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Saturday, March 11, 2006

# Posted 9:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

A BRAVE, PROVOKING ACT: The Rev Julie Nicholson, a Bristol cleric whose daughter Jennifer was killed in the 7 July bombings, has resigned her vicariate, saying she is unable to forgive her daughter's killers.

It's an act that hangs in one's mind, raising rafts of questions, depositing after it an image of challenge and contradiction whose first resonances are cruciform. Does Christian forgiveness require a counterposed gesture of penitence? Do the words mean so much that a mother who can not, as yet, forgive her daughter's murderers, must therefore cease to preach them?

The former vicar of St Aidan's, by leaving her priestly duties, to my mind accomplished a strong quiet evangelism, by challenging our day's glib, therapeutic notions of forgiveness as a sort of closure. Thank you, Rev Nicholson, for teaching us that one's word is one's bond, that these words matter. See Telegraph, Times for those newspapers' responses to an act which lingers in one's thoughts.
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Comments:
The Rev.'s action strikes me as brave and, more importantly, extremely honest. Christian forgiveness is not conditional on the repentance of the person who has wronged you - Christ on the cross forgave even as he was mocked (I am, I should add, not an active Christian), on the basis that his tormentors did not know what they did. Forgiveness must therefore be predicated on the notion that all sin is the result of moral or intellectual incomprehension. In other words, from a Christian perspective, had the July 7 bombers been equipped with the appropriate knowledge or understanding of the ramifications of their actions, they would never have chosen to act as they did.

In some sense, of course, this could be lampooned as 'if only they were good Christians, they would have acted properly', and I am sure that accusations of colonialism would follow soon. This would, however, be an injustice, because the Rev. (I hope) would not assume that Moslems are incapable of salvation without conversion. Indeed, salvation regardless of confession should (perhaps even must) be the natural concomitant of Christian forgiveness.

From the Rev.'s perspective, she found herself unable to turn the other cheek, and took the only action which was both morally and intellectually consistent with that inability. Kudos to her.
 
I'm just curious, in the mainstream of Christian theology, is Jesus held to has forgiven his crucifiers, or rather only to have prayed his father to do? (q.v. 'Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do')
 
Without wishing to get into the centuries-old controversies about the nature of Christ and his relationship to God (e.g. Pelagianism, Arianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism to name but a tongue-curling few), I would assume that Christ's forgiveness must be automatic. Otherwise, his entire message would be deeply hypocritical, in that he was telling others to do something of which he was incapable or unwilling at a moment we could justly consider the new covenant's most critical test. Thus his request that God should forgive them is not evidence of his own refusal to do so, but a manifestation of an intention to intercede with God on behalf of mankind, even during a period of the most intense personal anguish and physical suffering, even when mankind shows itself particularly unworthy of that intercession; cf. Luke 23.34. Stephen says the same thing of those who stone him (Acts 7.60).

Any theologians out there to shed some light on this?
 
I found myself stumbling on two books just now, both by Jeffrie Murphy and both treatments of forgiveness from a perspective in the tradition of analytic philosophy. The first is Murphy's Forgiveness and Mercy, Cambridge (1990), coauthored with Jean Hampton, and the second his Getting Even, Oxford (2004). (The latter is reviewed online here.)

Murphy begins arguing vindictive emotions (anger, resentment, and the desire for revenge) actually deserve a more legitimate location in our emotional, social and legal lives than we currently recognise, serving in a morally valuable role in our laws, personal relations and psyches. There can be recourse here to the Nicomachean Ethics: there is a certain sort of anger that, if our passions and desires are correctly ordered, we ought to have towards violations of the good. When someone unjustly attacks our person or society, we ought not like it; indeed, not to have vindictive emotions in those circumstances would show an inadequate love of the good.

For Murphy, particularly as he personally adopts Anglicanism and in his OUP essay revisits his earlier conclusions arrived at from within a 'decent-secular' moral system, Christianity changes almost all calculations about forgiveness. Teachings of the providential ordering of the moral universe, and the presence of some solution to the problem of theodicy, point to a divine bringing of good out of evil, crucially removing much of the earlier apparatus of justification for vindictiveness and punishment. This justification for vindictiveness is premised on the assumption the struggle against evil depends upon us, it then being morally imperative we not let down our guard. 'If I think that I alone can and must make things right, then I risk taking on a kind of self-importance that makes forgiveness of others difficult if not impossible.' In this, then, for Murphy the Christian and the decent-secular conclusions for the problem of forgiveness are opposite.
 
