As a great buddhist philosopher said, “It is the heart that is most important.” What is in our hearts that frames the acts we take on behalf of others happiness. A true apology lies in the actions we take not the words we use.

  • David Ehrenstein

    What’s especially interestign about haggard is that he claims to have been “cured” of homosexuality but makes no mention of hid drug addiction whatsoever. Are we to take it that drugs are of no interest to “Our Lord”?As for the Catholic church, it’s hypocrisy has been made double monstrous this week thanks to the Pope’s declaration that same-sex marriage is “evil.”Now are we clear about all this? Priests molesting altar boys is perfectly OK, but same sex couples wanting to make a lifetime commtiment to one another is “Evil.” Makes Perfect Religious (NON)Sense.

  • frank burns

    What a lot of relgious B.S.

  • Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada

    This is a superb analysis of the hypocrisy behind unapologetic apology.But, what would be a sincere, truthful apology in a very real practical case, since the past cannot be undone and the scrambled egg cannot be unscrambled? Besides the references given in Susan’s article, which one might say addresses the ART of forgiveness, there are writings, mostly by Economists and Political Scientists who use Game Theory as the basis of their investigations, that purport to spell out the SCIENCE of forgiveness. Two such writings are The Win-Win Solution by Steven Brams and Alan Taylor, and Thinking Strategically, by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff. Very, very briefly, and in a rough presentation, the thesis is that the bluff behind the unapologetic apology can always be called. This is so because it is inevitable, in most real life situations, that the bluffer will need, in his own interest at a future time, to engage the cheated party in a transaction that could, theoretically, be mutually beneficial. At that later move, the cheated party can either refuse to ‘play’ or agree to play but determined to ‘teach the original bluffer a lesson’. Economists have worked out rigorous mathematical solutions named ‘optimal penal code’ in their jargon, and designed rules of thumb, to elicit responses that are mutually beneficial in the long term. These concepts and ideas are presented in a form accessible to lay readers in the two books mentioned above.The ‘strategies’ or codes of moral behaviour investigated in these works apply, mutatis mutandis, at the individual level as well as the collective level, and addresses most of the well-known pitfalls inherent in aggregating individual preferences to collective choice.It is worthwhile also, here, to make a brief reference to a ‘current affairs novel’ by the South African journalist Antjie Krog called “Country of My Skull” where she investigates the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proceedings of post-apartheid South Africa in light of very well-thought out considerations of the effects on individual and collective welfare of forgiving inhuman harm inflicted on others.Briefly, the concept of ‘unto others’, with appropriate enhancements, is the solution. As I interpret the findings, which according to me are in perfect harmony with Islamic teachings and the practices of the Prophet of Islam, an aggrieved party is ENTITLED to behave tit-for-tat, meaning NO MORE THAN AN EYE FOR AN EYE, but it is always better to forgive because you will have another interaction with the offending party and at that point he could make a gesture to make up to you for the wrong he caused earlier. Dixit and Nalebuff’s simulations indicate that, if you forgive the same party thrice in a row and he does not correct himself, you are entitled to retaliate so as to rectify the cumulative harm done to you. Eventually, such behaviour will elicit responses beneficial to all involved.

  • speed123

    Ehrenstein (perhaps burns as well), look – another Jew who is anti-Catholic/Christian. So lets get this right, you can slander us but if anyone says so much as a peep about you it is anti-semitic??What crap!PS – Rabbis molest more children than priests and secular public school employees molest more than both groups of clergy combined. What trite points you bring up; dont like Catholic theology, dont become a Catholic! Bigot…

  • Russell D.

    Haggard was “cured” of being a homosexual? Yea right……20 bucks says all you gotta do is wave a naked man in front of his face and he’ll collapse. I call Bull****!

  • Astrid

    yeah keep focusing on that “liberated”….after all the verse is only reinforced by everything else Jesus did and said but never mind that…

  • Anonymous

    Amzing how people focus on the faults and issues of others but never look towards themselves…I believe Jesus spoke about that..something about a piece of wood in your eye…

