Redemption

Lamonte - June 26, 2009

In this morning’s Washington Post Sally Quinn contributes an essay that is critical of politicians who have admitted their adulterous actions and then, in one way or another, invoked their Christian beliefs as a means of gaining sympathy and forgiveness.

 http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/sally_quinn/2009/06/mockery.html?hpid=talkbox1

 

She points out that Governor Sanford of South Carolina specifically apologized to “people of faith” and then seems to totally ignore all the other folks who he might have offended by his actions.  She illustrates the hypocrisy of Senator John Ensign who was quick to call for the resignation of Idaho’s Senator Larry Craig after his airport incident but then refuses to resign himself after admitting to an adulterous affair.  And in her attempt to be fair she lists two infamous adulterers from the other side of the aisle (John Edwards and Bill Clinton) and suggests they are all giving Christians a bad name.

Over at BCC, Margaret Young posted a story about a young couple who intended to be married in the temple until their youthful hormones overpowered everything else and they found themselves expecting a baby – before the temple wedding.  The parents of the groom totally mishandled the situation and eventually the groom, his wife and six children left the faith because there seemed to be an unforgiving attitude on the part of the parents for years thereafter.  One of those posting a comment recalled a story of a father (who was then, and still is now, a bishop) who refused to attend his daughter’s wedding because she got married in the wrong temple (DC instead of Atlanta) but he apparently had no problem paying for and attending the reception.  Apparently his absence from the wedding was a sort of punishment to the daughter for a lifetime of “being difficult.”

 

And so I wonder, do we really believe – or better said – do we practice our belief in the atonement.  On the one hand, I have always thought that the sin of adultery is not just a garden variety sin that can be just another sin covered by the atonement.  It takes some serious (doesn’t every sin take serious) repentance.  On the other hand, my limited knowledge of the rest of Christendom – at least Protestant Christianity – tells me that, in fact, even adultery is something that is almost casually accepted as being part of the human race with all our weaknesses and imperfections and is totally covered by the Savior’s atonement and if I have committed myself to Christ he will forgive me immediately.  I may be wrong about that.  I hope I am and I’m sure someone will set me straight if I am.  But a work associate of mine, who calls herself an evangelical Christian, scoffs at the idea that young adults can remain sexually pure before marriage.  I certainly don’t pretend that it is an easy goal to achieve but to essentially write it off the list of possibilities but then claim you accept the gospel of Jesus Christ seems hypocritical to me, or at least inconsistent.

 

So if we as Mormons believe in Christ, or to paraphrase the book title from the recent past , if we “believe Christ”, why would it be so hard for a parent or other family member to forgive a child for making a mistake – no matter what it was?  Are we grateful for the atonement when it applies to our own sins but aren’t so sure about it when it comes to the sins of others?  On the other hand should we be quick to forgive politicians, or other celebrities, whose lives and sins are much more public than our own?   Why should there penance be greater than anyone else’s?

 

Are we too quick to forgive or are we too late in offering forgiveness?  What is the right balance?

26 Comments »

  1. I think many Mormons recognize that we don’t need to repent of individual sins as much as the state of heart/mind of sinning. It is an orientation rather than the acts you do along the way. I see some other Christians basically ignoring that distinction and ignoring the change of heart that must accompany sanctification.

    I think we are too quick to focus on tactics in sinning when we should focus on strategy to maintaining a pure heart.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 26, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  2. We are definitely too late in offering forgiveness. I don’t believe it is possible to forgive quickly enough. However, it would be a mistake to state that forgiving someone relieves them of experiencing the natural consequences of their actions.

    That is why a person can be excommunicated from the church and still allowed to come to church meetings, in my opinion. While the members of the church have forgiven the sinner (regardless of his asking for or deserving it), the sinner’s actions (first the sin, but more importantly the unwillingness to repent) necessitate the consequence of excommunication.

    Mercy cannot rob justice.

    Comment by Tristin — June 26, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  3. Where is the thumb button?! Thumbs to both comments.

