I remember visiting a church one day, and I struggled to connect. It wasn’t any of the usual things—the music, the speaker, or the style of the service. The issue was that I knew some information about how the church was using its money, and I didn’t think the church was handling its finances with integrity. Without a sense of justice, I couldn’t connect.
Pushing for Forgiveness
I think something similar can happen when White people try to push for racial reconciliation and forgiveness. Or, when our society tries to move on from issues of prejudice and discrimination related to other important identities such as gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We’re trying to move toward a more unified society, and we wonder why it’s so difficult sometimes.
The Need for Justice
I think the problem has something to do with justice. Justice happens when individuals from all groups are given fair treatment and opportunities, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or socioeconomic status.
Forgiveness AND Justice
Forgiveness and reconciliation are worthy goals. But I think these goals need to work in tandem with justice. If issues related to justice aren’t on the table, forgiveness and reconciliation feel empty. It feels like we’re trying to play nice and pretend everything is okay, without dealing with the underlying structural inequalities in our society.
Next time you find yourself or your community struggling with issues related to forgiveness and reconciliation, ask questions about justice. Are there inequalities happening right now, in this situation today? Don’t make assumptions about this—ask all parties involved to get their perspective. If injustices are happening, make it a priority to address them. Once justice is a priority (in both word and action), you might find that the process of forgiveness and reconciliation happens more naturally.