  • sd, washington

    Forgive me for agreeing with you Ms. Jacoby. Forgiveness should be earned by a sincere apology – not by appealing to irrational religious ideology. The idea that a person or society is superior to another – because they can have Forgiveness at the mere mention of the words *I am sorry* absent any proof, indication, or reason showing the apology to be something more than words… well, that is something to apologize sincerely for holding. People who feel uncomfortable with the idea that one owes an apology to someone usually disparage the offence to be a **“comment”** or merely **“a thought or an idea”** they say **“There’s no right in this country *not* to be offended** Slavery? A **“comment”** or merely **“a thought or an idea”** ? **“There’s no right in this country *AMERICA** *not* to be offended** by Slavery? Segregation? Denial of a right to vote? 75 percent pay for doing the same job as a member of the *all men are created equal* group? Is molestation a **“comment”** or merely **“a thought or an idea”** Maybe **“There’s no right in this country *not* to be offended** by molestation? It is a shame to see people defending the right to do things they ought to apologize for by saying that such acts as broadcasting racist, sexist statements are just comments or a thought or an idea that there is no right in this country to be free from. Apparently such people are *not* to be offended** until there are African broadcasters referring to white women basketball players in a derogatory fashion but not African ones? Until there are only talk shows with all women, latinos, and Asians and maybe one white male talking about the next non-white male president … or the first white male candidate in years to be articulate. There’s no right to *not* be offended in America.. that is why censorship is soooo rare. Lol. I didn’t think anyone would disagree with your article… but I guess I wasn’t thinking. Thank you for being you. I hope you get a talk show or become an owner of a major media outlet.

  • norwegian

    Very good article.I have trust in the human being.Yours sincerly.

  • John Griffith

    I’d just like to point out an error in the first comment for those who might be misled. Atheism is not a belief system, it is an absence of belief. Important to understand the difference.

  • dkm

    John Griffith:Your statement is not correct. Atheism is a belief that there is no god. I don’t care who states that as fact, it is not true.AGNOSTICism is probably more properly called an absence of belief, since it is the one that says, “how the heck would I know?”.

  • victoria

    mr griffith- i claim no expertise in these matter as im not an atheist or agnostic-

  • Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada

    John Griffith, DKM,I have knocked my head into numerous over the issue whther atheism is a belief system or not. The problem is that atheism defines itself relative to theism — as DKM says belief in no god. Now, if god does not exist, how can you not beleive in him.We need to have a concept of god or God, first. I have been reading many many books these last few months about NOTHING. What is nothing? You at least need consciousness to conceive of NOTHING. So, NOTHING is a paradox, since to conceive it you need something — consciousness — which contradicst the very idea of NOTHING.The entry under NOTHING in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy should be required reading for anybody who professes to be an atheist. I registered to be a Bright, but, according to me and many others who do think and are not necessarily superstitious to be Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews or what-have-you, the Brights have become fundamentalists of sorts. So, I am no longer a Bright in that sense, but I am working for the ‘Brightenment’ of Islam, which I think the 1.2 billion adherents of that religion are ready for, and temporarily and tentatively, I am describing myself as a Muslim-borderline-agnostic.I like the idea of agnosticism, because it leaves open the possibility of evolution into a True Religion whatever, that term may eventually come to mean.NO, NO, I am not mad!

  • Ben Sutherland

    Susan,Your’s is a mistaken view of forgiveness, whether secular or religious. Religious leaders like Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha and moral leaders like Mohatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Desmond Tutu have much clearer ideas of forgiveness.Genuine forgiveness, like love, is unconditional. And if you don’t have it to offer, there is no reason for anyone to take your forgiveness or your love seriously, frankly, because you don’t take it serious enough, yourself.We pluck the splinters from the eyes of others before we pluck the beams from our own eyes one of the truest things ever said by any leader on this subject. And Jesus’ conception of avoiding the responsibility of forgiveness describes well what you just did in your article.Your article is one long rationalization for why you do not take the responsibility of forgiveness seriously. You are not alone. Your view of this is all too commmon. But common is not the most powerful insight offered by Jesus or Buddha or Ghandi or King or Tutu. It is common, not greatness.I, personally, don’t care how long most people try to avoid the responsibility found in forgiveness. People who don’t do not deserve to be taken seriously around matters of morality and forgiveness as a central virtue until they do.It is somewhat remarkable to me how moralists of every stripe will lecture, bully, and force themselves upon people for responsibilities of every stripe and ignore the one most central to any decent form of morality: forgiveness.Americans and the world will get this figured out, soon enough. Because the world cannot function effectively at all carrying on any other way. Witness the current period. How tragic, indeed, if people were to look at the current period and the retributive instincts that it embodies and say, “That is the best that our liberal values have to offer.”They simply could not. Because it would be a lie. And a society cannot sustain itself long without being honest with itself and others.For that lie, we will need much forgiveness.Ben Sutherland

  • PK

    I draw a distinction between forgiveness and the restoration of trust. It is possible both to forgive the person who has done wrong, and to acknowledge that trust has been broken to such a degree that it is not easily or quickly restored. To forgive is to cease demanding satisfaction for a debt. In that regard, forgiveness provides relief on both sides of the relationship and can lay the groundwork for reconciliation. Forgiveness can be granted unconditionally, but full reconciliation requires work on both sides to restore trust.

