04 April 2009

screening: As We Forgive

This Laura Waters Hinson film was screened this past week by the Div School (Center for Reconciliation & Anglican/Episcopal House of Studies) and All Saints AMiA Church. Ironically, this coming week, Holy Week, marks the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

Strewn throughout this scant 1 hour film were several poignant quotes, here are a few:

Voltaire: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
Tolstoy: "Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace."
Tutu: "You can't undo anything you've already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And then let God do the rest."
R. Niebuhr: "Forgiveness is the final form of love."

Perhaps the strongest part of this film was its concreteness. There are far more comprehensive and much more effective and affective representations of this and other genocidal aftermaths. This one was actually able to show the process, with all its discomfort, of someone knocking on the door of a neighbor whose family they brutally murdered, to say sorry.

Some of the crucial take-aways of this for me, things that I hope God will continue to illuminate and refine in me, are:
-How the disconnect in our Western society disallows for this messy and clumsy process. I wrong someone or someone wrongs me, and I or they may chose never to deal with it again. In these Rwandan villages, it comes as a difficult thing to avoid dealing with this pain and forgiveness process. What a pity for us.
-The churches' compliance in this matter. History has shown time and time again (apartheid, Holocaust, racism/slavery, exploitation), how Christ's own body has compromised itself. It is interesting and convicting which tact the local Rwandan churches have taken in owning or denying their offenses.
-The pathos needed to take part in the forgiveness process. How often am I unable to feel, understand, and empathize with the daily minor hurts I cause my wife, family, and those around me. As a disciple of Christ, who took on flesh and emptied himself into the form of a servant (Phil 2), I must become a student of empathy.
-The goal of reconciliation by government. Inspiring and disturbing. Inspiring that places like South Africa and Rwanda had pioneered this process, through government channels to achieve healing, unity, and truthfulness. Disturbing that so-called advanced nations like our own are unable and virtually unwilling to recognize the merit in such an approach to handle our collective sins.

Finally, in the panel discussion in Chapel Hill on Friday night... Rector Steve Breedlove mentioned an episode from his last visit to Rwanda. He eloquently showed the universality of the human condition and our capacity for evil. He described riding in a bus, reading Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which tells of America's narrow dodging of genocide in the new west, next to a German national living in the shadows and repercussions of the Holocaust in her land, while trucking through a land with blood still in the soil and pain still on the residents' faces. The ability to kill God's creatures doesn't belong solely to one group, place, or time.

It is during Lent and Holy week that I can shamefully, and repentantly admit that:
"...in my best behavior/
I am really just like him/
Look beneath the floorboards/
For the secrets I have hid." -Sufjan Stevens John Wayne Gacy, Jr

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