“The wreckage of history—a trail of shattered beauty, defiled goodness, twisted truths, streams of tears, rivers of blood, mountains of corpses—must somehow be mended. That the past must and will be redeemed is a conviction essential to the Christian notion of redemption.” -Miroslav Volf
you will turn your ear to me.
you will hear my cry for mercy.
you will loosen things unseen.
what can man do to me?
you will be my help in trouble.
you will be my place of refuge.
you will cut these bindings free.
what can man do to me?
i'll sing for joy in your place of rest
i'll sleep in peace resting on your chest
and your voice will sound like a thousand waters
your song will rush for ten thousand centuries
(Aaron Stumpel, "Centuries")
For the past two days i've been thinking about "Christian guilt." Something inside of you might be saying, "but we aren't guilty--set free from guilt in Christ, right?" Umm, I'm not so sure. It seems as though (in general) Christians are quick to escape responsibility for things. There are a million-and-one Christian-copouts, I'm sure you know a few. Keeping redemption in view, I am beginning to see the importance and real need of Christian admittance of guilt for committed (historical) atrocities. Right now what is in the forefront of my mind is the Holocaust and the Christian failure to stand up and speak/act in response to it. There was an obvious lack of Christian civil courage to stand up in the public sphere(s) against the evils being committed (some, even, in the name of God).
Elie Wiesel does not believe in collective guilty, but he does banner memory. Why? Because without it, generations will forget and become indifferent. Memory is a duty both to the dead and to the living. Ok, so what?
Well, the Manhattan Declaration has been mentioned a few times in class. Have you read it? Here's the link: Manhattan Dec.
Christians are rallying around this one. This isn't entirely bad, but it is somewhat concerning. Take a look at it. There are portions of the preamble that are a bit disconcerting...
"While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide." We acknowledge the shortcomings and claim the heritage. The document walks through a brief history of the "great heritage" of Christianity (and please, don't get me wrong, we do have many wonderful contributions and testimonies of good in our heritage. but let's be honest, we also have some incredible tragedies and terrific atrocities).
The last paragraph of the declaration before it begins to delineate the points is potentially very alarming:
"We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the
Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty."
The part that is uncomfortable is the line "no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence..." What are "we" saying here? My professor for the class points out why this document is so disconcerting and, in essence, unhelpful--there is strong voice of defense with virtually no explanation of that defense; the document offers the good things done in the name of Christianity (specifically) without mentioning the burden of sin that is also on Christian history. To be honest to the world, there must be both. What would it look like for the Christian community to start remembering rightly and truthfully it's past--the good and the bad. What would it look like to begin to see collective confession and repentance? What would it mean to begin a public discourse of reconciliation...? I think it might do a lot more than documents of defense.
I am not saying that it is not good or right or necessary to defend faith and values. It most certainly is. But it seems that we often do so at the expense of admitting faults, too, and expressing true, humble, genuine remorse for things that have been done (and continue to be done) in the name of God.
This is a "beginning" line of thought so bear with me, hopefully it will develop over the next several weeks and you'll see another post or two. Right now thoughts are a little scattered...my hope is to stir some thought and prayer in you.
“To remember something incorrectly is, in an important sense, not to remember at all—we do not remember to the precise extent that what we remember is incorrect.” Miroslav Volf
“…memory is a blessing: it created bonds rather than destroys them. Bonds between present and past, between individuals and groups. It is because I remember our common beginning that I move closer to my fellow human beings. It is because I refuse to forget that their future is as important as my own. What would the future of man be if it were devoid of memory?”