    I remember Pres. Hinckley getting drilled about this by Larry King over Slick Willy’s escapades and he said “I forgive him for anything wrong he’s done against me.” He saw, as Tristin pointed out, that the president had some work to do, but that wouldn’t effect the way he spoke of or acted towards him. I think our job as fellow sinners is to facilitate repentance, not condemnation. Leave that up to God. Now, what that all entails? That’s the hard part!

    Comment by Bret — June 26, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  4. We as a people need to listen closely to the scriptures and to our leaders that caution against pride and judging others.

    I was pregnant before I was married (to a non-member), and I’m pleased to report that people didn’t treat me poorly at all. I think my experience, though, was unusual.

    I comment about the importance of checking our pride and choosing to increase our charity toward others (and decrease our judgment) as often as I can in church settings.

    Comment by Jana — June 26, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  5. I second Bret’s call to “facilitate repentance.”

    If you have a friend who made mistakes, set a goal with them to go to the temple together some reasonable repentance time down the road. You don’t need to focus on the problem (your friend likely does plenty of stewing over that); put your eyes, and their eyes, on the solution and the serenity that naturally follows.

    Comment by Thaddeus — June 26, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  6. A lot of issues raised here. Forgiveness is so easy to discuss in the abstract and so elusive to actually achieve in reality. We say that we are commanded to forgive “seventy times seven” times or the greater sin is upon us. If we really believed that then I think many of us would behave far differently.

    The consequences of sin happen to people without any help from any person. We should not feel that it is our place to hold people accountable, especially family members. We should rather feel sorrow for the sin and seek to help them. And we should mostly recall that all of us sin and have need of repentace and forgiveness.

    Comment by MCQ — June 26, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  7. It is interesting that you lump politicians and celebrities together – I don’t. Those that claim to rule me (politicians) or claim to interpret God’s rules for me (religious leaders) I hold to the fire – even for minor transgressions, because they hold themselves up as lawgivers, how dare they break the law. I place celebrities with the ‘common folk’, as long as they are not hurting others, I don’t care.

    Comment by ed42 — June 26, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  8. ed42 – I call celebrities anybody who is celebrated in public – politicians, actors, professional athletes, etc. And while they might not be common folk they are human beings and possess all the imperfections that other humans possess.

    Comment by Lamonte — June 26, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  9. As a former staffer of a politician caught in a horrendous scandal, I can personally attest to the fact that many, many people of ALL faiths love a good public flogging.

    Now in theory elected officials should be held to a higher standard of behavior. But the level of vitriol spewed at those who screw up their own personal lives is absolutely appalling, and I wonder how many people would be so bold as to say such awful things to that person’s face if given the opportunity. (Trust me, I was on the front lines and it was stunning to hear and read some of the comments that came in.)

    I think MCQ put it pretty well. And I would add that a person who takes it upon themselves to “punish” or “hold accountable” another person who royally messes up is on very, very dangerous ground. (Hi, Sen. Ensign!) Facilitating repentance is the most important thing one can do for another who has sinned. But an attitude that involves a verbal/emotional beat down of the sinner often crushes not only that person’s spirit, but the spirits of those close to him or her. Such behavior is the very opposite of Christ-like ministry, and (as noted above) may damage the very relationships that would otherwise nurture repentance and growth.

    Comment by Whitney — June 26, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

  10. adultery is a big deal for Christians. contrary to popular Mormon notions, we don’t believe that we can do what we want and then just ask Christ to forgive us.

    Comment by Tim — June 29, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  11. Tim – Thanks for the clarification. I hold you don’t think the opinion I stated is “popular Mormon belief”. I assure you I have many ideas not popular at all with most Mormons. You can hang that notion (that other Christians are casual about adultary) entirely on me.

    Comment by Lamonte — June 29, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  12. Oops! I meant to say “I hope you don’t…”

    Comment by Lamonte — June 29, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  13. Ok, Tim, but there seems to be an attitude out there on the part of some creedal Christians that behavior is far less important than it is for Mormons or others that are more likely to emphasize the works side of the equation. Bumpersticker slogans like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” and the serial scandals of some high-profile evangelical leaders have resulted in a perception that misbehavior is, in some sense, expected, and forgiveness is simply automatic, provided you have “prayed the sinners prayer.”

