Augustinian guilt and Apartheid guilt
June 29, 2009
I know very little of Augustine, I must admit. Same with Luther, Calvin, and most church fathers. What I know of them I know from second hand knowledge. Well, in reality I’ve met very few people who actually know the giants from the past first hand, so I don’t feel that alone, although I’d like to change this over time. Someone said somewhere in the past few months at a place that I attended (I think it was Scott McKnight), that Augustine’s confession was the prototype for a conversion that went together with extreme experiences of guilt. Luther’s was similar. And this has become the prototype for how conversion stories must.
This was the classical conversion story that I’ve heard in my life. The recognition of my own total depravity, my absolute guilt, my being a worm in the eyes of God, and God then coming to take away this guilt. Recognition of sin always lead to an experience of guilt over this. Then the sin was forgiven, and God never though about it again.
In conversations on Apartheid, there is a group which I’d call that “sal-nie-langer-jammer-sê-nie”-group (translates with “I-will-not-say-sorry-any-longer”-group). This is from a song by a well-known Afrikaans band in which they sing about how they won’t say that they are sorry about Apartheid any longer. It was in reaction to this that Tom Smith and some friends started a website which said that they are sorry for Apartheid.
Let me quickly put down my thinking and then ask you to respond. I wonder whether there is a link. In this classical tale of conversion, past sins need to be forgiven quickly and gracefully, if not they lead to feelings of guilt. For those caught in this approach, the wrongs of Apartheid will lead to feelings of guilt if they make themselves part of the people who did this, and if they consider this a wrong which still must be addressed.
However, I also see some who don’t consider recognition of past, and even present, sins to be a source of guilt, but rather a source of change. In this approach guilt do not lead to redemption, but redemption lead to recognizing sins. Moving closer to God will reveal my own wrongs, my own sins, which I embrace because in time this will help me change. It’s not something bad, something which should be gotten rid of, but something good. Maybe it’s this lack of Augustinian guilt that make it easier for some to continue being sorry for Apartheid?
What’s your thoughts?