The word “repentance” has an antique ring to it. To many it belongs with top hats, sailing ships, and snuff boxes. To others it sounds as psychologically unhealthy as self-flagellation, hair shirts and the shaming of children. But most people will agree that even today, if someone’s done something really bad, they should admit it and express sorrow for it. Repentance is essential because it increases the chances that a behavior won’t be repeated, and it helps the healing and reconciliation process for everyone involved.
But do only individuals repent, or can whole nations? Suppose Americans reach a consensus that the invasion and occupation of
The evils of the Nazi regime in
Last year in Hong Kong I met a philosophy professor from a major university in the People’s Republic of
Many Americans, including many American Christians, believe that to acknowledge wrong-doing now would constitute loss of face, and only weaken
But the Christian tradition would say: not so fast. Admittedly it is hard to admit wrong. It is hard to say that we are sorry. But we have to go back before we can go forward. Otherwise we will perpetuate the same strategies when the next challenge comes up. To repent is to relinquish one kind of power for another—the power of force is replaced by the power of restored moral authority and the possibility of trust. This last ingredient will be essential to reclaiming a future with a future.