So…this. For those who just don’t feel like reading a blog entry to make sense of another blog entry, here is the lowdown; a Troth Steward posted his thoughts above forgiveness, on the Troth’s official blog.. Let me tell you, I found the entire article pretty depressing in how badly it missed the mark. Let’s take a look at what I consider the “business” paragraph of the article.
“Heathens do not forgive, for to ask you to forgive me for what I have done to you cheapens the victories you have fought long and hard to win in rebuilding what my actions have destroyed. In asking for your forgiveness, I am now taking from you your right to rage, your right to the fires of anger to balance the loss, pain, fear, or despair that accompanied whatever effect the wrong I committed cost you. Further; the implication is that if you refuse to grant this to me, or continue to resent me, the person who wronged you is now morally superior as you can’t forgive them.”
-John T. Mainer, Troth Steward (July 27th, 2013)
Earlier on, he states that “Forgiveness isn’t Heathen.” and that we “don’t do sin, karma, or forgiveness.” Honestly, the man really has denigrated his point, as two of those words were definitely concepts within any iteration of a Heathen worldview. He’s very accurate in regards to karma, but the word sin actually has it’s roots in the German, Old Norse, Middle English, and Old English languages…so it’s definitely a concept that old world Heathenry had a handle on. I’ll throw Mr. Mainer this one, however, as that’s a pretty semantic argument; the Norse view of sin would likely not be the same as the Christian view of sin, and I’m not going to pretend it’s otherwise. My issue is that, for an article that takes itself very seriously as it tries to speak upon an important issue, it’s an obvious flaw.
“Heathens do not forgive” doesn’t make sense. He is, broadly correct when he says that forgiveness isn’t a Heathen concept. It’s also not a Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wiccan, or a Pastarfarian concept. It’s a universal concept, taking shape as a mechanism within any number of cultures and societies. Our faith possesses no automatic mandate to oppose forgiveness as an idea, just because Jesus Christ had an awfully lot to say about the subject.
On that subject, Mr. Mainer doesn’t bring up the Abrahamic religion that most people associate with forgiveness in his piece and that is to his credit. Instead of turning it into a smear piece aimed at the Christian faith, he discusses the path that he feels Heathens should take. While I have a lot of issues with Mr. Mainer’s article, he does a damn good job of taking the high road in his writing. Heathenism was not crafted to be bizarro Christianity; it was crafted to be Heathenry, and nothing else. Every time we define it by what we feel it is not or construct an argument that accepts the Christian worldview as an automatic conceit , we’re talking about another faith more that we speak upon our own. That does not send a very good message about our own faith. As much as I dislike his stance, Mainer’s discourse get a couple of major things right.
I get to disagree with him about the Heathen faith, instead of where our faith differs from Christianity. At the end of the day, I think we all feel better when this is the shape our discourse takes. Or, to put it another way, if I’m praying to Thor I’m not doing to so to spite Jesus. With some Heathens, I’m not so sure if they understand that.
He also does a good job at writing some stirring, positive ways of expressing his point towards the second half of the article. I can’t pretend that only the second half exists, however, and I think it sets a very troubling precedent.
To that end, if we are our deeds (something Mr. Mainer speaks upon near the beginning of his article) than we need not worry about anyone’s presumption in regards to moral high ground. If person X did not give you reason to accept an apology, then there is no moral imperative to concern yourself with. I have every right to make an assessment of how you conduct yourself in such situation, however. If you refuse someone’s apology for a transgression that had little to no effect upon your long term well being? I can view that as petty, should I so wish. Likewise, I may think that someone let another off to easily by accepting an apology too earlier. If ‘we are our deeds” is the cornerstone of our self conduct? Than the matter is extremely simple.
Yes, moral superiority is a malignant tumor that does exist within some denominations of some religions but presenting it as an anathema to Heathen thought makes no sense. Forgiveness is not a Christian invention that Jesus had gained the patent for. It’s more defined by one’s culture, with religion often weighing in on certain aspects of it within that culture. On that note, our religion doesn’t really speak much about it, so forgiveness is each person’s to define. Much like the separation of church and state (Matthew 22:21, punks), slavery, and heroic figures returning from death, forgiveness is a concept that Christianity has talked about, but does not own.
Mr. Mainer’s sentiments do not reflect anything I’ve seen within the Heathen lore or worldview. If one feels a psychological compunction to forgive someone, based on a fear that you will be ethically subjugated if you do not do so, that’s your baggage. It has nothing to do with how any of us need to practice or act upon our faith. If I don’t accept an apology, it’s because either I don’t think the person is sorry or because I’m not ready for that. I have no need to feel guilt for it, so I don’t; if I have been wronged, I get to determine the way I heal and I’m not going to self-flagellate because it makes my transgressor feel super sad about things. If I’m angry, I allow myself to be angry until I decide I do not want to be angry any more. Anyone who feels it acceptable to guilt trip me in the interim displays their own ethical weakness.
Forgiveness is not a right in Heathenry; it is something earned via owning up to your failings and offering recompense for them. Sometimes that recompense is material, but more often the most meaningful sacrifices are the ones we make from our pride and arrogance. We can accept the responsibility or our wrong doing, fix it as best as we are able, and do all of it with the firm awareness that there is no demand our apology be accepted. Our quest for forgiveness carried more weight than, as does the acceptance of the apology.
How forgiveness works is for each of us to define. Each of us has our own mandate to decide what it means, and how it should be gained. There is no authority that is legion here but our own. I do not think we should throw away forgiveness, when it affords us ways to define ourselves and the way we view the world.
Edit: (9/9/2013) Modified slightly for clarity.