Mourning for Forgiveness

“… in order better to respond to the pastoral and prophetic realities of modern life, and what impact might this rethinking have for Christian theology? ”

Team Members/Contributors

Matthew L Potts Harvard Divinity School Contact Me

About this first book grant for scholars of color

Forgiveness is central to Christian life. But in recent years, conventional understandings of (especially unconditional) forgiveness have come under severe critique from philosophers, theologians, biblical scholars, psychiatrists, therapists, and activists. Doesn't the moral obligation of forgiveness further burden those already recovering from harm? How can we ask victims of violence to forgo their anger, reconcile with their offenders, or rebuild a broken past, especially when the structures of violence which have abused these victims so often materially benefit from the placidity of their forgiving? This project aims to critique and reconstruct understandings of Christian forgiveness through an interdisciplinary study of contemporary theory, theology, and literature. In linking conventional Christian assumptions around forgiveness to an inadequate atonement theology of debt, the project will uncover a more practical, less triumphal story of both forgiveness and the cross that can allow for human realities of negative affect, broken relationship, and impossible repair. In sum, the project will argue that forgiveness is a unique habit of Christian non-violence, a practice of peaceful judgement and empowered grief that forgoes retribution for the sake of the future, and which refuses any urge too hastily to transform trauma into triumph.