  • Roy

    * atheism is a morally and humanely bankrupt belief system.* How quick Christian extremists are to judge while their Lord, himself tells them not to. How quick thay are to hate and exclude gays while their Lord tells them not to. How quick they are to support the carnage in Iraq while their Bible tells them not to kill.

  • Kamdog

    Well, Susan, clearly you have given the Imus thing little thought. You speak of forgiveness and apologies, etc. but you use this only as a weapon to smash other people. If you knew anything about Imus, you would know that he is indeed sorry he said it. And not because he lost his job. He knows he says things that he doesnt really mean and are sometimes hurtful, but cant always control himself. There are a lot of people like that. When weighing a persons apology, what criteria do you use? If you know someone does not actually mean what was said, that it was said in a moment of impulsivity, but that the persons lifetime of actions shows he doesnt mean what he said, then that person can truly be sorry. In my view, that is Imus’ situation. He has done lots of good for all children, and never differentiated what kind of children they were. His extremely good deeds were not weighed at all. Be that as it may, and I am not trying to get his job back. But to blithely state that his apology is just pro-forma so he can work again is either ignorance on your part, or an outright lie to prove your point. I wonder how you can write an opinion piece without the facts, so I will give you credit for deviousness rather than ignorance. Imus was given the bums rush at the behest and urging of Sharpton (Tawana Brawley) and Hymietown Jessie Jackson. You can just hear Sharpton say that they lost the white boys at Duke, but they got themselves another one in Imus. The wronged parties were those basketball players, but they never had the chance to meet with Imus and respond before the feeding frenzy was over. Be that as it may, and Imus is rich enough to do without the job. Maybe the Imus ranch will get his full time attention and continue, or maybe it is the cancer ridden kids that ranch helps who will really pay the price.It amazes me that you can write on faith and not inquire as to whether the ‘reverends’ Sharpton and Jackson should have been the deciders of Imus’ fate, considering THEIR histories and statements.

  • person unknown

    Speed 123.You sure you’re responding to the correct post?? I mean “Yes – pass the blame around and make sure that you pick points that prove your thesis: the European American Christian men are the devil.Typical feminist, atheist propaganda coming from the this “free thinker.” Talk about a mis-nomer when applied (rather self-applied) in the case of Jacob.”What, exactly does that have to do with the idea that pseudo apology is an indicator of a blame shifting culture? The pope’s response was to say he was sorry that people responded the way they did – not that he was sorry he offended them. Gonzales says “mistakes were made” as a response to criticism. No suggestion of any act of contrition, just a pro forma “I’m sorry” and on to other matters. The Catholic church for a very, very long time just shuffled offenders around with no attempt to set things to right.I think Ms. Jacoby has it spot on. When she wrote”In my essay, I was speaking more about the social than the personal consequences of insincere apologies and unearned forgiveness. If anyone wishes to dole out unearned forgiveness, that is his or her personal business. But it is surely a bad thing for society if people do not understand that unless they truly attempt to make right what they have done wrong, apologies are meaningless.”It is this lack of any attempt to make things right that is the crux of the matter.

  • RJones

    This is why I don’t believe in God and mock Christians. Jesus died for your sins, asked that you forgive 77 X 7, and yet most Christians proudly declare they don’t forgive. Yuck, what a bunch of pretentious phonies. I laugh in the face of your God. Ha!!!!

  • Astrid

    “yet most Christians proudly declare they don’t forgive:Yes, I seem to recall almost every Christian Ive met proudly boasting about that factoid….brother…

  • JAE

    Actually, Wolfowitz has nothing to apologize for — apologize that he tried to recuse himself from a decision involving his girlfriend, but the was forced to stay on it at the insistence of his board’s ethic’s committee? Apologize for trusting his board too much, such that he fell into their political baited trap? Be serious, and get your facts straight.

