The nature of forgiveness

Two stories in the nation bring up the question of the nature of forgiveness. One is the reaction of the wife of the pastor, who was gunned down last week as he delivered a sermon. The other is the return to Minnesota of Kathleen Soliah, who hid out in St. Paul as Sara Jane Olson.

On the CBS Early Show this morning, Cindy Winters granted forgiveness to Terry Sedlacek, who shot her husband, Pastor Fred Winters, to death in the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.

“I do not have any hatred, or even hard feelings towards him,” she said. “We have been praying for him. One of the first things that my daughter said to me after this happened was, ‘You know, I hope that he comes to learn to love Jesus through all of this.’ We are not angry at all, and we really firmly believe that he can find hope and forgiveness and peace through this, by coming to know Jesus. And we hope that that happens for him.”

It was impossible for many to watch the interview without thinking, “could I forgive the person who just killed my spouse?” How long would it take to reach that point?

The same question is being asked in St. Paul with the pending release of Olson, who was a 1970s radical with the Symbionese Liberation Army, attempted the pipe-bombings of Los Angeles police officers, and took part in a bank robbery near Sacramento in which a woman died.

She’s served seven years in prison, and wants to return to Minnesota — where her family still lives — to serve her parole.

Today, the Minnesota Senate debated bringing a resolution to the floor — as an emergency measure — that would ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reconsider sending Olson back to Minnesota.

“What do we stand for as people? Law and order, certainly. The notion that we would easily forgive someone who … yes, 25 years ago… decided it might be a good idea to blow up some police officers and maybe in the process, perhaps, involve kids. That is something terribly troubling,” Sen. Dave Senjem, the Senate Minority Leader, said.

The attempt to bring the resolution to the Senate floor failed.

Former Los Angeles police officer John Hall, a target of Olson’s, recalled a young girl waving at him from a restaurant as he drove away. A pipe bomb under his cruiser did not go off.

“That little girl was waving at us as we drove off. If that bomb would have gone off, she would have been killed along with her family,” said Hall, who served 31 years with the department. “I haven’t forgiven her (Olson) in the least for what she’s done and what she could have done to many more innocent people.”