I must confess that forgiveness is difficult for me.

I think about it, speak about it and write about it. (See: http://justpeacetheory.com/files/Thoughts_on_Forgiveness.pdf) When the time comes for me to forgive, I pray the prayer of Jesus on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) I pray this prayer until I am able to say inside my own soul: “I forgive.”

President Obama continues his “charm offensive” this week with trips to Congress to speak with members about a compromise on various important issues – the federal budget, immigration, gun control to name a few. On March 6, 2013, President Obama invited a group of Republican senators to dinner at a fancy Washington DC restaurant at his own expense. He wanted to speak with them in an informal setting about how to move forward on various pieces of legislation that would benefit the country. This is the kind of effort that I advocate in my work on just peacemaking. I say that just peace requires the ethics of commensality, the ethics of the table meal where the bread and wine of communion not only help us to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but also become symbols of sustenance and joy which are the ethical goals of life.

The senators came from the dinner with good things to say about the evening and prospects for a better working relationship with the president. I trust and believe that this will be the beginning of a less toxic atmosphere in Washington, the beginning of a new and better working relationship between the president and Congress.

When I saw the list of senators who attended the meeting, I had to ask for the grace to forgive. I am angry with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) both of whom attended the GOP 2009 inauguration night conspiracy dinner. This is the dinner, reported by Robert Draper, where GOP members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed not to cooperate with President Obama on ANYTHING in an effort to win back control of the Congress in 2010 and to defeat him in 2012. See (https://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/10/11/frank-luntz-paul-ryan-and-the-gop-inauguration-night-conspiracy/) I trace the gridlock that caused the present sequester crisis to this conspiracy.

I was especially disappointed with Sen. Coburn because President Obama considered him a friend when Obama was a senator. How can a friend allow such a conspiracy against a friend? How can people who claim to love their country participate in such a conspiracy and not realize that this would not only hurt the president but would also hurt the country?

I am angry with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for the way they hounded UN Ambassador Susan Rice over the 9/11/2012 Benghazi attacks. Their vendetta against her was unfair and mean-spirited. It was an attack against a person who President Obama considered a friend. Yet, they were on his guest list.

It is at times such as this that I am happy that Holy Spirit lives inside of believers to give us the grace to do the right thing. Holy Spirit intercedes to give us the grace to pray the right thing. Holy Spirit gives us the grace to forgive. Even when people who do not believe in the holy trinity or nonbelievers are able to forgive out of the spirituality of radical love, they are acting in the spirit of holiness. I know that left to my own unloving, unforgiving self, I would not cross the street to buy any of these people a cup of coffee. Then I remember that if I do not forgive, God will not forgive me. I remember that there are some things bigger than my own anger, disappointment and cynicism. I remember that if I do not forgive, God cannot hear my prayers either for myself or for the nation.

Some people will no doubt see the president’s gesture as political pragmatism rather than a spiritual act of forgiveness. I say the two are not mutually exclusive. Republicans also ought to employ both political pragmatism and the spirituality that they claim in making political decisions.

Republicans such as Paul Ryan, also a member of the 2009 GOP inauguration night conspiracy, continue to insist upon the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This demonstrates a lack of respect for the results of the election. Ryan continues to show an unwillingness to get to a compromise on the question of the budget so that this nation can move on to other important issues including food insecurity and unemployment. He and others continue to play political games while people suffer. This is neither pragmatic nor spiritually demonstrative of the radical love taught by Rabbi Jesus, the prophet Jesus, the moral philosopher Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ.

Today the Catholic Church elected a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires is now Pope Francis I. Cardinal Bergoglio has chosen the name of one of the saints of the church who is an icon for peace, environmental care, and concern for the poor*. Let us hope and pray that Pope Francis I will inspire us all to care for the least among us both in our personal and in our political lives. Let us hope that the spirit of forgiveness that President Obama has shown to his political opponents will help us all to forgive our enemies so that we all may enjoy both the spirituality and the practicality of the sustenance and joy of life, so we all may live in peace.

*I have written about St. Francis in an essay here at Tikkun https://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2010/10/09/instruments-of-peace-st-francis-john-lennon-and-us/

The essay also appears in my book– Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.

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