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November 16, 2010

Last Tuesday during our Lunch Hour Book Study on Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, Peyton McElroy challenged us to think about what it means to get right with God, the universe, ourselves and those we’ve wronged when we’ve done something bad. It was a challenging and provocative presentation. And for those who weren’t there, I thought I’d pass along the Spinoza quote and the questions Peyton offered in her handout.

“Repentence is not a virtue, that is, it does not arise from reason. Rather, he who repents what he did is twice miserable.” -Baruch Spinoza

How is the project of atonement (which we might also describe as redemption or reconciliation) a project that involves addressing our past in order to repair it? How is this different from the project of writing a good story?

Is ultimate reconciliation with one’s past possible when it requires a contrite heart (or a forgiving one, depending on the problem to be overcome)? Can we human beings be truly contrite when are unable to tell our own personal stories unsullied by personal desires and by the limitations of own perspectives?

If ultimate reconciliation requires endorsement of our lives, how are we able to accept the blemishes in them or accept the disappointments, discover the beautiful in the ugly, appreciate the potential in what seems fixed, find rest from what inspires anger or grief or regret in us now?

One Comment leave one →
  1. C.A. Child permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:53 pm

    Love the question; respect the difficulty; but believe if we are “contrite,” an attempt at “atonement” should follow.

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