  • Tom Barnes

    I am a lapsed Catholic who does not know what he believes, a recovering alcoholic with 23 years sobriety, a 54 year old grandfather with two adult daughters and a second grand child due in June. My dad was a raging alcoholic, my mother was physically and emotionally abusive and has serious emotional and pschological problems. She is alive and 81 years old. We have never really been close due to her inability to face her physical abuse of me when I was a child.I am now pretty much an old man. I am a 100% disabled veteran and Coast Guard retiree. I have a lot of time to think. And I must tell you, my number one pain in life above anything else that I have ever had to face (which is a lot) is my mother’s inability to say to me “I am sorry for what I did to you”.Admittedly, my father abused her both emotionally and physically and on at least one occasion that I vividly remember he punched her. She had nine children and her life was a nightmare. I admit all that. But the truth is, I think I was singled out as the scapegoat child for her rage throughout my childhood. When I was 12 or 13 she broke her arm over my head while punching me in a fit of rage when I slapped my younger brother. When I was 8 or 9 she threw a carving fork at my head and missed my skull by about an inch (the carving fork stuck in the kitchen door). I was late for dinner, that was my crime.My mother was frankly brutal. I was her pressure valve. The beatings still reverberate in my mind, all these years later. But it is not the beatings that hurt. It is her inability to say “I am sorry”. She adamantly refuses, and depending on who she is talking to at the moment, she will sometimes deny that any of this happened. It is very frustrating.You are so correct. A proper apology is everything. No apology can be a death sentence to the human spirit.

  • speed123

    Hey JAE, How about Wolfowitz and the other neo-cons (feith, pearle, kristol) apologize to the American people for using false evidence to drag the US into a needless war in the name of “securing the realm.”Do you know which middle east “democracy” is the realm? I bet you do.However, I doubt that these Jewish American Zionists beleive in sin or forgiveness.

  • Tim

    There are a lot of good thoughts in these posts, but also a fair amount of arrogance. Remember TS Elliot’s line:”Only humility is endless”.Personally, I have a hard time figuring out what I can do in the area of forgiveness and amends (I currently subscribe to something similar to the 12 step vision on the issue, as a matter of full disclosure).I can’t imagine how so many people can be sure of what other people can or would do.”Everyone else is busy and certain. Only I wander lonely and confused. I am a child of the Great Mother….”

  • person unknown

    Kamdog…Re: Imus. I found much that was distasteful on both sides of the Imus deal. In the end, though, he got the boot for economic reasons, not because of any moral outrage. His sponsors left, thus, there was no reason to keep him on.I can understand that Ms. Jacoby came to the conclusion, not agree with it, and still not acuse her of lying or ignorance. You create a false dicotomy. There is the possibility of being cynical, disbelief based on prior acts, or even…right.In any case, I happen to believe that Imus at least did pennance and tried to atone for his acts. What else would you call putting up with Al (Twana B) Sharpton for two hours? Of course there IS the possibilty he was just trying to pull his bacon out of the fire. Actually, it is not all that easy to tell, eh?

  • GARY

    IF YOU DONT THINK THE ACT OF HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN, THEN YOU ARE MAKING UP YOUR OWN THEOLOGY, A VERY PRECARIOUS PLACE TO BE A MOMENT AFTER YOUR PASSING.JESUS HIMSELF ACCEPTED THE OLD TESTAMENT AS THE WORD OF GOD.

  • Kate

    I work with kids, and with kids forgivenes is never condidtional. I will always forgive a child for thier miss deed. However I don’t let them say they are sorry unless they mean it. And that means they have to tell me what they have done and tell me why they are sorry. Otherwise it is just words. And as a side note on religion, as far as I know you can’t go to confession without confessing. And confession does not occur in the passive.

  • THE FOOL

    The missing term in this conversation is trust. Life is a team sport. Cooperation requires that we trust that others won’t take advantage of us. Since we’re human, we make mistakes. A real apology serves to reestablish that trust between the parties. The ‘pro-forma’ legalistic apology is of no value. If you believe that Gonzales abused the trust he was given by politicizing his office, his mealy-mouthed “mistakes were made” is worse than useless.If we can’t trust each other than we must enforce our agreements. If business can’t be done with a handshake then lawyers, contracts and judges are needed. If we can’t trust a stranger not to steal from us then we need locks, alarms, armed guards, police, … The real danger of these cynical ‘apologies’ is that they teach us that people cannot be trusted. That is a very dangerous message.

  • speed123

    Know what is unfortunate? That the panelists that make the most sense get the smallist reaction in the forum section.It seems intellect is inverse to popularity – same in mass culture, I suppose.Jacoby is obviously biased and the least academic of all members of On Faith and that is what draws so many of us to the post – to refute it or cheer her on.Reasonable voices get drowned out in by the crowd of loud, brash agenda pushers (Jacoby).The one exception was Christ who exulted the meek and poor and the agenda-less but we are still taking about his message.

