I realize Republicans attacked President Obama for apologizing for the United States too much, but I honestly didn't think he went far enough. One of the moments during the Obama administration that disappointed me the most was when the president visited Chile in 2011 and refused to apologize
for our country's longtime support of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Obama wanted to live in the present, but the wounds our country caused in Latin America still run deep in the veins of the region's residents today. (Not to mention how learning from our past would prevent more terrible choices like intervening in Venezuela.)
Why am I digging up Obama in Chile? Because I think it's important to go deeper than being anti-Trump. He apologizes for nothing, of course. The question is not how wrong he is, but how willing we should be to account for our past sins as a nation. I think this is a specific area where progressive people of faith can play a role in calling our nation to repentance. We must be the pro-repentance voice!
Repentance is not weak. "Voters want to see contrition, but also authenticity and reflection, without a candidate appearing overly weak," the New York Times reports. Each 2020 candidate has something to repent of because they, like us, are not perfect. They've evolved on some issues just like we've all evolved. We should discern who to support based on their record and how their repentance has lead to new policy positions. But we should not hold the fact they are repenting against them.
Repentance is not individual.
"Ezekiel 18 has frequently been made to proclaim a gospel of individual responsibility that verges toward modern individualism," Duke Divinity School Old Testament Professor Anathea Portier-Young writes
. "That interpretation doesn't square with the text, where we repeatedly hear the address: 'O house of Israel.' The life God wills is the life of the community. One challenge and gift of preaching this text is to re-embed the modern individual in this life."
Dr. Portier-Young continues: "God calls this church, this generation, this people to stop making excuses, and stop hiding behind other people's mistakes. We are to turn our honest gaze on ourselves and repent now, making life our ultimate value."
We must see repentance as the community's work. Ezekiel's call to “Make a clean break! Live!” is not just a call to each of the candidates, but to all of us. We need to make a clean break as a country from a culture of exclusion towards one of radical abundance and human dignity. We must turn, together, towards God and towards the common good.