In June 2015, a white supremacist entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered nine members of the church during a Bible study. During the first court hearing, a number of family members of victims said that they forgave the murderer, Dylann Roof. This act of forgiveness shocked many people. Some people were shocked by witnessing such an act of Christian charity. Others were shocked because they thought expressing forgiveness for such an act, especially so quickly, was wrong, and was only perpetuating the violence on the community under attack.
In his new book, Forgiveness: An Alternative Account, Harvard minister Matthew Potts draws upon this event and others to explore the deep complexity and transformative power of forgiveness. As he shares in today’s conversation with Zach Davis, forgiveness is less about settling debts of harm and more about learning to move forward in new life, even if our wounds never fully heal.
Matthew Potts is the lead minister at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School. His research and teaching focuses on sacramental and moral theology, religion and literature, and preaching. He is the author of two books, Cormac McCarthy and the Signs of Sacrament and Forgiveness: An Alternative Account. He is also co-host of the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text”.