  • speed123

    I bet that fact makes Jacoby loss sleep…

  • speed123

    lose sleep

  • Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada

    Tom Barnes,I was very moved to read your post.Above, I have written about the ART of forgiveness and the SCIENCE of forgiveness.As always, the ART is far far more profound than the science; and the ART has something sipiritual in it — dare I say, something religious.My dear friend, do continue to try to forgive and ask your mummy dear to say sorry, with the right tone, the right rhythm coming from your heart and reverbe4rating in your voice, and believe the word of this Muslim, take the name of Christ and tell your mummy what you have just told the world.THE MIRACLE WILL HAPPEN. Nobody wil understand it. But you and your mum will, and your dad in heaven will. Your daughters and your grandchildren will be all the more proud for it.God bless you!

  • Peter Jackson

    ON FAITH Susan Jacoby April 26, 2007 —-no one merits forgiveness for simply saying I’m sorry.—- Most religious leaders here say there should be no forgiveness without repentance. This seems to be rarely the case today. I think for a person to be believed to be sorry there must be some repentance. —-But a situation has developed that is harming society, namely as soon as a bad criminal is caught, often a church or victim , on the day it reaches the papers, will say -I forgive you- even when the criminal has said nothing. Many churches greatly encourage this practice. — Under certain circumstances this can be beneficial to the criminal and to the victim as it may be helpful to lessen the hate and tension in the victim. But it is so prevalent that it is expected and has almost become an automatic forgiveness in advance of the crime. –This influences the attitude of society to be more lenient towards the criminal , the severity of the crime, and of the punishment, so that we have ended up with a very permissive society where anything goes. This encourages crime and criminals as the public tend to equate forgiveness as saying – its ok – no punishment necessary.Peter Jackson

  • Henry James

    We Don’t Need Religion for Foregiveness and “Repentence”There is hosts of scientific evidence that atheists are at least as moral as believers. (read Peter Singer and Marc Hauser).The most basic tenet of morality is and if you doMaking “repentance” a “Religious virtue” is another case of organized religion co-opting an innate moral understanding that all humans possess (except the mentally ill and sociopaths)and saying you need to subscribe to my religion to expiate your guilt.We need to grow out of this superstition.

  • Russell D.

    Luke:Dude, you sound like me. I do that. But eventually, I find that the person always comes back into my life at some point. That’s where the real test is.

  • Bobby

    From a Christian standpoint, forgiveness has hardly anything to do with improving society on earth. It is a mandated that we forgive those who trespass against us as God would forgive our trespasses. When we forgive, we come closer to God. When we choose not to forgive we move one step away.That is not to say that we are instructed to be naive and gullible. It is acceptable to forgive someone while still trying to understand and discuss the roots of the original trespass. But the anger towards that person trespass, thats what has to dissipate. Forgiveness helps BOTH the forgiver and the forgiven, but I think much more so to the forgiver. As Christian, we believe that this world is but a shadow of the eternal peace we could inherit afterwards. To forgive and love our neighbor (including our enemy) may not improve earthly government or earthly society an iota but it will take us one step closer to God’s peace.

  • E favorite

    Astrid – Jesus may have been an illiterate small-town carpenter, but I’m sure Our Lord would have known better than to say: “do not sin no more.”

  • pv

    well stated Ms. Jacoby.

  • Tonio

    Bobby, I define morality as about actions that help or harm others. Under that definition, forgiveness and apologizing are the right things to do. I suppose it would also benefit society by helping people live together peaceably, but I think the focus should be on the individual’s actions and the individual taking responsibility for those actions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of forgiving someone simply because a deity would want me to – that’s not taking responsibility for my actions, that is simply pleasing an authority figure.

  • Tom Brucia

    Though I’m not Jewish, one of the things I like about Judaism is that for an offense to be forgiven, it’s not simply necessary to go to God and ask forgiveness. One must also obtain the forgiveness of the person or persons one has offended. And Islam demands that the family of a person killed must not forgive the killer unless financial compensation is provided by the killer. In some ways both halachah and sharia law are a lot more sensible than our ‘modern’ laws. The Catholic idea of penance comes to mind as another aspect of any forgiveness process… And asking for and or being forgiven by total strangers on television is simply disgusting.

