I have reflected on the recent kidnapping and release of two Orthodox bishops in Syria over the past day or two. I have noticed that in Western society we have been able to eliminate, or at least hide, death from our everyday lives. We place our elderly family members in nursing homes. We buy meat already packaged and not at all resembling living animals. The United States has largely been free from major domestic wars, insurgencies, civil wars, or serious violence for quite some time.
Thus, when major terrorist attacks happen that upset our fragile bubble, we freak out. We live in a collective fear of death – we’re slaves to it. Without opportunities to process or cope with death out in the open, we don’t as easily develop coping mechanisms to deal with it.
Similarly, our country has been largely free from sectarian, ethnic, and religious violence for quite some time. While I find this position quite comfortable and would prefer it to the alternative, I also think that being free from such violence does not give us as many opportunities to forgive. And I’m not talking about everyday relational forgiveness, I’m talking about the most difficult kind of forgiveness there is – forgiving those who do violence to, or even kill, ourselves or our loved ones. This is the kind that Christ demonstrated on the cross. Violence and murder still happen in this country, of course, but they seem to be relatively isolated incidents, not the kind of systematic violence and brutality that exists in places with ancient conflicts between groups.
I wonder if people who live in countries with long-standing, bitter, violent generational conflict might be in the best position to forgive than anyone else on the planet.
I can only imagine what it would be like if a Mormon General Authority were kidnapped and threatened with death. How well could Mormons forgive the perpetrators? Have we forgiven those who murdered the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum?