Monday, August 26, 2013

Ponderings: Communal guilt, communal expiation

We humans cannot deal with guilt. We hate being wrong. When we encounter guilt, we try to do something with the discomfort. This means we have to either accept our guilt and make reparation, pour our guilt onto others and blame others..thus making ourselves free from responsibilities, deny a crime was committed, transform the sin/crime into a good thing. If you're a Christian then we have Jesus who bears our guilt so we can stand in front of the sin with God's love covering us...thus we make Jesus our substitute and our purifier, our mirror and the one who frees us from guiltiness.

Humans come in tribes, clans, communities, families, races, etc. And the sin of one human can become the sin of an entire clan. Clan pride, clan prejudice, clan sin. So the community's reaction to its guilt is the same as a single individual's reaction to guilt.

I say all that because over the past 100 years many tribes have had to deal with their guilt. The German people had to deal with the historical fact/guilt of the Genocide. White Americans have had to deal with the genocidal guilt of their ancestors.

We know that not every modern white American is prejudice and not every white american is descended from a slave-owner, Native American killer, etc. But there it is..the sin hangs around, the guilt hangs around, the guiltiness hangs around.

So what do we do with communal guilt? The same thing we do with individual sin. And this can be seen in the rise of neo-nazis in certain parts of Germany and in the American conservative reaction to black suffering.

If the guiltiness is not dealt with, it becomes hard to bear..as Cain said, "My sin/punishment is greater than I can bear." (The word for sin/guilt/punishment in Hebrew is all the same.) Cain left the presence of the Lord. Lamech did a kind of spiritual spin on it.

As long as many American whites feel guilt is being poured on them they will search about for a way to ease their guilt. Hence the whole cultural idea that Blacks really "should" be killed because they "probably" were up to no good...or that Blacks are innately violent. It's the Black person as the good white person's Shadow. It's the white culture's desperation to free itself from sin by wishing Blacks would just shut up. It's a fatigue with "being told we did bad things."

So what are we to do with this?
How are the wounded to deal with the guilt of others?

If one's husband does something heinous -- say, commits adultery-- there is the desire to speak. One must speak. And one comments and comments and comments. But after a while one shuts up. With a wound between two people, the wounded person can destroy the guilt and guiltiness of the sinner by simply turning the other cheek. The cycle of hurt has stopped. The wrongdoer can grow to accept the fact that he did evil because he has been forgiven

If it's a family guilt  (if only one family in a whole tribe has done some evil) then we get rid of the guilty by ostracism, shunning, or -- if we're into Greek mythology or Hebrew Scriptures-- talk about generational curses. We don't marry into that family or we say "well, that was your ancestor, not you." After all, Laius wouldn't give up his young male lover after the contract time of the pederasty was finished. (Pedophilia was accepted back in Greece but after one's lover grew up, one had to either get another little boy or marry.) The whole house of Laius ended up with sexual sins: bestiality, incest, etc...until the expiation of the guilt. Or the family kills itself of. Witness the decline and childlessness of the Hitler family-- its as if the family has willed itself to die. And if one is a member of the guilty family, if worse comes to worst, one can simply leave town and move to a town where your family's crime is unheard of. Being far from those who know the nature of our crime will help us forget our own guilt.

But that is guilt within a family...
There is guilt in larger groups. Tribal guilt, religious guilt.

Some Christians hate it when they hear about how bad/vicious Christianity has been to Jews. They will remind the Jewish "accuser" that Jews were suffering and afflicted by Satan long before Christians arrived on the scene, that from the beginning Jews were oppressed, that the book of Deuteronomy is full of prophesies about what would happen to the Jews when they disobeyed God and that all that has happened to Jewish folks was brought onto Jews by their own disobedience to God.

Or Jews could talk about how badly the Arabs have treated them over the years.

Or Arabs could talk about how badly the Israeli are treating the Palestinians.

Of course one would try to silence the sufferer. There is just so much accusation the human person or a human tribe can deal with. And if all the past (and the effects of the past) was finished with, I'd be cool and say, "Okay, let's forgive and forget. Why remind folks nowadays of past guilt which they had nothing to do with."

Trouble is that the evils still continue. (True, some whites say that racism no longer exists..but they say that because they don't want to see the evil. In the same way, Christians will say that anti-semitism has ceased to exist..but that is not true either. Or like the Roman Catholic Church whose replacement theology declares that Jews are no longer the chosen people because the church has replaced them in God's eyes, the suffer could be regulated and delegated (by law) to the back seat)

But the guilt still continues. Thus the guiltiness still continues.

What are we humans -- individual or in our communal tribes or families-- to do with guiltiness? Create a whole new world, Lord Jesus. Wrap up this world with its stains from sin..and the bind of guilt and sin and hurt and guiltiness and unforgiveness. Come soon, Lord Jesus. Even so, come.
  
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