  • Anonymous

    Mohamed MALLECK thank you for your compassionate post to Tom Barnes.I can only join you is saying to Tom:”My dear friend, do continue to try to forgive..” When we are wounded in our spirit, it is hard work to forgive. But we must forgive or be trapped in a cycle of reliving the injury and pain. I too have an abusive mother. I spent many years seeking her approval and reconciliation. When I realized the pain of her life had overwhelmed her ability to change or grow emotionally, I released her from my expectations of her as my mother. I still love her and would welcome her back into my life. But when I released her, I also was released. I wish the best for you.

  • Bobby

    Tonio wrote:As usual Tonio, I AGREE with your statement. And Christianity AGREES with your above statement. To forgive solely to please God is not what God wants, He’s not a fool, He can see right through you. To forgive IS mandated from God, and because it is mandated from God it is a good thing (forgive the simplicity of “thing”). But just because He mandated it doesnt mean we follow it just cause the Big Man has to be made happy. His mandates are good to follow because it IS (as Christians believe) the formula to being one with God rather than a set of rules to be followed or else. God created us and know us inside out better than we know ourselves. Furthermore he is not external but internal as well. Think of it like this: Imagine a chef instructs his disciple that he must follow his recipe for the chef’s unique concoction of garlic souffle (I chose something ridiculous for added pzzazz). The disciple thinks “why should I follow his instructions, just to make him happy?” No, its because his instructions are the only road to a delicious vanilla souffle, because the souffle is the chef’s own concotion and no one knows it better than him, even if the disciple shakes his head and says I can come up with another way. One has the freedom to choose another recipe, but it will definitely not lead to that unique garlic souffle. You can substitute chef for loving parent or God and the disciple as a child or us.Whoever coined the “to forgive is divine” maxim was dead on. Real, loving forgiveness with no patronization, no strings attached, no pride is what Christ’s message encompassed. Interestingly, I recently finished reading the Forgiveness chapter in CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity, if you feel like explanantions more thorough than garlic souffle then I highly recommend that chapter.

  • person unknown

    speed123..Gosh – given the Ms. Jacoby has..Written for The Washington Post, and has been a contributor to a wide range of periodicals and newspapers for more than 25 years on topics including law, religion, medicine, aging, women’s rights, political dissent in the Soviet Union and Russian literature. Jacoby has been the recipient of grants from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001-2002, she was named a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers.she clearly is not an intellectual – at least by your standards. Which of the above disqualifies her to comment on the subject of this article?Just what is the agenda you keep referring to in your posts?? Just how is this article pushing her agenda? It sounds as if the fact that she is an atheist is enough to invalidate anything she says on any subject for you. If that is so, then how do you classify yourself as reasonable?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    (As noted previously)Atonement is part of apology and repentance.The definition:a·tone·ment (ə-tōn’mənt) Reconciliation or an instance of reconciliation between God and humans.Professor Crossan’s take on the Christian theology of atonement:From his book, “Who is Jesus” co-authored with Richard Watts)”Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us.” “Traditionally, Christians have said, ‘See how Christ’s passion was foretold by the prophets.” Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus’ last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God.” “In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life.”

  • Tonio

    “No, its because his instructions are the only road to a delicious vanilla souffle…”A more correct version of your analogy would be this – the person is alone in a kitchen trying to figure out how to make a souffle. There are no chefs present, simply people who claim to know the chefs and what the chefs want. They are all shouting different recipes for the souffle, some of them warning that the person will suffer if he uses a different recipe. Sooner or later, the person is going to get fed up and say, “Just leave your recipes on the table and leave me alone – I’ll determine which recipe is the right one.””You can substitute chef for loving parent or God and the disciple as a child or us.”I’m a parent, and I know well that it takes children years to understand the concept of morality I described, so one has to enforce moral behavior until they learn the principle behind it. But an emotionally mature adult doesn’t need to live under another person’s authority to understand that principle – that adult is capable of acting responsibility on his or her own. Obviously, there are many adults who choose not to use that capability. That is one of my big objections to Christian doctrine – it presumes that adults have no capacity for moral behavior on their own, that they must always live under the authority of a parent who they cannot perceive. No opportunity to prove that they are capable of acting responsibly. While I don’t rule out the possibility of supernatural life, I regard it as an unknown because I cannot perceive such life. The only “evidence” for the existence of a supernatural authority figure is someone else’s word for it.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    ASTRID,See the over 100 books written about the historic Jesus in the past 200 years i.e. those years where we “pew peasants” were finally allowed to think, reason and question the OT and NT. Here a couple of sites to get you started:1. 2. And some words to ponder:“I believe the Bible is inspired.” “Why?” “Because it says so.” Would your anyone let that logic pass if it came from the followers of any other book or person? “I believe x is inspired because x says so.” Fill in the blanks:

