Repentance

Ok, my small and clandestine blog reading public . . .first, the context.

Andie Lyons, aged 18, arrives on the campus of CU Boulder, somewhat unwillingly. She is a “legacy”, which is to say, her parents met at a bar on University Hill and her brother pledged the Boulder chapter of some dumb fraternity and now, since she didn’t get some stellar offer from some better place, she has become the fourth and final member of her family to don the gold and black of CU. Having been the black sheep for neigh on her entire life, she accepts this truth reluctantly and immediately begins seeking out the counter culture to the best of her ability.

The result? 1) UMHE, the progressive ecumenical campus ministry which will set her down the path that inevitably leads, some 8 years later, to the Iliff School of Theology and the beginnings of a masters of divinity.
2) A bunch of anarch-punks who will eventually set her down the path of cooking dumpstered potatos at food not bombs and getting arrested on a semi-regular basis for civil disobedience.
Surprisingly, despite the co-occurance of these two events, Andie manages to keep the lines between them sharply dilineated, and indeed, her politics and her religion interface rarely, and when they do, with somewhat explosive results.

Until now.

Because that’s the lengthy lesson I’m involved in these days. How do I make this crazy radical energy fit with this deep spiritual longing that I feel? The xtian anarchists who spoke my call last summer were just the beginning. Since then, I’ve been trying to parcel it all out.

I’ve been arrested before this weekend, but I’ve never been arrested while wearing a stole, singing hymns, surrounded by other people of faith. My civil disobedience has happened in the arms of the anarchist community, which is (generally speaking) staunchly anti-God. And while I can thank this community for giving me any number of skills that came in handy this weekend at the Transform Columbus Day action, where I and 87 others were arrested for peacefully protesting a hate celebration, I cannot thank them for giving me the kind of remarkable spirit that was the most effective tool this weekend.

And it wasn’t just the anointing and praying before hand; it wasn’t the hymns being sung or seeing an ordained clergy member across the circle from me. It was the fact that the comrades who were by my side were people who know intimately the ideas of forgiveness and change, but who will not forgive without accountability. It was the fact that we could say, with our bodies and our freedom, that the people who gave us our skin color, our names, our culture and OUR FAITH are the people who wrought wholesale devestation on this continent. And we are not going to let that legacy continue. I did not choose who I am or where I came from, but I will repent for the sins of my people. And that rhetoric, that language, those ideas . . .they are shared by the people who sat with me and sang and prayed; by the people who stood behind us and willed God into that street; by the people at their homes who kept vigil; by the people who sat outside the jail and held our strength when we couldn’t anymore.

I was blessed to be in a community of religious radicals. They exist. I needed to know that. Its in my heart, the images of those faces, the smell of that oil . . .it kept me strong this weekend. It will keep me strong throughout this process. This is a beginning, it’s also a marker. The call has been renewed, it’s echoes are sustaining me even in the midst of my barely concealed tears.

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3 thoughts on “Repentance

  1. Hey, you have a blog! Cool!

    “It was the fact that the comrades who were by my side were people who know intimately the ideas of forgiveness and change, but who will not forgive without accountability.”

    A useful traditional distinction for me is between forgiveness and reconciliation: forgiveness being a matter of internal disposition, and reconciliation being a matter of external relationships.

    My understanding of embodied grace is that there is a call for unconditional forgiveness — as an aspiration; it’s not something to force or guilt oneself into — but not for unconditional reconciliation, because reconciliation requires the accountability you talk about in order to be real.

    I was very proud of you all and of Iliff in general this weekend. I am glad you are finding strength in a community of faith.

  2. Thanks for this post. It explains so well why you protested and what it meant. Since I wasn’t there, it’s wonderful to get this inside perspective, especially as I’ve been wanting to find ways to continue to support those who are on trial. You also remind me of what Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine said during the praxis this weekend as she distinguished between forgiveness and reconciliation. She says she forgives the white supremacists who so tortured and traumatized her, but that does not mean reconciliation, which can only come with accountability, a recognition and acknowledgment of how we have wronged others.

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