What Gives Me Hope

interfaith-group-2017As nostalgia sets in at the prospect of leaving the law school, the privileges I enjoy become more pronounced.  One of my favorites has been hosting the Interfaith Student Council.

Early this week, sixteen wonderful people—fourteen law students, one undergraduate student, and one lawyer—showed up for an evening of discussion (the lawyer took the picture above!).  This fine group represented various flavors of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Atheism.

The leaders offered two potential topics for the evening: a heavy discussion about the controversial Trump immigration executive order, and a lighter discussion of dating practices in various faith traditions.  The group decided to do both and briefly discuss the heavy topic before moving to the lighter topic.  It may be unsurprising in the rear view mirror, but we never made it past the first.

Early in the conversation, one of the kindest people I have ever known shared a personal story that involved a close acquaintance sharing things that characterized this person’s entire religion in a terrible light.  I don’t think this kind soul has the capacity for anger, but there was definite hurt.  And confusion.  I mean, what do you do when someone you know portrays you and everyone in your faith as evil?

Everyone tried to help, and a good conversation ensued.

Later on, after the conversation took several twists and turns, a different student spoke up—one who comes from the faith that was used to characterize the other student as evil—and directed remarks back to that tough situation.  And she apologized.  She apologized on behalf of her entire faith.  And then she started crying, which made the other student start crying, and if we weren’t careful it was going to get all of us but they hugged it out and gave us a fighting chance.

If I am honest, as I sit here and type away, you know how your tears like to hang out in your upper cheekbones watching television and how they stand up and put their shoes on when you start thinking about touching moments like this one?  Well, maybe that is happening right now, but you’ll never know.

At the end of the evening, I asked everyone what gives them hope when times seem dark.  Folks shared some great answers, but I have to tell you that what gives me hope is an evening like that one and an encounter like the one between those two wonderful students.

Some may look at the world right now and just see stormy weather, but in that one embrace I believe I saw a break in the clouds.

4 responses to “What Gives Me Hope

  1. What a lovely group of young people fellowshipping. Al, I really appreciate your post because it presents a perfect opportunity for me to get clarification on an issue I’ve been working through – corporate confession. We were studying confession in my Practices of Faith class at Fuller on Wednesday night, and this topic – not in the typical sense that Jesus modeled, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” but the form where someone confesses a “group’s” collective sin, and begs pardon. An example is this series of Joel McKerrow videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vCtEqyYkfk, which seem to parallel the exchange between your students. I’m searching for biblical support for this practice – could you help?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! What a fascinating topic, eh? I teach a course at Pepperdine Law on “apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation,” and this topic comes up under the idea of “standing” — i.e., who has standing to apologize/forgive? My initial response is that no one seems to have cornered the market on these topics, which makes the conversation all the more fascinating.

    I’m blanking on the exact source right now (maybe Bryan Stevenson in “Just Mercy”), but one interesting observation is how reticence for corporate apology is often inconsistent with corporate pride (e.g., we easily take pride/ownership of our family/nation/group’s positive history but are reticent to feel culpability for its sins)! We seem to have a tendency to accept unearned credit but not unearned blame!

    To approach your question, I shouldn’t offer a blanket answer because there are different “types” of apology/confession. There are remorseful confessions for what I have done — and confessions to “keep the peace” — and confessions of empathy/regret (“I’m sorry for your pain but not responsible”). I can picture collective confession taking place in all of those worlds.

    To me, the “biblical” support for this in every instance is the call to love. Obviously, if I have done something wrong (including corporately), the call to make things right is clear. But the call to love neighbor may at times lead me to apologize simply to attend to the needs of the victim (chiefly out of empathy). My chief caveat is that I cannot express “remorse” for someone else, so in effect, my corporate confession will have to be from a place of empathy instead of remorse. I think that is exactly what played out in my living room on Monday night — and it was a beautiful act of love.

    I should try to enroll you in our master’s program so that we can delve deeper into the complexity of your question! 🙂


  3. Pingback: A Bittersweet Sunday At Pepperdine - Eric Allen Kauk

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