  • Astrid

    Richard Watts shows ignorance by claiming “heavenly child abuse” regarding Christ’s death. God is not to be regarded by simplistic human values. The nature of God and Christ’s sacrifice is summed up beautifully and succintly by John 3:16: 16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”God did not demand blood sacrifices willy nilly. To sin is to die, to be with God is to live. The price of sin has to be paid but God opted to die Himself than us. Sometimes the truth is so much simpler and quieter than all the angles devised up by “intellectuals” looking to promulgate their own Aha! moments. The pride of man….the greatest obstacle to knowing God.

  • Bobby

    thats me Anonyomous up there Tonio

  • Anonymous

    Tonio wrote:that adult is capable of acting responsibility on his or her own.The common denominator in both these statements is “being on your own”. That is the point of divergence in our discussion. A Christian believes that no one is ever on his own, God is inside him and ALWAYS with him. You can choose to ignore or deny his presence but that doesnt change the truth that you are never on your own. God is not out there, he is inside you. All the things we discuss in the paqst and future hinge on this disagreement. I do agree that one cannot find God solely on as u put it “The only “evidence” for the existence of a supernatural authority figure is someone else’s word for it.”. Finding God, in my humble Christian opinion, cannot happen without looking INWARD.

  • Tonio

    Bobby, my point is that the existence of the supernatural is always going to be a matter of personal opinion. I have no problem with people believing in the supernatural, but I do have a problem when they use that belief to define anyone but themselves. What if a Christian believed that God was inside him and always with him, but had no similar belief regarding other people? After all, we have no control over other people. When one claims to know what deity wants from others, it amounts to a form of control, even when that isn’t the claimant’s intention.

  • Tonio

    “But the existence of God is either real or not, regardless of the opinion, philosophy, or whatever else happens to be the issue du-jour.”I agree in the logical sense. There is simply no scientific way to test claims about the existence of deity, so I reserve judgment on such claims. “Along the same lines, truth is what you should seek. If others’ beliefs lead you a little closer to truth then great.”There may be certain truths about human existence that have nothing to do with any claims about the supernatural. There also may be certain “truths” that are specific to the individual, such as his or her own purpose for life. The latter is really no one else’s business. Writers such as Joseph Campbell have suggested reading the cosmologies of the various religions as allegories for certain truths and not literal statements about the supernatural. Part of the problem is that some religions make exclusive claims regarding truth, and these end up defining people.”As Christians we are instructed to act as witnesses and thats it. If people choose not to listen we are told ‘to wipe away the dust from our feet’ and move on. Sure there are examples of Christian zeal towards others but we are talking about the way we are told we should act not the way some do act.”I appreciate you saying that. My point about controlling was that the concept of hell is so ingrained in our culture that it influences even people who aren’t Christians or Muslims. Thus it leaves people vulnerable to being manipulated by the militant minority of believers who do not respect others’ boundaries, the ones who choose not to move on.

  • Bobby

    just thought Id also add that its always a pleasure talking with you Tonio.

  • Bobby

    “My point about controlling was that the concept of hell is so ingrained in our culture that it influences even people who aren’t Christians or Muslims. Thus it leaves people vulnerable to being manipulated by the militant minority of believers who do not respect others’ boundaries, the ones who choose not to move on.”The two sentences I think should not be mutually dependent. I believe in hell but I am not “manipulated” by any militant group. I permit anyone to cross into my boundary to listen (and digest) to their opinions and if they overdo it then its buh-bye. And yet I still believe in strong concepts like heaven or hell, salvation or damnation, moving closer or further to Christ.

  • Viejita del oeste

    kamdog

  • Henry James

    he Enormous Elephant: Bush/Cheney Should Apologizewe are dicking around with Imus and Nifong, and the New York Times today quotes the ex Director of the CIA saying thatAmerica and Bush/Cheney have committed the greatest sin against the World in the last 30 years. They need to Truly apologize, make reparations, and America needs to vow never to make this mistake again.This Horror dwarfs Imus, bad as his comments were.

  • Jihadist

    Speed123:)I’m glad to see that you’ve recovered from your initial shock and dismay of some posters in these On Faith threads to come out fighting for what you believe in with verve and vim. Go, my friend go, and continue to enrich the discussions by challenging some notions and perceptions on Catholics. Full Speed123 ahead, damn the torpedos.Out of here and will be reading your posts come Sunday.

