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Living Restoratively

It is one thing to embrace the idea of restorative justice and another to live it. The following articles explore this problem and suggest ways to do both.

Vorster, J. M.. Truth, Reconciliation, Transformation and Human Rights.
In recent years, "truth commissions" have emerged in many countries which experienced transitions from oppressive political systems with mass human-rights violations to stable democracies and sound economic policies. These commissions have attempted to deal with past injustices in a manner that would ensure reconciliation and transformation to a better society. Of these, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) attracted worldwide attention due to the astonishing change brought about by a negotiated settlement without the bloody revolution many people inside and outside South Africa had feared. The few years that have passed after the publication of its report gives the researcher the opportunity to evaluate not only the findings but also the effects of this process on the diverse South African society. In the execution of their mandates these truth commissions encountered many questions which posed not only legal but also ethical questions. This is also true of the South African experience. The most important ethical questions are the following: • When can the process of truth-seeking and the exercise of justice be regarded as sufficient to serve the cause of reconciliation? • What kind of justice should be administered in such a process? • What is the essence of reconciliation in a socio-political context? • What about impunity and amnesty of former leaders in view of their human-rights violations? Most of all, what should the relation be between reconciliation and transformation in order to manifest restorative justice without putting unity at risk? • What are the core conditions for a sustainable peaceful and reconciled society, and what are the roles that the state and the church should play in this regard? The purpose of this article is to reflect on these questions from a Christian ethical perspective. (excerpt)
Marshall, Chris. Justice Grounded in Reality: The 2001 Ron Wiebe Award Ceremony Address.
Chris Marshall is a New Testament scholar. On November 23, 2001, he presented this address on restorative justice at the Ron Wiebe Award Ceremony at an event in Kingston, Ontario, sponsored by the Queen's Theological College and the Correctional Service of Canada. In his address, Marshall began with a comparison of restorative justice efforts in New Zealand and Canada. This led to his exploration of three key issues: what is meant by "restorative justice"; what distinguishes restorative justice from retributive justice; and what makes restorative justice a viable alternative to retributive justice. Integral to this exploration is Marshall's application of Christian truth claims about God, Jesus, and the nature of created reality (including human existence) to the meaning and practice of restorative justice.
Pasewark, Kyle A.. Restoring Forgiving Power.
[1] Traditionally, theology and religious thought has thought of love and justice as the poles between which human interaction must move. Justice punishes or repays, love heals. The relatively recent phrase “restorative justice” attempts something different, which is to think about the ways in which justice might restore. I would like to explore the old polarity a bit more, however, and consider whether when we talk about restorative justice, we are instead talking about justice that is infused with a certain kind of power which exposes the limits of justice itself. I want to suggest this by talking about the act of forgiving, which of all things, should be the most restorative and refreshing of acts. It often is not, however, and I think that is because it is set in a too-narrow framework of the polarities of justice and love, rather than in the broader context of a power within which justice and love are sometime moments.
Anonymous. The Two Most Important Commandments and Crime.
I want to reflect today on how discovering the essential humanness of the other is discovering Jesus, is encountering our true selves, is finding God, is what a Christian response to crime is about. Now that was a mouthfull! In short, I want to look at the two "most important commandments" in light of crime. (excerpt)
Carmichael, Kay. Sin and Forgiveness: New Responses in a Changing World
In this book, Kay Carmichael explores and argues for what she terms a new paradigm that is emerging in terms of understanding sin and forgiveness. From her own religious upbringing and her engagement with the world as an adult, she believes that institutional Christianity, in its current expression, is failing to address issues of both individual and community responsibility. While individuals and groups, both within Christianity and outside it, are reassessing the nature of sin and forgiveness, institutional Christianity in general is not. Increasingly in a post-Christian society, people are moving away from traditional approaches to sin and forgiveness in relation to the God of the Bible, yet they retain a desire for transcendence. Carmichael examines these cultural changes and the new paradigm. She does so to a large degree through cases studies of actual people and events, identification of popular trends in culture, and analysis of art and literature. Indeed, she asserts that poetry, song, theater, and painting tell us more about the issues than the clumsiness of words alone. The chapters in her book include the following: narratives of a modern dilemma; responses to sin and forgiveness in art and literature; the move to a contemporary view of sin; contemporary views on forgiveness; the persistence and identification of structural sin; and concluding reflections on how people can live together with these new understandings. It is in this last chapter, in particular, that Carmichael discusses retributive and restorative justice, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and memory in relation to forgiveness.
