our trespasses

begging forgiveness
— comes more readily to some
than others — I wish
this whole thing could be dealt with
minus Christianity

I had an interesting conversation yesterday evening, with a man who is quite an experienced counsellor — although it wasn’t a counselling session. We were talking about Christianity. Also yesterday, I begged forgiveness quite insistently, after telling my partner Liz to shut up in the heat of a minor row about where to pick up the bus home. I really hate the monopoly on human goodness which Christianity lays claim to, surreptitiously, via the divine goodness of its ‘good’ God. About fifteen years ago, I asked my father to forgive me for the brutality of my behaviour towards him in my teens. He evaded the issue. I was disappointed not to get ‘closure’. I felt quite certain, and still do, that his resistance to using the currency of that kind of language of forgiveness, has something to do with his lifelong habit of resisting the negative influence of Christianity, which was dominant in my mother’s family, being associated with all kinds of repressive attitudes. But the problem outlined in my poem is much broader. I often find myself wondering what sort of a relationship with goodness and forgiveness I would have, in my own mind, if I had not been brought up a Christian. That would entail being far removed from my actual cultural context — either by space (a non-Christian country) or time (a century before Christ) or simply by being born into a different family in this country, although I suspect anyone born into a nominally Christian country, even if their family is atheist, probably gets infected by the polarities of conformity with, and rebellion against, the monopoly on goodness and forgiveness which Christianity implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) lays claim to. I dreamed last night of my long-dead great-aunt Adelaide. She was helping me deal with the fact that my mother had died (not the case yet in reality). We nearly parted acrimoniously but she was too generous-hearted to let that happen, and called me back and said sorry to me.

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