    If that perception is wrong, then I think it’s not just Mormons who are in error, and creedal Christians have some work to do to correct that image.

    Comment by MCQ — June 29, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  14. I’m a bit surprised that the groom’s father held anything against the groom (or the bride) at all. The couple’s premarital sex was not a sin against the parents.

    And the bishop too. The wedding and the reception is traditionally the purview of the bride. She can get hitched in any temple she wants to.

    If I can ever be so blessed as to get a temple recomend, and then miraculously find a compatible woman who’s willing to marry a schlub like me in a temple, I’d fly us to the Hong Kong temple if that’s what she wants. And I’d defend her decisions about the wedding and reception to anyone who challenged them.

    But also, maybe that daughter is reading something into her bishop-dad’s decision not to attend (maybe it was more a logistical reason on his part). Maybe the groom’s family was in the DC temple district. Maybe she just liked the DC temple better. Hey, it’s HER day! “Dad, just sign the check, thank-you-very-much, luv ya.”

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 30, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

  15. Bookslinger, there is no legitimate reason whatsoever for a Dad not to attend his daughter’s wedding when he has the opportunity to do so. None.

    Comment by MCQ — June 30, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

  16. This guy from s. Carolina is now saying the woman in south America is his soul mate, but he’s trying to fall back in love with his wife. I hope she’s not dumb enough to take him back. I feel for him if he really did meet his soul mate, but he’s a moron for all the talking he’s doing about it. He should just go live with her already.

    Comment by annegb — July 1, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  17. I agree 100% anne. If you want any kind of relationship with your wife, you don’t get there by saying publicly that your soul mate is someone else, but you’re trying really hard to fall in love with your wife, like she’s some kind of school project.

    Comment by MCQ — July 1, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  18. Maybe different people need their own personalized mixture of forgiveness and reprimand.

    Maybe the people calling for forgiveness in all contexts are just as screwed up as those calling for judgment.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 2, 2009 @ 1:32 am

  19. I was thinking about that the other day, Seth. All of us certainly need a swift kick once in a while, and maybe those who don’t forgive right away are put in our lives at particular times to help us to earn the forgiveness we want. Maybe we need someone to be tough on us so that we actually follow through on our repentance. In that sense, it could be a good thing that not everyone is able or willing to forgive right away.

    Comment by MCQ — July 2, 2009 @ 1:46 am

  20. Forgiveness definitely takes time. My brother is has scizophrenia and while in psychosis he did some abusive things to his wife (he was off his meds and was hearing voices and thinking they were God and the Spirit). When it all came out his wife’s family (we happened to be in the same ward) condemned my brother, said he was evil and have done everything possible to keep him in prison without parole, and have done a lot of other things not very Christ-like. It goes both ways, they haven’t forgiven my brother at all and in turn it’s been hard to forgive them for their actions against my brother, but I’m trying! There is a point where one needs to move on…and I don’t think my brother’s ex-in-laws have.

    Comment by Kaylana — July 2, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  21. Kaylana – I have a much more petty story to tell. In June of 1993 I was laid off from my position in a large architectural firm. At the time, I had been telling myself that I needed to leave. I wasn’t enjoying the work and I didn’t like very many of my co-workers. I was in my late 30′s and they were all 10 years or so younger than me (well not all of them). Anyway, I survived 3 or 4 other layoffs but just after I concluded what I thought was over and way above my normal duties in completing a project and getting it our the door (when everyone else had to spend Memorial Day at the beach) I was let go. It would be 9 months before I found other full time work but I managed to survive by doing odd jobs from my basement studio. Looking back it is possibly the best thing that could have happened to me. My career took a turn in a new direction and I have thrived in that new environment.