Hough, Katherine. May I have this Dance: Explorations of Restorative Justice and Reconciliation in Law and Theology
This paper is an interdisciplinary work which will explore the movement from conflict to restoration in both the Canadian Criminal Justice system and in Christian theological ethics. Reconciliation and restorative justice are not the same yet the expected outcomes are similar. The two processes appear to be parts of separate streams but I will show how the two can be valuable dialogical partners each improving its own processes by incorporating facets from the other into its own field. I outline how the criminal justice system could improve its track record of achieving true restoration by incorporating the heart language of lament, judgement, embrace, forgiveness and wholeness found in the works of such notable theologians as Walter Brueggemann, Gregory Jones and Miroslav Volf. This paper is part of a much larger work which also explores how the theological understanding of reconciliation is inadequate and proposes a further step which would move participants from reconciliation to restoration. If time permits, this process will be outlined so that session attendees can discuss it. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University,
Kidd, Michael. Restorative, and Maori Justice and the New Testament
This essay will look at the commonality and differences between Maori and Christian responses to restorative justice in the spirit of 1 Cor 13 :5 - love is not rude. The history of race relations between European (Pakeha) and Maori in NZ has been one of forced Maori assimilation up until comparatively recently, but the case exists for a new paradigm of biculturalism where the two cultures learn from each other. Thus the less dominant culture, the Maori, can have input and a sense of belonging even though different in many fundamental respects:1) Traditional societies depended on ...feelings of was gifts that bound people together...such networks...are the safety net that sees an individual through the crises of life 2) The Maori constitute the tangata whenua (people of the land) which has basis in the Bible recognition of man's dignity and rights to expression of cultural identity.3) In the area of criminal justice this has been the reverse situation for Maori, however the Gospels have much to say which celebrates difference and praises cultural expression. (excerpt)
Abe, Toshihiro. Christian Principles in a Social Transition: The South African Search for Reconciliation
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been argued as one of the prominent cases by which post-confl ict societies coped with diffi culties. Discussions have tended to criticize its effectiveness and limits. That tendency is more marked when the discussion is on the applicability of that kind of activity to another society. This paper features the particularity of South African society without particular evaluation of the TRC, especially dealing with its religious implication. This standpoint is effective for the analysis of the transitional society which is identifi ed from its relative lack of legitimacy on due process. This paper traces some religious discourses, which have affected the TRC body implicitly and explicitly in historical transition. Two prominent fi gures to whom I give my attention are Desmond Tutu and Charles Villa-Vicencio. However the two Christians’ discourses have incompatibilities with each other to some extent, both still show a tangency which can be interpreted as a unique function in a sheer estrangement of post-Apartheid transitional society. Tutu’s Ubuntu (cultural syncretism) and Villa-Vicencio’s restorative justice through negotiation (political secularism) are considered in this context, and both suggest that they let the ‘divided’ people negotiate over confl icting plurality in a transitional society. Author's abstract.
Rigdon, Raymond m.. Restorative Justice Ministry in a Correctional Setting. Study Guide.
This study guide provides information for individuals seeking to work in Christian volunteers working in the prison setting. The manual covers working with prison staff, prisoners and victims.
Goldstein, Anat. Restorative Practices in Israel: The State of the Field.
Today penal systems and criminal codes are to a great extent a means of addressing the offense between the sovereign power and the offender. Criminal law of the modern-day state of Israel, like most modern systems, is based on retributive concepts of justice and reflects the norms of Jewish criminal laws in only very small measure.6 Yet alongside the country’s retributive criminal legal system, traditional population groups have long practiced restorative justice. Over the past 15 years restorative practices have also been introduced in the work of various Israeli government services. Traditional restorative practices can be found in each of the three primary yet diverse traditional populations in the state of Israel: a) Muslim and Christian Arab, Bedouin and Druze minorities, which comprise approximately 20 percent of the Israeli population, b) Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who comprise close to 8 percent of the population, and c) Jews who immigrated from Ethiopia, who comprise less than 1 percent of the population. In this presentation I will describe the traditional practices that are in use and will expand on the newly developed restorative practices in Israel. (excerpt)
Leverton, Reed. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”1 – The Case for Consideration of Restorative Justice as a Component of Christian Doctrine.
The scope of this essay is limited to a discussion of Restorative Justice as a different way of looking at the traditional view of criminal justice, as well as how and why its fundamental goals of encounter, amends, reintegration and inclusion combine to make it far more compatible with Christian doctrine than our present approach to crime and its consequences. The paper is conceptual in nature, and due to space limitations does not address specific procedures or modalities, nor does it provide a detailed comparison of the prevalent theories as to how criminal behavior should be addressed. Finally, the fact that it is written from a Christian viewpoint is in no way intended to be exclusionary; i.e., Restorative Justice has application beyond Judeo-Christian tradition;3 this paper just happens to be written from that perspective. (excerpt)
Hunt, June. How to forgive...when you don't feel like it.
When someone hurts us, our natural response is to strike back. Rather than forgive, we want to return the pain and suffering. Rather than let go, we cling to our rocks of resentment, our bitterness. The result? We struggle under the weight of our grievances -- all because we find it too hard to forgive. (publisher's description)
Perkins, John and Marsh, Charles. Welcoming justice: God's movement toward beloved community.
