Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Radical Nature of Forgiveness

This whole scandal with Don Imus and his comments about the Rutgers University Women's Basketball Team has captured my attention these last few days. I am not generally drawn in by the daily news, as it has become more like "Access Hollywood" than actual news. This story, however, grabbed my attention from the very beginning.

As a preface/disclaimer let me say that I in no way agree with Don Imus' comments on his radio show. I think that what he said was horrible, offensive, and racist. I do not think that he should just be "let off the hook" for what he said. Neither does he...he has said as much in his statements and in interviews since the incident.

The media frenzy surrounding the incident has been interesting all around. It seems the more Imus apologizes, the more flack he receives. In one attempt, he agreed to appear on Rev. Al Sharpton's show. Imus chose this appearance with the expectation that he might possibly be given the chance to publicly apologize and put this behind him. What he received was a verbal lashing and public lynching.

As I watched a segment of the interview, I found myself much more disgusted with Rev. Al Sharpton than with Don Imus.

Let me say again that I do not agree with what Imus said. It was off-color to say the least. However, from the beginning the man has been sincere and earnest in his apologies. All along I have thought that this is could be a real defining moment for people who call themselves Christians.

Then Rev. Al Sharpton spoke...and invited Imus on his show.

On the show, as I stated before, Sharpton made no room for Imus to offer any real apology. Any attempt on Imus' part to do so was met with more rage on the part of Rev. Sharpton. At one point in the interview segment, Sharpton is giving it to Imus The interchange goes something like this...

Sharpton: "You couldn't have expected for us to just dismiss what you said and just forget about it...?"

Imus: "Absolutely not. What I said was horrible. I am a good person who said a very bad thing."

[Sharpton's response was more verbal bashing and more on how despicable Imus is.]

Imus: "I can't get anywhere with you people...but I can get somewhere with Jesus."

I was arrested by those words by Don Imus. Long before the interview even started, I thought that this could be a defining moment for Sharpton and for Christians in general. People are not particularly surprised when Christians speak out against things that are happening. No one is at all alarmed at how outspoken Rev. Al Sharpton has been about the incident with Imus. Of course the Christian community would pronounce judgment...

There was a moment in the interview -- the one where Imus said "I can get somewhere with Jesus..." that Rev. Al Sharpton had the opportunity to show Imus the radical nature of forgiveness. He missed that so many Christians do.

Again, I am not saying that what Imus did was excusable. I've already said enough that I disagree with it 100%. But today I find myself more disgusted with Rev. Al Sharpton (key word: reverend) and his response than Don Imus and his momentary lapse in judgment.

Here stands a man ordained to preach the Good News of the Gospel and this is his response. What if instead he had reached out to Imus (as an African American minister) in love and forgiveness? What if instead of extending the hand of judgment, Sharpton had extended the hand of grace? That would be something to talk about in our world. That would be something that people who do not know Jesus would stand up and take notice of and respond to in this day and age. That would make a difference.

Too many people know exactly what we are against as Christians. It is time to stand up and tell the world what we are for: Grace. Forgiveness. Love.


Matt Purmort said...

Good thoughts Julie, made me think of what one of our profs said in chapel once, (Paraphrasing) "we talk about demanding justice, but too often what we really want is revenge."

Katie Swisher said...

I love this Julie. It's so easy to get caught up in wanting revenge that we often miss opportunities for forgiveness. Well written...