LA CONVIVENCIA: RESTORATIVE JUSTICE BLOG SERIES AND FORUM July 8, 2019 by Brandi Hebert
The genesis of this blog series emerged from a course at United Lutheran Seminary on Justice and Judgement. Approximately 25 students from across the United States gathered together to explore this subject theologically and within the context of Christian scripture. The hypothesis that the students engaged was the question, “Is God nonviolent?” This is an important question for a person of faith to answer for oneself if one is to advocate for restorative justice. Restorative justice is a question of how one is personally spiritually and communally oriented. Richard Rohr, author, teacher and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Arizona, posits, “All great spirituality is what we do with our pain, if we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” Pains transformation is key to understanding the genesis of restorative justice. Often considered the father of restorative justice, Howard Zehr writes, “Retributive theory believes that pain will vindicate, but in practice that is often counterproductive for both victim and offender. Restorative Justice theory on the other hand, argues that what truly vindicates is acknowledgment of the victim’s harms and needs, combined with an active effort to encourage offenders to take responsibility, make right wrongs, and address the causes of their behavior. By addressing this need for vindication in a positive way, restorative justice has the potential to affirm both victim and offender and to help them transform their lives.” Restorative justice seeks to transform the pain of the victim and address both preemptively and in the aftermath of injustice, the root causes of crime and conflict. The United States is collectively in the throes of significant change. A key aspect of our post-modern era, are demographic shifts which impacts national dialogue on public policy issues and opportunities for a restorative justice response. According to Pew Research, by 2055, there will be no single ethnic or racial majority in the U.S. With these demographic changes will come shifts in religious plurality and diversity in communal thinking on restorative justice and its role in society. The mission of La Convivencia is to bring diverse persons together for inter-religious civic dialogue and community service. We believe that we cannot learn to love our neighbors as ourselves if we do not know our neighbors. We believe that consistent, respectful, compassionate engagement sparked by a curiosity and desire for connection with those different from ourselves in points of view can create a more peaceful and resilient community. This blog is dedicated to that endeavor. I have designed the blog series to open a more expansive dialogue on restorative justice perspectives on the social and ethical public policy issues of the day. While my personal perspective is guided by Christian ethics and viewed through the lens of my own intersectionalities, it is the hope that the framework of each blog will create opportunities for inter-religious dialogue both on the framework itself as well as on the social justice topic. It is not my intention through this blog to advance religious proselytization but offer a framework within which to generate respectful, thoughtful dialogue and highlight understandings of Christian scripture for the purposes of inter-religious dialogue. GUIDELINES:
Always start from an “I” statement.
Consider contributing to the dialogue with a “Yes/and” acknowledging a contribution of someone else and adding your thoughts to it.
Allow for dissent and contradictory opinions and thoughts. Consider holding them non-dualistically in tension together recognizing that many of the issues being discussed are complex and often occupy an ambiguous space. The goal is not to be “right” or “wrong” in binary opposition to another person, but to introduce thoughtful responses that advance the dialogue.
Personal sharing in order to advance the conversation can be helpful, however consider only boundary appropriate sharing that creates a non-judgmental space for others and lifts up the intrinsic values of all dialogue participants.
Inflammatory and violent hate speech will not be tolerated. For the purposes of this forum, we will adopt the Hate Speech policies of the United Lutheran Seminary that are laid out in the following, “No symbols depicting imagery associated with hate groups or hate speech shall be permitted…This prohibition includes the symbols of Nazi Germany, all forms of the Swastika, that which is referred to (incorrectly) a the “Confederate flag” or “stars and bars” (more accurately, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia), and symbols used by the KKK and other supremist organizations.”
Additionally, all participants in the discussion are encouraged to adopt inclusive language in their written responses. All written responses posted to this forum should “affirm that a person’s worth includes, but also extends beyond the categories of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, family affiliations, vocation, and physical, mental or emotional status…We may not intentionally use language that excludes, but if the effect of our language is that others are excluded, then our language is not inclusive. Language that includes is language with dignity. It can help us both widen and deepen our understanding of one another, our faith and our world.” Additionally, all participants inclusive language extends to the words we chose to use to write about God, the transcendent, Divine, Source of all Creation.
The author of this blog and moderator of the posted discussion panel reserves the right to hold all participants accountable to these standards as necessary.