Historian and theologian Charles Marsh partners with veteran activist John Perkins to chronicle God's vision for a more equitable and just world. Perkins reflects on his long ministry and identifies key themes and lessons he has learned, and Marsh highlights the legacy of Perkin's work in American society. Together they show how abandoned places are being restored, how divisions are being reconciled, and what individuals and communities are now doing to welcome peace and justice. (Publisher's description)
Albany Catholic Worker Community. Wiping Away the Tears: A Faith Community Responds to Clergy Sexual Abuse in Roman Catholic Church
Within the Roman Catholic Church, diocesan leaders have protected priests accused of sexual abuse and have even blamed the victims. Restorative justice measures should be taken to assist in the healing process, including church-led initiatives that promote confession, forgiveness, and repentance. Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORPs) should be available in each diocese so that priests have opportunities to confess, and the victims an opportunity to suggest penance. Christian educators are asked to incorporate restorative justice at "all levels of religious education" to ensure more opportunities for reconciliation overall. Catholic laypeople and clergy are all urged to participate in VORPs in order to heal a broken Church.
Johnson, Kenneth D. Enemies, Foes, and Retributive and Restorative Justice in the Domestic and International Context
In this paper, Kenneth Johnson responds to James Johnson’s paper, “Can force be used justly? Questions of retributive and restorative justice.â€? Both papers were contributions to the 2001 Kuyper Lecture at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts. K. Johnson states he is largely in agreement with J. Johnson’s criticism of an uncritical Christian pacifism. Thus, K. Johnson believes that the Bible morally permits, and even commands, the use of force under certain conditions, though he readily admits the moral ambiguities of force may make matters worse despite good intentions and extensive planning. In this framework K. Johnson examines the moral aspects of the use of force in relation to the administration of justice, domestically and internationally, with particular attention to retributive and restorative justice.
Johnson, James Turner. Can Force be Used Justly? Questions of Retributive and Restorative Justice.
James Johnson begins with questions about the use of force: is it ever moral to kill another human being, and is it moral to use force to punish or coerce another person? There are different strands of response in the Christian tradition. Some argue that killing is never moral, and many also express strong reservations about the use of force for punishment or coercion. Others argue for the moral use of force, up to and including deadly force. This is often called the just war perspective, though its fundamental ideas pertain to more than the use of force in war alone. In this paper Johnson examines the moral elements of the origin and coalescence of the just war idea. Then he extends his discussion of the moral use of force into the areas of anti-terrorist intervention and the application of the death penalty.
Claassen, Ron. A Peacemaking Model: A Biblical Perspective
Building upon his prior paper – “A Peacemaking Model" – Ron Claassen extends his development of a peacemaking model for dealing with conflict, wrongdoing, injustice, and violence. He notes at the outset several key words in this model: peace-shalom; love-agape; forgiveness; confession; atonement; repentance; and trust. These words are used in both the faith and the secular worlds, but with a variety of meanings. One of Claassen’s strategies then in this paper is to use stories and traditions from his faith tradition (he identifies himself as a Christian-Anabaptist-Mennonite) to help clarify his understanding and use of each idea. His overall aim is that this peacemaking model and article will contribute to a dialogue regarding restorative justice in communities.
Grimsrud, Ted and Zehr, Howard. Rethinking God, Justice, and Treatment of Offenders
This article argues for a peacemaking school of criminology taking the direction of restorative justice as opposed to the historical tradition of retribution forming a closer connection to the founding document of Christian tradition, the Bible. Retributive theology, the view that God’s holiness 'forces' God to act punitively, thereby justifying God’s agents, the church, or society, to act punitively, dominated Western worldviews in the Middle Ages and formed the bases for criminal justice practices. However, a closer review of the Christian Bible challenges retributive theology and points in the direction of restorative justice. This paper addresses three issues: (1) on what basis do people think they can deal with offenders without love; (2) is it possible to construct an understanding of God based on the founding texts of the Christian tradition supporting a 1996 research assertion about the fundamental law of life being love; and (3) is it possible in 'real life' to approach criminal justice issues from the point of view that love is foundational? The peacemaking approach to criminal justice is argued as indeed needed, but it must take seriously the philosophical and theological roots to retributive criminology. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Zehr, Howard. Restoring justice
Howard Zehr begins this chapter by observing that a society’s response to crime can be typified as one of three R’s: revenge; retributive justice; or restorative justice. Zehr argues that modern Western legal systems tend to be characterized by retributive justice – crime as breaking the law and as an offense against the state, with marginalization of the victim. Biblical justice in contrast is rooted in a vision of shalom, consisting in a community of right relationships. In this approach to justice, restorative processes are most appropriate in response to crime, for crime harms people and relationships. Restorative processes, therefore, should seek to repair the harm; and they should involve all the parties affected – the victim, offender, and community. With all of this in mind, Zehr then examines what victims in particular need in the aftermath of crime. He discusses the effects of crime on victims, and outlines the corresponding aims of restorative responses to victims.
Prashaw, Rick. Good, evil, Ground Zero- Continuing conversation on justice.
At mid summer in 2001, the Church Council on Justice and Corrections (based in Ottawa, Ontario) held its Annual General Meeting to discuss God’s justice and religious reasons for punishment. Later that year the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, against targets in the United States, made the topic of that meeting exceedingly concrete and emotional for members of the Church Council. In this article, Rick Prashaw reflects on how such events bring into focus fundamental questions of good, evil, and God’s justice. He declares that, in the face of evil, Christians must proclaim a faith in justice as right relations with God, others, and creation. See

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