Choose an incident from either your own personal experience or from a situation you have read about and write two pages discussing the evidence for “moral imagination” in this incident. Use the four stories Lederach narrates on p. 7 to 19 of The Moral Imagination to help you. You can also, if you wish, discuss ways in which your chosen incident does not fit Lederach’s concept, or fits it only awkwardly. Consider whether you can draw a “moral” about leadership from the story you have narrated.
(Note: This reflection paper was written in the first quarter of 2019 as part of an Ethics and Leadership course)
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone” — John 8:7b, The Bible.
The teachers of the religious law and pharisees had brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. As is the case in most patriarchal and gender biased societies, the man with whom this woman was committing this sin with was nowhere to be found. Before stoning the woman to death one of them must have thought that it would be a good idea to have Jesus endorse it and the others had thought, why not? Exercising “relational interplay” and “patience”, Jesus allowed some time for tensions to calm down between the accused and accusers. Then he said to them, “all right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”. The accusers began to leave one by one until there was no one left among them.
Jesus response “touched the heart of complexity” with regards to the accusation brought against the woman caught in the act of adultery. In many conflicts, the party that assumes it is in the right often believe that they are trying to exact some justice from the party that is in the wrong and that they have the prerogative to do so. This belief clouds their judgement until something happens or someone says or does something that juggles their memory to the real reality at hand (which is that one way or the other both parties have been wronged) or to the need to exercise flexibility and accommodation in their judgement. In the context of this story, the woman was not only a minority. She was a woman from Samaria, the hood of sinners. Her punishment would serve as a deterrent to other sinners. Jesus understood the context that the teachers of the religious law and pharisees wanted this woman to be punished to serve as an example, but Jesus also understood that as a mediator in this case he needed to lay appropriate precedence for subsequent cases. If this case had been taken to a regular court, the lawyers would have tired themselves out in series of cross examinations until the lawyer who gets burnt out first loses the case. This would most likely be the lawyer of the adulterous woman as he swims tirelessly against the systemic tide of the “holier than thou” attitude that pervaded the day. The adulterous woman would have been stoned to death, and the status quo maintained. The technocratic approach would have failed the woman and the course of justice. Jesus thought outside the box and was able to simplify the situation to a common denominator; sin. And since no one was absolved of sin, the adulterous woman also had a right to be the one to be throwing the stones. This realization that all were sinners created a level ground where there was no longer sinner and self-acclaimed righteous individuals. If the Pharisees have had the slightest idea that Jesus’ response was going to be unfavourable to them, they wouldn’t have brought the case to Jesus. They thought the outcome would be either to stone the woman, set a trap for Jesus or both. Jesus’s response however, “moved beyond the known and familiar, breaking out “into new territory” while refusing to be bound by existing views and prescriptive answers about what is and what is not possible.” The unexpected freedom of a sinner. Most important, the realization that all are sinners who ought to embrace each other and not throwing stones at one another.
This experience between Jesus, the adulterous woman and the Pharisees also exemplify Lederachs’ interdependence, and vice versa. The Pharisees did not think they had any thing in common with the adulterous woman. I opine that Lederach developed these concepts as he meditated on scriptures; the centrality of relationships (that we are all interdependent), practice of paradoxical curiosity (that there is no strict dichotomization into good or bad), space for the creative act (developing novel solutions), and willingness to risk (taking action in the midst of a potential risky situation). Through Jesus mediation in the case, the lens of castigation through which sin in others was viewed changed. The lens of castigation, the status quo, gave way to a new lens of accommodation.
The only way the story does not fit into Lederach case is that the teachers of the religious law and pharisees were not the least converted. They left in shame but their hearts remained hardened. While unable to take the action they most desired in this case, their innate desire and purpose of identifying the real sinners, those who have the biggest sins, and setting traps for them remained.