Those Who Trespass Against Us
By Patrick F. Cannon
Despite the admonition in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive those “who trespass against us,” the country seems less and less to be in a forgiving mood. And making a mistake and saying you’re sorry; well, it just doesn’t work anymore.
This is a curious trend in a nation that once thought of itself as a Christian bastion. Christ himself forgave sinners left and right – including those who were killing him. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He also preached redemption. If you owned up to your sins, and promised to “go forth and sin no more,” presumably you would be forgiven. This concept is the basis of the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance, or “confession” as it’s more widely known.
Although I don’t now believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ – or any other god for that matter – I was raised Catholic, and entered the darkness of the confessional many times to own up to my sins. My list was usually pretty predictable and pathetic. Swearing. Disobeying my parents. Stealing a candy bar. No murder, no grand larceny, no cheating at “go fish.” The priest, a stand-in for Christ, would absolve you of your sins, but only on the condition that you were truly sorry and would at least try to “sin no more.” That you were urged to go to confession at least once a week tells you all you need to know about the Church’s expectations on the latter.
I’m 83 years old now, but let me assure you that I was not always the tolerant and forgiving fellow I am now. To give just one example, I once thought homosexuals were the worst kind of perverts. But like so many other ingrained prejudices, it didn’t long survive my actual acquaintance with gay men and women. To my amazement, I discovered they were actual human beings, subject to the same hopes and fears as the rest of us. I would also have been appalled at mixed-race marriages, until I met and became friends with more than one such couple.
But what if I were judged today on what I thought 60 years ago? Would I be publicly shamed? Would my books be removed from bookstores and library shelves? Would my house (condo really) be picketed by an angry mob? While it may seem absurd to suggest such things at my age, how many careers have ended for younger men (almost always men) whose only sin was to have said or believed something counter to the current orthodoxy?
Just in the last few weeks, two prominent men have lost their jobs because homophobic, racist or sexist remarks they made on social media became public. They may sincerely repent, but I doubt if it would help their cause, even if they were sincere. Corporations now live in fear of their “woke” customers and constituents.
There is a difference between speech and action. A comedian can insult gays and perhaps lose some of his or her audience; but if another comedian plies women with drugs to eliminate their resistance to his sexual advances, he has broken the law and should be prosecuted. But even if you are convicted of murder, Christianity teaches that you can gain salvation if you truly repent. How many people actually believe that anymore? And how many remember what Jesus said to the crowd gathered to stone an adulteress? “He who is without sin among you,” he said to the mob, “let him cast the first stone at her.”
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon