Soul Care Conversation (Faith Community Response, Seeking a Restorative Path – Practice of Restorative Justice, Repairing the Harm)September 16th, 2016 Posted by Dave Smith Blog No Comment yet
(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)
Last week, we continued our conversation on restorative justice by discussing the second of four principles, storytelling. This week we will look at the third principle, repairing the harm.
Obviously there are many theories to justice and specifically, restorative justice.
Restorative justice is an alternative dispute resolution theory that attempts to repair the
harm caused by criminal behavior. Two of its goals are to transform the wrong behavior and to
provide healing for the victim, offender, and community alike. (Repairing the Harm Restorative Justice and its Implications on the Criminal Justice System, Natalie Hogan, Spring 2013)
- taking responsibility for one’s own behavior
- taking action to repair the harm
Through storytelling the person harmed shares the event with others and explains the impact that the incident had on them. This process does several things;
- puts the person who has been harmed back in control
- helps them to cope
- recover from what has happened to them (begins the process of repairing the harm)
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR “REPAIRING THE HARM”
Over the last several weeks we have been discussing some of the theological foundations to justice. We were reminded of the scripture that states, “An eye for an eye.” However, there is much more to Biblical justice than this statement. In fact, the Hebrew and Christian texts that call for justice are much deeper and more involved approach. Rather than retribution, justice involves repairing the harm.
The Biblical concept of repairing the harm involves restoration;
- restoration of self
- restoration in community
- restoration to God
What does scripture share about restoration? Human failure is nothing new. In fact the Bible contains so many stories of people of faith who failed; Samson, Abraham, David, Solomon, Jonah, all of the Disciples, and the Apostle Paul. The evidence of failure is sobering.
But, equally overwhelming is the evidence that God restores those who have failed. There are passages from both the Hebrew and Christian texts that reveal God’s character as the One Who Restores! God reclaims and restores those who in a moment of weakness failed. Restoration of self, community, and to God involves;
- acknowledging the wrong
- making restitution with those harmed
- making peace with God
In the Hebrew texts, the Law of Moses specified the various circumstances and processes for restitution to one’s neighbor (the victim) and sacrifice to God (Leviticus 6:2-7). All are as important as the other.
In the Christian texts, there are numerous examples of restoration, one being the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19). This story reiterates the importance of acknowledging the wrong, making restitution to neighbor, and making peace with God. Zacchaeus shared before Jesus and his neighbors that “I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I overcharged people on their taxes, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham.”
Restoration is not only possible, it is hoped for and encouraged.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FAITH COMMUNITY
Let us briefly explore each of these three areas.
Acknowledging the wrong – Congregational spiritual practices, activities, and rituals create a climate of healing and communicate a sense of care to the veteran and her/his family. Services of confession and repentance offer the veteran opportunities to acknowledge the wrong that he/she has committed. Many faith traditions use books of worship containing liturgy that are filled with prayers of confession and contrition. One could easily modify these prayers to be inclusive for veterans who are not people of a faith tradition. Also, confession can powerfully be lived out not in words alone, but through experiential worship. Lastly, confession should always be followed by words or acts of assurance of God’s grace.
There are many resources on the internet from various faith perspectives. From the reformed traditions we find worship resources assisting veterans experiencing PTSD or moral injury. Also, check the Soul Care Initiative Website. You will find congregational resources offering traditional and experiential worship experiences containing services of confession and repentance, and healing. These resources are trauma sensitive.
Making restitution with those harmed – There are many ways for a veteran to offer restitution; however, restitution may not be possible to the person(s) directly injured or wronged because the country remains dangerous or at war. Veterans can offer assistance to organizations assisting war refugees. Additionally, there are non-governmental organizations (many faith-based) serving in war torn countries that are in need of not only financial assistance, but volunteer service. Team Rubicon, an organization of veterans, deploys into austere places following a natural disaster in order to provide crisis care. Service becomes a critical means to make restitution.
Another opportunity is through worship. Persons can experience making restitution through the passing of Christ’s peace. In our day to day experience as community, we engage in harmful behavior to one another. As we exchange signs of peace with one another, this act offers restitution to those in our physical presence.
Making peace with God – In Christian traditions, the prayers of confession and great thanksgiving prior to communion can make peace with God. More powerfully, the communion service is not only a means to confess, repent, and hear words of assurance, but we also participate in the powerful act of receiving God’s grace through the bread and wine. Hope and new life not only become words, but experienced. Communion becomes an act of making peace with God.
Lastly, we are reminded in Micah (6:6-8) that God does not require our words or acts in worship to make peace, but “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” To do this, we become restored people.
What has been your experience in repairing the harm? What practices have been important to bring restoration? Next week, I will be co-facilitating a resiliency event for the United Methodist Endorsing Agency at a horse ranch. Communication is difficult so I will not be posting a blog. The following week we will explore the last practice in restorative justice, follow through. Until then, thank you for the conversation…