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Barbara O'Brien

Forgiveness and Buddhism

By January 11, 2010

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I found a lovely online article comparing forgiveness in Buddhism and Christianity that ties together a couple of recent blog themes. The author, Father Joseph S. O'Leary, has lived in Japan since 1988, and it's clear he has deep knowledge of both religious traditions.

The section I especially want to call to your attention touches on both the recent Brit Hume flap and also on capital punishment in America. Father O'Leary writes,

Memory of past offenses plays a huge role in contemporary culture, and there is insufficient reflection on the dangers of clinging to such memory. Much current rhetoric makes the hurt, anger, traumatization felt by victims into a kind of sacred cow that cannot be questioned. Instead of seeking to heal and dispel their wounds, victims are encouraged to nag at them and to seek "closure" by some form of vindictive payback. Hatred is still regarded as a strength rather than a poison.

This is so true! I wrote in the earlier capital punishment post that American culture favors violence as a "solution," and both our high homicide rates and support for executions are symptomatic of that. But the triumph of violent retribution has been a common theme in popular entertainment -- films in particular -- for as long as I can remember. And I don't see that changing in the near future.

Anyway, Father O'Leary's entire article is very good; I recommend it highly.

January 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm
(1) Kendall says:

There’s certainly many movies that use violence and revenge in the story line. Seems to make for a more entertaining movie experience from the viewer’s perspective, and doesn’t take much thought to follow. It takes a good director to pull off a movie as entertaining, where the main characters use their mind in peaceful manners to settle problems. Not that it can’t be done, it just doesn’t happen very often. Many Americans aren’t interested in movies that make them think. Violence also offers a fast solution, and as the fast food nation of the world, we appreciate fast. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

January 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm
(2) Lee says:

After a few years of training I found it very very difficult to watch movies or TV depicting violence.. I’ve not heard of others having the same reaction but I think our culture promotes attitudes of revenge and pay back etc. I think each of us should be careful what we let into our minds.

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