I didn’t go to church and pray last Sunday. It would have been hypocritical of me. Then again many people don’t tell G-d the truth. That is, we want one thing while dutifully praying for something we think is piously proper.
I am definitely the only Jewish guy who prays at Christian Stronghold Church in West Philadelphia. In fact, I am only one of two or three white folks out of the 4,000 mostly black congregants there. And I’ve been in attendance for over eight years. I go there for the mighty people… the mighty music… the mighty message…
In other words it makes me feel damn mighty. And I guess I never got the memo. You know, that the most segregated hour in America is the Sunday morning church hour.
But I didn’t go last Sunday because I am in no mood to turn the other cheek and forgive. At least not just at the moment. Oh, I am quite willing to forgive that twisted sicko who slaughtered those nine folks at a church prayer meeting in Charleston, S.C. That is, five minutes after I hang his skinny little butt. He well knew he committed a terrible sin. Isn’t that why a man runs? And hides?
Then again, perhaps I should have gone to pray. After all, the difference between humans and wild animals is that humans pray before they commit murder. And isn’t it so much easier to forgive an enemy… after you’ve gotten even with him?
But don’t misunderstand me. I realize that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.
And I guess I also appreciate that forgiveness and compassion are always linked. Otherwise, how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?
It’s never simple. Or easy.
I mean, sins cannot be undone, only forgiven. A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and always unacceptable.
Which brings me to a Jewish parable involving a feather pillow. If you’ve heard me tell it before, please don’t stop me. Because I need to hear it again. I value the moral. For, if there is something to pardon in everything, there is also something to condemn.
It seems that in this little Jewish Village in Eastern Europe there was a successful store owner named Benjamin. He was respected in his community. And his synagogue. Had wonderful wife and family.
Then there was Moishe. His store was not successful. And neither was he. He was jealous of Benjamin. So he did what small men do. He started spreading rumors about his competitor. And Benjamin, like most men could fight most anything – except whispers.
And the people of the village, being people, soon began to gossip. Eventually Benjamin was ruined. His family had to leave. And finally Benjamin fell ill. He was dying in a bed up in a drafty attic.
Then one day Moishe came to visit. And seek Benjamin’s forgiveness.
“Is there anything I can do?” pleaded Moishe.
In his weakened state Benjamin smiled sadly upon his old friend. He said, yes, there was. He directed Moishe to take his pillow. And empty all the feathers out the window.
Puzzled, Moishe did as his friend requested. He emptied the pillow. And the winter wind scattered the thousands of feathers to the corners of anywhere and everywhere.
At that Moishe turned to his former friend and begged: “Is there nothing else I can do?”
“Yes” replied a very weary Benjamin. “Now you can go and pick them all up.”
Anything is impossible… until it is done.
The sick, high school dropout — alleged Charleston gunman Dylann Roof (I’d rather forget his name than ever mention it again) — had written in his notebook that he was never the same after discovering a website of a white-nationalist, hate group.
The racist site is sponsored by The Council of Conservative Citizens Inc. And, for your information, as a nonprofit it is tax exempt and thereby subsidized by American taxpayers.
As a result of its influence Roof strolled into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week. An hour later he shot and killed nine of its black members while screaming bigoted inanities.
I have mentioned time and again that in some form or fashion we all harbor some xenophobia. But a racist is someone who hates ‘other people’ more than he is supposed to. In time – sometime in the far, far distant future — it will undoubtedly all be mollified, mitigated and even exterminated.
But in the meantime we have scattered too many feathers in the wind. And this includes the Confederate Flag – still flapping over the South Carolina State House. Finally in the wake of the carnage, its sale is being banned by national retailers for its divisiveness and racism – albeit 150 years after the un-civil war’s end.
What took so long?
We all did.
Admittedly I am not one for all this castrating political correctness running amok these days. But just as I and many others wouldn’t appreciate witnessing swastikas waving down Pennsylvania Avenue we should be, for the most part, cognizant and vigilant, at least about the impertinent, brazen and impudent.
Indeed, life seems to be an adventure in forgiveness. Perhaps that’s because Earth, as I have witnessed in my global adventures, is a penal colony for the unforgiven. We are here to serve out our life sentences. And the object of our penance seems to be to learn to forgive and forget… Bear with the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours.
However, the trouble, as always, appears that the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. And the brave.
Sad but true. I learned a long time ago that some people would rather die than forgive. It’s a strange truth, but forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s an evolution of the heart. Unfortunately the ‘stoopeed’ neither forgive or forget; the naïve forgive and forget; only the wise forgive, but do not forget.
As I mentioned at the outset I didn’t attend church last Sunday – not only because I wasn’t ready to forgive but because I don’t feel that many folks understand the direct and indirect consequences of their blind ‘stoopeedities.’ And therefore they truly can’t appreciate forgiveness.
I guess I really should pray on this. None of us should be too proud to get down on our knees and genuflect… even if most people don’t pray; we beg. And even if most people know little of the things for which we pray. For instance I, for one, rarely pray for justice.
No doubt because I am afraid I might get some.
I think what I should be praying for in the midst of America’s latest insanity as well as the world’s madness, is that the human race never escapes from its penal colony on Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…