Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Forgiveness and the Face 2

Yesterday’s post emphasized intersubjectivity as central to forgiveness. Today we want to look at Sandage and Shults’ The Faces of Forgiveness and the issues of “saving face”, what the faces in a “face to face” look like, at “systemic estrangement,” relational hermeneutics, and a model of the forgiveness process. What’s on your face when you are estranged? How do you treat the other when you don’t want forgiveness?
There’s a lot here, and there’s a lot of good things here. I hope you buy this book, even if it requires serious attention.
Research shows that there are faces of conflict, faces of violence and faces of intimacy. I thought of putting “smileys” here, but am not sure I could genuinely match the faces.
Systemic estrangement — that’s the real issue, isn’t it? A passing problem with someone can blow over us and by us and we can be restored; but systemic estrangement requires work. Put this on some list near your desk, especially husbands and wives. Estrangement is developed by:
Totalizing the other: he’s nothing but a jerk.
Scapegoating: a person is blamed for all the group’s problems.
Exclusion: otherness either by banishment or by absorption.
Self-surveillance: inner sense of being watched (driven by guilt).
Narcissistic families: blame is everyone else.
To deal with all of this, we develop a system of attribution: we attribute blame to the other, and we develop stories of facework (confession, excuse, justification, refusal).
Forgiveness, then, has two other networks that shape it: our religious identity and the role of sacred faces (how we envision God’s face).
So, here’s a model of forgiveness: we go through three phases. First, we engage in lament; second, we encourage empathy and humility; third, we extend our narrative horizons to include the other.
Wow, there’s a lot here, but I think this is very good stuff for us to ponder and to factor into our understanding of forgiveness. No better topic as we approach Holy Week.

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posted March 31, 2006 at 7:02 am

I hope some really good meat comes from this, and hope I can remember the name of this book and get it on my Amazon list (free shipping with $25 order :)
Scot, you say : third, we extend our narrative horizons to include the other. The other what ? whoever or whatever that was the vehicle of wronging ?

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Scot McKnight

posted March 31, 2006 at 7:49 am

The “other” is the one from whom we are estranged and who has been “other-ed” so that they are totalized or excluded. By including them in our narrative, we make them a part of our life in a positive manner.

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Ted Gossard,

posted March 31, 2006 at 8:38 am

Great food for thought and ongoing action- here. Difficult relationships are a part of life. I especially appreciate the idea of “extend(ing) our narrative horizons to include the other.”

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posted March 31, 2006 at 9:32 am

Hi Scot. I, too, was intrigued by LeRon’s work at the NPC and have been reading “Faces.” It has challenged me and encouraged me at a more personal level. I think I mentioned to you at the NPC (poolside) that my position at a church had been terminated…then I was asked to NOT be part of the community for some undetermined amount of time. I’ve recently blogged on what this book has taught me about those events (post on March 28th) and how I can respond to “the other.”

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Scot McKnight

posted March 31, 2006 at 9:39 am

My prayers are with you. Sorry about this.

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posted March 31, 2006 at 10:48 am

You stated in your blog’s March 28th post, “facing one another is crucial if any kind of forgiveness and wholeness is going to be pursued” I think you captured exactly what I wanted to say with alot less words – LOL! I will pray for you.

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Jim Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:44 pm

I really like this list of what contributes to estragement. These are good and very consise. I look forward to reading the other posts in this series.

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Hannah Im

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:56 pm

Scot, This is a very pertinant subject for me at this time, but I’m looking at it from a more collective, rather than individual perspective. I married a South Korean and moved to Korea two years ago, and I am amazed by the incredibly strong collective anger against the Japanese, even among young Koreans. Even among Christians. There is a recent controversy. The Korean man who wrote the national anthem 80 years ago also wrote some songs for the then-occupying Japanese government. This fact was recently discovered, and now there is a movement to change the national anthem–the current one is not “pure” because its author had contact with the “enemy” 80 years ago.
So, how does one nation collectively forgive another nation for past wrongs? South Korea is now 40% Christian, so the church could do a lot, but I don’t see that even Christians are ready or willing to forgive the Japanese. Following your list, I observe this:
Totalizing the other: Everything the Japanese did to us was bad.
Scapegoating: If it weren’t for the Japanese, Korea would be a lot farther ahead than it is now.
Exclusion: We must “purify” our country from everything Japanese because they are bad.
Self-surveillance: We feel guilty for allowing our country to be occupied, so we must “atone” for ourselves by not allowing “them” to get away with what they did.
Narcissistic families: We never hurt or oppressed another country, so we are blameless. “They” are at fault.
So, in your view, could the Korean church work towards forgiveness by (1) encouraging lament for the past, (2) working towards empathy for the Japanese and humility in one’s view of Korean history (3) understanding the narrative of Japanese/Korean history as being part of God’s salvation history, in which God brings ALL peoples to himself for redemption.
Is this what you are getting at?

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Scot McKnight

posted March 31, 2006 at 11:25 pm

You are touching here on an issue of enormous consequences and with deep, deep roots, but: Yes, exactly. It has happened in South Africa and other places, and it can happen in Korea. It is done by contacting key individuals and by raising consciousness.

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posted April 2, 2006 at 5:54 am

What does “we extend our narrative horizons to include the other” mean ? We bring the rejected person back into our lives ? “Narrative” is what the whole of our life looks like, right ? Or is “narrative” how we think about things ? Like, I would be willing to think differently about the rejected other, but that doesn’t mean they will be involved f2f in our lives ? And 30 yrs ago, I thought reading Schaeffer was hard !

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Scot McKnight

posted April 2, 2006 at 6:47 am

The point Sandage is making is that estrangement means writing a person out of our life and extending our narrative to include them means writing them back into our life.

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