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
6 thoughts on “Those Who Trespass Against Us”
Such wisdom from such a young fellow.
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Some of us are slow learners!
I need to delete my Twitter account.
I don’t know what to make of the righteous intolerance infecting our culture these days. We’ve always had a streak of it, against Blacks, Catholics, Jews, and others, mostly the usual nativist prejudice. But lately it has taken on a new, paranoid character.
At some point it became politically advantageous to be identified with an “oppressed” group (though not Catholic or Jewish, as those denominations can be viewed as oppressors, somehow). The establishment of victimized minorities seems to have gained traction in the 1960s, certainly with some justification. The landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act sought to redress blatant injustice in education, employment, property ownership and public accommodation. But maybe as an unintended consequence, it also triggered the recognition of new victim groups — women, homosexuals, the physically handicapped, the elderly, American Indians, the poor, unwed mothers, illegal immigrants, and my favorite, Planet Earth — mobilized for political ends. It even saw the invention of a new ethnic group, Hispanics (For an excellent study see https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/the-invention-of-hispanics/).
It has gotten where if you are not in some way identified as a victim, you are suspected of being an oppressor whether you intended to be one or not. I read lately that there are no fewer than twelve forms of oppression, not necessarily based on belief systems but merely patterns of behavior. There are so many victim sub-groups, it’s hard not to face accusation of being a hater of someone, somewhere at some time. Are you a patriotic, pale-skinned heterosexual male (cisgendered!), who goes to church, votes Republican, lives in a single family house and earns a decent income? If so, you may be a sinner, and worse a spreader of social disease. As you note, there is no redemption. You must be cured or if that’s not possible, eradicated. Social intolerance has become nearly absolute. God help you if you walk onto a college campus without a face mask and declare yourself unvaccinated. You’d be better off with leprosy!
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I guess I was an oppressor all these years and didn’t know how to enjoy it!
You can always learn to enjoy being a victim!
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Well, they say you’re never too old to learn!