Not this again.
[The House impeachment managers] tell us that we have to have this impeachment trial, such as it is, to bring about unity. But they don’t want unity, and they know this so-called trial will tear this country in half, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling left out of the nation’s agenda as dictated by one political party that now holds the power in the White House and our national legislature. But they are proud Americans, who never quit getting back up when they are down and they don’t take dictates from another party based on partisan force-feeding. This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have seen only once before in our history.
Long ago, as a young pastor, a couple came to me about concerns with their marriage. The husband had slept with someone else, and when his wife threatened to file for divorce, they came to me together for advice. After some pleasantries at the beginning of the conversation, the tone quickly shifted. Filled with righteous indignation, the husband said “She’s going to file for divorce and break up our family! Whatever happened to forgiveness? Tell her she can’t do that!”
I laughed out loud.
Not a chuckle, not a single snort, but a good 15 seconds of laughter. (I said I was young.) They both looked at me in absolute shock. When I quelled my laughter, I said “*She* is going to break up your family? Please. *You* broke up the relationship when you slept around. That relationship is dead. You have to decide if you are willing to take responsibility for that and make the effort to repair it, or if you want to live in denial that breaking your marriage vows wasn’t that big a deal and sleeping around really didn’t hurt anyone.”
This was met with silence, so I plunged on.
Still speaking to the husband (but with the wife listening closely), I said “You don’t get to decide the terms of how she forgives anyone. Forgiveness doesn’t mean everything goes back to the way it was. It means that she quits seeing you as a monster, and quits letting the pain you caused her continue to govern her life. If she forgives you, it doesn’t automatically mean that you two will stay married. It just means she is done with letting what you did continue to hurt her. If you want this relationship to be healed and this marriage to be rebuilt, that starts with honesty, not denial. Honesty about what happened, honesty about how damaging and painful it was, and honesty about what you are or are not willing to do going forward.”
No, that husband was not David Schoen — but in listening to Schoen yesterday, the two of them sure sound a lot alike. The more Schoen and the defenders of Trump talk about unity and moving on without acknowledging anything about Trump’s role in the insurrection, the more they show they have no interest in unity or healing.
But we already knew that.
In one of my former congregations, I had a parishioner who was a psychologist who worked with men who had been convicted of child abuse, and the two of us had a number of long conversations around abuse and denial. When someone is accused of child abuse, my parishioner told me, he would see the same dynamic play out with each one. First, they deny that the abuse happened. “I didn’t do it!” When presented with evidence that they did indeed do it, the denial shifts to avoiding judgment: “OK, but it’s no big deal. No one got hurt. She/he came on to me. He/she had it coming. You have no right to judge me for that.” When that doesn’t work, denial pulls out the big trump card to avoid any consequences: “You have to forgive me!”
Perpetrators of abuse turn to denial because if there are consequences to their actions, something will have to die – their image of themselves, their relationships with others, and more. Denial is how they hope that nothing in their lives will have to change, with no consequences for their damaging actions.
Honesty, on the other hand, is where perpetrators of abuse turn if they are truly interested in healing and moving on. From everything I heard yesterday, the abusers and their enablers have no interest in healing. Power? Absolutely. Healing? Not so much.
This trial will not tear this country apart. Trump has already torn it apart.
The question now is whether the Senate wants to honestly acknowledge that reality and begin to deal with it by holding Trump accountable, or if they want to remain in denial and encourage the tear in our country to continue growing.