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Title page for ETD etd-11232013-113827

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mayo, Maria Anne
URN etd-11232013-113827
Title Chasing the Forgiveness Ideal: Case Studies in Restorative Justice, Post-Apartheid South Africa, and the Pastoral Care of Victims of Domestic Violence
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Amy-Jill Levine Committee Chair
Barbara McClure Committee Member
David Konstan Committee Member
Erin O Hara O Connor Committee Member
Jay Geller Committee Member
  • TRC
  • forgiveness
  • new testament
  • domestic violence
  • restorative justice
  • south africa
Date of Defense 2013-05-10
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation explores the problem of pressuring victims to forgive in three contexts. The restorative justice movement views responding to crime as a question of restoring relationships rather than—or sometimes in addition to—punishing offenders. In the process victims are pressed, both explicitly and tacitly, to forgive offenders and repair the broken relationship. Advocates frequently combine biblical instructions and psychological notions in promoting a unilateral, unconditional version of forgiveness. Second, I consider forgiveness in the context of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission by focusing on the work of Desmond Tutu. Here, victims of violence are presented with a unilateral, unconditional vision of forgiveness that claims biblical warrant. There is enormous pressure to forgive and reconcile for the sake of the “New South Africa.” Finally, I look at forgiveness in the pastoral care of victims of domestic violence. Some practitioners predicate their contemporary ideas of unconditional forgiveness on biblical texts; the result is a religious imperative to forgive even when the offender is unrepentant or still a threat.

With each case study, I consider a Gospel text as a lens for reconsidering forgiveness in that setting. I examine forgiveness in the restorative justice movement alongside Jesus’ seventy-times-seven instructions (Mt. 18:21-22; Lk. 17:3-4) to demonstrate that the biblical material contains a call for offender repentance that would serve victims well in this alternative process. The Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4) provides a way of thinking about forgiveness in post-apartheid South Africa, also by way of illuminating the role of repentance as seen in the prayer’s plea for forgiveness. Finally, I consider Jesus’ cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them” (Lk. 23:34a), in the context of pastoral care for victims of domestic violence and show how calls to imitate Christ through patient suffering or unconditional forgiveness misinterpret the biblical text. On the cross, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of his attackers and does not forgive them himself. This recognition provides an alternative path for faithful imitation.

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