    But despite all of that it took more than 14 years before I was willing to forgive the managing partner that laid me off. About a year after I left he was demoted and I felt so bad (sarcastially) for feeling so good about that. Whenever the subject came up, I would work myself into a lather expressing my disdain for him. But one day I realized that the only person I was hurting with my anger was me. The other guy probably didn’t even know I was mad at him because on the few occasions that we spoke after I was laid off I treated him with respect. I can tell myself today that they made a mistake and that it was their loss. maybe that attitude is what helped me get over it but not until I accepted that it was over, there wasn’t anything I could do to change what happened and my life was better for it happening could I say that I had forgiven. And finally there is some peace.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 2, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  22. I noticed that you appear to be an accomplished blogger particularly on LDS subjects. I would like to offer you an opportunity to make some money through your sites by running a promotion of BYUTV.

    Outside the state of Utah – it’s relatively easy to get BYUTV – order DISH Network. That’s where’s I can come in and help you. I work for one of the largest retailers of DISH Network in the country and I’m always looking for new and unique ways to sell DISH. What we could do is run some simple campaigns, offering your visitors and readers a great deal on DISH and BYUTV. For every order we receive we will pay you $100.

    That’s it – that’s all you have to do and you will start monetizing your site.

    I look forward to speaking to you – and hope this is an opportunity you would like to take advantage of.

    Thanks,
    Bret

    Comment by Bret Fitgzerald — July 6, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  23. Maybe different people need their own personalized mixture of forgiveness and reprimand.

    Maybe the people calling for forgiveness in all contexts are just as screwed up as those calling for judgment.

    I’ve been thinking about this. I believe we are required to forgive all men, but the offender still needs to reconcile himself to the Lord. Members of the Church generally understand this, so a reprimand from me is often unnecessary and more insulting or embarrassing than helpful. He knows how to pray and how to set up an appointment with the Bishop.

    But outside the Church, especially among celebrities, fan-forgiveness is usually the end of the matter. In my view, some of them need a reproving betimes with sharpness just to wake them up and get repentance moving. How do we (the public) decry their behavior and get them to take responsibility before God without holding a personal grudge? Or is it any of our business?

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 6, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  24. Rusty – don’t you think it would be a good idea to keep “advertising” – look at #22 – off the response page? Just sayin’

    Comment by Lamonte — July 8, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  25. I really don’t care too much if a politician commits adultery.

    It’s when he’s been pompously chest thumping about sexual morality (as a lot of Republicans seem prone to – due to the preferences of their voting base), and then gets caught with his fly open…

    Well yeah… that basically makes him a lying hypocrite and he damn well ought to be run out of office for being a pompous blowhard.

    He can repent on his own time, and his own dime.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 12, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  26. Seth…

    Yeah, I agree that people have every right to be angry, but 99% of them don’t understand the ramifications of “running someone out of office.”

    I think there’s a fundamental difference between a politician who’s screwing around on his wife and a politician who’s doing so while shirking his duties as an elected official. I condemn both of their actions, but I certainly don’t expect politicians to act as beacons of morality, and I don’t think they should be legislating morality, so forcing a resignation in the former scenario is, IMO, unnecessary.

    Not to mention the fact that when someone leaves office, and indeed, when the public rage is focused directly on them, the staff pays the ultimate price. Those of us that chose to work in politics definitely assume some amount of risk, but very few of us ever expected to be put in such a horrible situation. Staff members lose their jobs when their member leaves office, and the sensationalism surrounding a scandal always obscures the very scary change in circumstances facing the staff. For those of us who were dedicated to our jobs prior to a scandal, there’s the added bonus of having to reconcile those events on an emotional level while carrying a virtual scarlet letter on our resumes for the rest of our professional lives. And trust me, it sucks.

    So when I mentioned earlier that the “public flogging” often directed at philandering politicians is nothing short of shocking and distasteful, I want to emphasize that the common urge to try to beat repentance into a person is often accompanied by very real destruction for those unwittingly caught in the cross-fire. People can be angry all they want, but they need to understand just how many other people that anger affects.

    Comment by Whitney — July 20, 2009 @ 11:42 am

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