empathy: (n) the ability to comprehend how someone else feels, knows, and believes about some phenomena
Some of my regular readers responded to my recent post about forgiveness (regarding evangelical Christians supporting Trump’s term in office) with puzzlement about how to approach the idea of reconciliation and unity.
So far the general response of people whom I know in the evangelic community, they appear to be leaning toward forgiveness 1.0: forgive and forget. They are emphasizing the forget aspect of the concept by not saying anything about Trump’s departure, Impeachment Trial (other than it is irrelevant because he is already out of office), and the Inauguration Ceremony and evening celebration.
Other seem to be contemplating forgiveness 2.0: repentant-sin-no-more. I am hearing comments about “those people going to far” (e.g. marching its one thing, breaking into the Capitol building went to far; 2A rights allow me to have hunting rifles, but hunting for Pelosi and Pence with zip-ties and nooses is stepping over the line). But they are evading responsibility of repentance by suggesting that “those people” are the ones who need to repent (reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s play, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, when one characters say “No–what consoles one nowadays is not repentance, but pleasure. Repentance is quite out of date. And besides, if a woman really repents, she has to go to a bad dressmaker, otherwise no one believes in her.”)
Thus, my conclusion if we want unity and reconciliation, we are left with forgiveness 3.0: bearing the burden of someone else’s sin.
To understand this, we must consider empathy.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s put this in the Christian tradition context. If we take the premise that people are made in God’s image, and then God becoming human was the divine act of empathy.
But what is the human experience? I will assert that emotions, knowledge, and beliefs are human experiences (other than sensory processing of sights, sounds, touch, taste, and scents). By becoming human, Jesus experienced these. Can we touch the divine and empathize with someone who experiences these differently from us.
To step back for a bit of person history, let me clarify my connection with the evangelical Christian community. For the first 20 years of my life, this was the faith community in which I was reared. You could say I had an insider track. I saw plenty of Crusades for Christ revivals, Basic Youth Conflict seminars, and listened to early Christian Rock music…
For the past 40 years of my adult life, I have been on the outside of this movement. I’ve watched the Moral Majority, National Right to Life, Promise Keepers, and Focus on the Family proclaim that Christians had an right and obligation to get involved in politics (with implied, if not outright stated, that the USA is a Christian Nation under siege of everything non-Christian from humanists to secularists to Jews to Muslims and probable a band of Monkeys… wait, that was a 60’s TV band). Thus, while I might claim that I have some degree of understanding of the evangelics experience of life, I do this as an observer at this time.
But, back to the discussion.
Over my next few posts, I will explore each of these three concepts, as abstract ideas, conjectures on divine connection to being human, regarding the evangelical Christian world-view, and regarding forgiveness and reconciliation.