I have been prompted to analyse the concept of forgiveness by watching The Crown no less. In Episode 7 I think it is the Queen is struggling to forgive the Duke of Windsor who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson when it is revealed the couple were close friends, and indeed, allies of Hitler’s. The young Elizabeth can’t forgive her uncle this act of treason and asks the evangelist Reverend Billy Graham, who happens to be in town, whether or not forgiveness is a must for any good Christian.
His response was, predictably, that if Jesus advised it then Christians must follow…without question.
To support his claim he cites the words of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” But I would posit that this is not quite the same thing as forgiving his murderers himself. He is asking God to overlook their state-fuelled ignorance and cruelty and here I am making a leap, allow their souls to develop unimpeded by punishment.
Let’s just stay with that statement a moment longer. The dying Jesus was asking God, we presume, not to punish the people who nailed him to the cross and I assume all of those involved in his murder. This statement alone backs up something I have always believed, something every Christian would argue with me about, that Christ’s murder was not part of some over-arching plan sanctioned by God. If it was, Christ would not be asking God to forgive the perpetrators because they “know not what they do”. The perpetrators would have been part of the plan, pawns in the greater game. Clearly, Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell foul of some small-minded censors who couldn’t handle his originality and vision. His pleading with his Father to forgive his murderers indicates that God did not orchestrate the crucifixion in any way. It was a tragedy that showed God where humanity was up to in the spiritual trajectory – not far.
But back to forgiveness. Who are we to forgive? Doesn’t the very notion of forgiveness imply perfection? Have we never stumbled, erred or hurt anyone? Which of us is perfect enough to forgive? No matter which way you spin it forgiveness is arrogant. It’s a variation on judgement and God knows we’ve all been warned about judgement. I think forgiveness is a crock. It’s separatist, patronising and narcissistic. To forgive someone is to set yourself apart and offer blessing and who are we to do that?
I believe only God has the authority, the vision and the wisdom to forgive, or overlook sin. For those of you who read my blog regularly you will know I do not believe God is one old white man with a beard. I believe God is the life-force of a multiplicity of beings whose souls resonate on the level of joy and harmony. I believe God is the Collective energy of these combined souls and it is a powerful force indeed, one that can’t be argued with or redirected other than by consensus. So for Jesus to implore the collective force of benevolent powerful beings to please “forgive” a bunch of ignorant crooks/murderers he must have developed a significant “soft spot” for humanity. I do not believe we were created in God’s image, wholly conscious and ready to take on the world. I believe we evolved over millennia and have gradually grown in awareness and spirituality into creatures worthy of God’s attention, and as I’ve just posited, the attention of a joyful, highly-evolved collective of beings. I also believe that by the time Jesus decided to be born among us we had grown sufficiently to warrant further inspection and possible inclusion in the collective depending on how their man-on-the-ground experienced us.
When Jesus walked the earth he met a number of highly-receptive people ready to take that leap of faith and try wings. He also met a bunch of troglodytes who hated him and wanted to keep the power firmly clenched in their miserly fists. In short he met the usual mix of humanity we are familiar with today. But he was taken down by the trogs and rather than have the Collective abandon humanity altogether he asked that these misdemeanours be overlooked in favour of the few worthwhile souls whose minds were open to new information. I think.
So back to forgiveness. If we consider ourselves sufficiently evolved to “forgive” the misdemeanours of others what are we actually offering? If it’s an unimpeded trajectory towards enlightenment in terms of being able to work harmoniously with a group of incredibly evolved and well-intentioned entities that make up the Godhead then fine, very generous, but also exceptionally arrogant because I can almost guarantee you are no more advanced than your perpetrators and not in a position to be offering anything beyond your willingness to not keep harping on about what “they did to you.” Even if the sin is murder or rape forgiveness for these acts of violence belong in a different realm. The ones with the overview are in a far better position to decide how much more time a violent ignorant human being needs before they ‘get it” and start treating others with respect and gratitude and love. How we deal with our own pain and loss is up to us and it’s nobody else’s business.
Rather than Bible-shaming people and judging them as un-Christian a better stance may be to accept that we are all, without exception, human beings struggling to make sense of it all and doing our best to “get a life” that satisfies and fulfils and moves us closer to the light of reason and love.