a new year, with new opportunities to banter around familiar clichés such as
"taking time on the journey," cultivating "spirituality but not religion" and
"going on retreat." Most of us agree that solitude is key to all of these
endeavors, and that solitude is a good thing.
I am among those called to lead people in confessing sin and announcing God's forgiveness in the Sunday liturgy, an essential action never altogether free from the threat of routinized going-through-the-motions. This action is anything but routine, however, when it occurs in the setting I described in my lectionary column for the Century on this week's Gospel lesson.
On the way to meet a friend whose marriage, I'd heard, was on the rocks, I sifted through the clichés one can offer someone on the verge of divorce. But when I arrived, her husband was with her to welcome me. As we traveled around her campus together I noticed them holding hands (so rare on U.S. college campuses that you wonder if it violates some regulation).
The highest incarceration rates in the United States are in red states, especially in the South, but some conservatives are having second thoughts about the war on crime launched by President Nixon. Among them is Chase Madar, former Virginia state senator and attorney general who was president of Prison Fellowship for ten years. Madar was persuaded that a new approach to crime is needed by visiting prisoners, seeing the conditions they live in, and discovering that virtually no rehabilitation of criminals is taking place. He now advocates the use of restorative justice, a plan that returns criminals to the communities where they committed their crimes to confess at public meetings and ask forgiveness (American Conservative, February 3).