I think(!) that her personal loss forced her to confront the almost unconscious hypocrisy of today's "mainline" Christian churches, which allow them to mouth platitudes while reaping the benefits of what Orwell described so well: "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those that would do us harm."

I congratulate her.
 
THE BIBLE ALSO SAID THOU SHALT NOT KILL AND ALSO IF YOU TAKE ANOTHERS LIFE SO SHALL YOU FORFEIT YOUR OWN. I BELEIVE VERY STRONGLY IN BOTH THESE BIBLE QUOTES AND IRRESPECTIVE OF THE PERSONS COLOUR OR RELIGION NO EXCEPTIONS. THE REV JULIE IS A VERY BRAVE AND HOEST WOMAN BUT WHERE SHEAND IDIFFER IS THAT HAD IT BEEN MY DAUGHTER OR ANOTHER MEMBER OF MY FAMILYI WOULD GO TOGREAT LENGTHS TO GET THEM EVEN IF I HAD TO WAIT YEARS FOR THEM TO COME OUT OF PRISON WHERE I WOULD AS SURE AS JESUS EXISTED GO AFTER THEM AND TAKE FROM THEM THEIR LIVES WITHOUT ANY GUILT WHATSOEVER FOR DOING TO THEM WHAT THEY HAD DONE UNTO ME. I WOULD QUITE HAPPILY GO TO JAIL AND DO MY TIME WITH THE SATISFACTION OF KNOWING THAT I HAD SNUFFED OUT THE BASTARDS THAT HAD TAKEN MY CHILD OR FAMILY MEMBER AND SATISFACTION IN KNOWING THIR FAMILY AND ORGANISATION OF TERRORISM KNEW WHY I DID IT AND IT WOULD SEND A VERY POTENT MESSAGHE TOTHEM KILL MY FAMILY AND YOURS WILL SUFFER THE SAME FATE EVEN IF ITS THE LAST THING I DO AND I WOULD MAKE SURE THAT IT WAS A SLOW PAINFUL DEATH. I AGAIN QUOTE THE BIBLE IF YOU LIVE BY THE SWORD SO SHALL YE DIE BY THE SWORD. THESE FRANKLY ARSEHOLES WHO SAY THEY ARE FIGHTING A CAUSE USE EVERY EXCUSE TO KILL BUT IF THEY EVN TRY MY FAMILY I CAN ASSURE THEM I WILL GIVE THEM A DEATH OF THE THOUSAND KNIVES ONLY WORSE SO TO THESE EXCUSES FOR HUMANITY TRY MY FAMILY AND YOU WIL DIE FOR CERTAIN AS IWILL GET YOU REST ASSURED OF THAT. I ALSO SAY TO THOSE WHO CAME TO BRITAIN TAKING ALL IT HASS TO OFFER AND REPAYING US IN THIS WAY HANGING WAS ABOLISHED IN 1965 BUT YOU CAN STILL HANG FOR TREASON AGAINST THE QUEEN AND KILING HER SUBJECTS IS TREASON SO NEXT TIME YOU TRY IT HAVE A NICE DAY AS WHEN YOUR CAUGHT YOU WONT HAVE A NICE DAY AS I WILL SEE THAT YOU DONT BUT WITHIN THE LAW. TO THE REV JULIE I SAY START PREACHING AS THE BIBLE SAYS IF YOU TAKE ANOTHERS LIFE YOU FORFEIRT YOUR OWN I ALSO SAY HOW MOVING YOUR APPEARENCE ON THE TELLY DOCUMENTARY WAS I WAS REALLY TOUCHED AND FELT SO FULL OF HATE AND VILIFICATION TO THOSE WHO DID THIS AND TOOK A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL FROM YOU.
 
Forgiveness is not for us who walk this land. Forgiveness will be with God alone. There is Heaven there is Hell and I have proof through my spiritual photography. The Rev Julie Nicholoson has my blessing and her daughter is with God in a beautiful place. For those who question the afterlife let it be known that those who take the life of another will not receive forgiveness from God they will pay for their sins and therefore should fear death. God will be their final judgement if they choose to murder human or animal alike.
 
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