Seldom do our society’s Christophobes come up with anything new when attacking the object of their ire. Yet this rare occurrence might just have happened, in what can rightly be described as a jump-the-shark version of anti-Christian criticism: an attack on forgiveness.
At issue is a Monday Independent article titled “Miriam Toews: ‘Forgiveness is a religious construct, a means of maintaining the status quo.’” Toews, apparently, is a Canadian novelist of some repute who, having been raised in a Mennonite community, is still at close to 60 years old in a teenage rebellion phase.
The Independent article’s author, Helen Brown, describes Toews (pronounced “tayves”) as an “award-winning writer of seven bestselling novels”; this includes 2018’s Women Talking, which last year was made into a film. It was when discussing this work — which concerns the rape of more than 100 women and girls in a Bolivian Mennonite town — that Toews flayed forgiveness.
The “novel zooms in on the 48 hours in which the town’s women have to choose whether to forgive their assailants or leave the only lives they’ve ever known and risk eternal damnation,” relates Brown.
She then continues, “‘Forgiveness is a religious construct, a means of maintaining the status quo,’ Toews tells me today. ‘In my community, forgiveness is all. But forgiveness can be permission. It can mean nothing changes. So, what good is it?’”
Yes, well, law can be permission, too; it can mean nothing changes (when perverted or misapplied). Anything can mean many things. But this doesn’t mean law is bad in principle.
As for forgiveness, the good news is that internet commenters right, left, and center savaged Toews’ claim, apparently viewing it as akin to the proposition, “Kicking puppies has redeeming social value,” “Putting cats in microwaves is a stress release,” or “Pushing aged women down staircases is therapeutic.”
For example, at MSN.com, which posted Brown’s article, reader Michael Cox spoke for many in writing, “Many people miss the point. By forgiving you release the toxin of hate. It isn’t for the other person it is for you.”
Commenter David Hardy echoed this. “Anger does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored, then [sic] to anyone upon whom it is poured,” he wrote, paraphrasing Mark Twain.
Providing a bit more perspective, poster Steve C added, “Forgiveness is choosing to no longer carry your pain with you. It doesn’t mean you have to give the offender another chance at harming you.”
Then, Nathan Springhart had some rhetorical questions. “So, if not forgiveness, what does the author suggest as an alternative?” he asked. “An ‘eye for an eye’? ‘Wild-west’ style gun duals [sic] as a means to settle scores? Mad Max vigilante ‘justice’?”
A bit more perspective: The biblical injunction “an eye for an eye” is itself misunderstood, as it prescribed proportionality and constituted an improvement over the then-barbaric human norm. It simply meant, to paraphrase late Eternal Word Television Network figure Mother Angelica, that if someone stole your goat, all you could do was steal his goat.
You couldn’t burn down his house and kill his whole family.