  • tombaraider

    And don’t forget who NEVER apologizes FOR ANYTHING, including murders of shooting unarmed black men in the back…..the police. Then they get paid vacation.

  • tombaraider

    Peter Jackson you are 100 percent right.

  • Avvorio

    I believe in forgiveness and apology. I also believe that at the time you do something, isn’t there anything inside you that says “don’t do this”? Apologies are now so cheap. People do things that you know are wrong, illegal or immoral and when they are finally caught or confronted want to say “I am sorry. I will change.” Yet, until they are unmasked, they don’t say or do anything different. Wolfowitz is arrogant to the end. At least, Imus seemed sincerely repentant. I guarantee if they retain Wolfowitz he will do something equally egregious after a couple of months. He is a perfect example of the Bush administration. Lie first, blame others,say you don’t remember all the circumstances, then apologize in a smirky way. People don’t change when they really don’t think they are wrong and Wolfowitz’s arguments show he really does not consider what he did or how he let his deputies run roughshod over the bank personnel to be wrong. On the Pope, one of my first thought after he became Pope was the dis-similarity between he and John Paul. Both were directly impacted by Nazi Germany but I think, one (John Paul) understood the abuses of power and the other (Benedict) understood the uses of power. There words and actions reflect this dichothomy.

  • E favorite

    Tom Barnes – your mother is mentally unbalanced. If she were in control of her faculties, she surely would apologize, but she is not. In her current state, she won’t be able to say she’s sorry for what she did to you.I fear she is too wounded to respond to your very legitimate needs. To find peace, please try to focus away from your expectations of your mother.

  • Bobster

    Ms. Jacoby, Your statement, “…Responsibility shifting culture”. I could not agree more with you in saying that we have created a Culture in this society that shifts responsibility for anything and everything. But in saying that, I do disagree with how you think its come about. I think its all our fault as a collective whole. I don’t think its just the Roman Catholic church, the Bush administration, religion, conservatives, etc.. Its every religion, every preacher, every president and politician this countrys had, teachers, social workers, judicial system, and the list goes on and on. Plus myself as well. What contributes to the ever growing ability to evade responsibility on a personal level are peoples supporters. People will blame Bush and his gang all day long but then turn around and overlook and make excuses for their favorite politicians, religions, or atheism. And we the people allow these parties to manipulate us like we are all sheep. To believe in a party, a religion, or athesim, or whatever to such an extent that we call each other names, lie for our politician, and then to actually believe the lie ourselves, to justify their irresponsible behaviors, and for what? To prove that we are right! And the other side wrong!We are actually seeing the end result of our mass denial as it relates to accepting irresponsible behaviors. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

  • Rob Adams

    Tom Barnes.Thank you for sharing your pain with us. It is a great example of how a thing as simple as an apology can have such a significant impact. It also shows that all actions, or the lack of action, have a ripple effect and touch more than one person. That has what has brought you and your story to this point. All the bad things that have happened to you have brought a good thing to the readers of this form. We should consider ourselves privileged to hear your story. You said no apology can be a death sentence to the human spirit. Perhaps you are demonstrating the divine spirit, you’re still here.I remember my mother telling me her dad use to be an alcoholic. He recovered before I was born. I think she waited so long to tell me as she thought it might diminish my idea of him. Actually it did the opposite it raised my respect for him 10 fold.I am with E Favorite. At this point the forgiveness is for you, not her. Her actions do not define you, they define her. Tom I hope that you the peace that you deserve.With much respect,Rob.

  • Ron Burgandy

    Please forgive me for being so damn handsome.Sorry ladies, only so much of me to go around.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, Ron.. It won’t be long and you will be apologizing for that internet video you made with the potty-mouthed 2 year old. Things escalate quickly..

  • Chip

    Tonio writes “Anthony, you’re right you about having a level of faith in fellow humans in order to forgive. However, I don’t understand why you believe that atheism rules out having that type of faith, as opposed to faith in supernatural beings.”Faith, like morality, is one of those words that religion has hijacked from the language and pretends to have invented. Many religious people simply can’t see beyond their religious definitions to accept that they have secular ones as well. If morality is only religious then atheists can’t be moral. If faith only means religious faith then atheists are completely faithless. If, as Anthony states, that’s the best argument he’s ever heard, he really ought to get out more.

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  • Anonymous

    July 8,2007Thank you for writing this.