The Art of the Apology: A message from Mac Christians

By Lisa Hu

dmit it. If you heard about the event, you were curious—maybe even surprised. “Christians Apologize for Our Failures” painted in thin black and silver letters, glinting on a banner North side of Cafe Mac—just the event name sparked conversation, even confusion. Let’s be clear: Christians in this country are absolutely privileged. We are taught that this “one nation under God” equates whiteness with goodness, with privilege and with Christianity, and with the moral high ground. So the Christians on campus wanted to do something startling, heeding my adviser’s motto: If you don’t like the language or definitions used, change the discourse. I think that on the Macalester campus there is a tendency to exoticize certain peoples, cultures, religions, and beliefs in the name of multiculturalism and internationalism. But the other half of this discourse means that elements perceived as dominant or known are disregarded, illegitimized, and even attacked. I think the easiest institution to attack on this campus is the church (perhaps rightly so) and this perception alienates the Christians among us. If this were any other group on campus, I think there would be an uproar. Is it really fair to hold our fellow students accountable for the injustices of a human institution that has spanned continents, empires, centuries? What if we let these students reclaim their individual voices—the husky softness of the slam poet from Nairobi, the quick humor of the football player with dreads, the quiet power of the History major’s earnest confession. A cohesive Christian identity does not exist at Macalester. Our Christians are from Texas to the UAE, California to Arkansas, Colorado to Swaziland. The notion of ‘rallying’ around Christianity on this campus is pretty far-fetched. This event marks a unique collaboration between Mac Christian Fellowship, Mac Protestants, Mac Catholics, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes—all disparate groups that have united in owning up to our faults. The floodgates burst: waves of humility and honesty, elements of a true search towards reclaiming Christian voices on campus, filled the chapel. There is something undeniably exhilarating about the very act of apology—and something profoundly necessary about the experience. We started with all-encompassing confessions: “I am sorry for how we Christians have taken God’s name in vain verbally, or by claiming to be a ‘Christ’ian and then acting differently.” “I am sorry for when we Christians have caused division in families, for when church groups have quarrelled rather than loved.” But the real beauty lay in the heartbreaking acknowledgment of more deeply-rooted violences. There were apologies for the work of missionaries, the conflation of the West with whiteness and with Christianity, and disregard for Christ’s call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Apologies were offered of personal close-mindedness and lack of forgiveness, of the cowardice to defend our fellow humans. We are so busy in turn putting God on trial and defending Him that we forget his teachings. Hannah Rasmussen ’14 nailed it: “I’m sorry for being a lawyer for God instead of a witness.” But why? Why were these apologies so necessary? And why here? We as Christians wanted to enter the dialogue about Christianity here at Macalester. We wanted to honor our college’s commitment to open dialogue in a visible way, so that we as a campus can move towards a more honest and balanced understanding of Christianity. Yes, our history bears tremendous failings. But are we to be robbed of our successes and furthermore denied hope for the future? Christians, like countless other groups, equate apology with weakness. Apologizing is an admission of failures, and is therefore interpreted as a challenge to the tenets of our very faith. If we were wrong to worship money over God, who is to say that we are not also equally wrong to worship God in the first place? That the Christians on this campus, then, believed earnestly enough in the intentionality of apology and the power of humility to offer this event is phenomenal. As these apologies were deliberately offered to the space, there was an intense heaviness: the weight of Christian violence, corruption, and hypocrisy is staggering, from the Crusades to the pro-life movement, from colonialism to justified racism. Yet there was also a simultaneous lightness of being—the laying down of the stones of guilt that have inhibited progress and dialogue, a wealth of apologies undercutting the self-preservationist tendency to block our ears and drive our heels in deeper. Silence greeted the last confession. A thoughtful, affected, vulnerable silence. Not for long though—now the dialogue has started. refresh –>