cover image Why Forgive?

Why Forgive?

Johann Christoph Arnold. Plough Publishing House, $17 (161pp) ISBN 978-0-87486-992-7

Little more than a series of anecdotes, this quick read might not be noteworthy were it not for its profound and always timely subject matter. Arnold, a pastor and author whose admirers range from the evangelical Right to the secular Left, tells story after story of people who have forgiven despite unfathomable personal tragedy and a vengeful cultural climate. Readers may recognize many of these tales from Oprah, Guideposts and other purveyors of inspiration, but they are no less remarkable the second or even third time around. Despite the fact that he weaves so little analysis in between these anecdotes, Arnold manages to drive home several points that unequivocally answer his titular question, the most powerful of which is that no one, whether victim or perpetrator, can heal until forgiveness is granted. Not one to engage in long theological explorations, Arnold instead allows many of his subjects to speak for themselves in extended quotations, allowing insight into their desperate, brokenhearted rage. Some of these subjects, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, ultimately choose not to forgive, while others describe a force beyond their conscious control that makes forgiveness inevitable. Arnold also writes about everyday forgiveness in marriage, families, communities and the workplace. In all cases, he reminds us that to forgive is neither to excuse nor to anesthetize ourselves from the pain that attends life and love, but rather to enter again into life's fray. (Mar.)