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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Book Discussion week 2: The End of Memory by Miroslav Volf
Hi Women friends (and friends of women,) sorry for the delay on the book discussion post.

1. On pages 50-53, Miroslav Volf describes a moral obligation to remember truthfully and illustrates this point with examples of events remembered in an inaccurate order. Volf connects this with the biblical injunction not to bear false witness. Do you think remembering the correct order of events is an important feature of remembering truthfully? How do you think the biblical authors viewed the importance of factual truth and neat histories?

2. On page 65 Volf writes,

"to 'cover' or 'forget' wrongs, we must remember them in the first place!...the purpose of truthful memory is not simply to name acts of injustice, and certainly not to hold an unalterable past forever fixed in the forefront of a person's mind. Instead, the highest aim of lovingly truthful memory seeks to bring about the repentance, forgiveness, and transformation of wrongdoers, and reconciliation between wrongdoers and their victims.
When these goals are achieved, memory can let go of offenses without ceasing to be truthful. For then remembering truthfully will have reached its ultimate goal in the unhindered love of neighbor."

think this is a beautiful exposition of the ideal situation (given that people/communities hurt and get hurt,) but what about situations of what is known is pyschology as magical thinking occurs, where an abuser seems to change and the victim believes it, and then the cycle of abuse happens over and over again? What does it mean to remember rightly in such situations of contrition and promise of change without lasting transformation? I know many of us have faced person situations where this is relevant and I am looking forward to any practical as well as reflective insights on what it means to love, forgive, remember or forget in these situations.

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 3:29 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/14/2007 07:15:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Also makes me wonder about how love/consensus/mutuality are acheived in historical recollection, since history tends to live in the documentation of the majority or dominant viewpoint.

  • At 11/15/2007 01:36:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    When I first read that line, I really struggled with it. First off, it seems so far from what I am capable of doing.

    I'm still not finished with the book. My unanswered question so far, though, seems to tie in yours, Jemila. What does it look like to remember the injustice, but also rightly?

    I have an easier time applying some of Volf's principles when dealing with past injustices and relationships. I struggle in applying them to current relational issues, specifically those that are recurring.

    My thought so far is that remembering rightly includes my acknowledgment of my own status as a sinner. So, rather than pointing a finger as I try to sit on the side of "righteousness", I admit my own faults, some of which do impact the recurring situations around me. At the same time, remembering rightly allows me to say, "This is not OK." The question then becomes what actions do I take to ensure that this not continue, both in my own responses, but also in preventative measures. A faithful rememberance cannot pretend an injustice did not occur.

    Love and forgiveness, remembering and forgetting can be very fluid; molding and shaping themselves around experiences and decisions within each individual.

  • At 11/15/2007 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I recall hearing once about a study that looked at how people remembered significant events (like JFK's assassination, the Challenger explosion, 9/11) and although popular thought holds that people remember exactly where they were at those significant moments the study proved otherwise. Not only did people at the same place remember differently, people changed their story of what they remembered over time. Absolute truth in memory (or history) seems impossible. That makes the issue of remembering rightly important when it comes to writing history - which is usually just the consensus of the powerful. True stories from the margins or of injustice should not be ignored in the collective memory.

  • At 11/15/2007 07:11:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Amy, I love this:

    "Love and forgiveness, remembering and forgetting can be very fluid; molding and shaping themselves around experiences and decisions within each individual."

    Julie, thank you for bringing to mind the equally true, yet often ignored stories of the marginalized.

    On a theological level, I sometimes thinking about this in terms of whose version(s) of Christian tradition got the stamp of orthodox approval. What healthy relationship can we have with non-dominant strains of Christian faith that were rejected by the church fathers etc? How can we "know" the truth? If Truth is a person, how can we know what this person taught if stories about this (Jesus) person are so diverse and interpreted so differently?

    And how about how we remember our national history? Thanksgiving is coming up, and many daughter (who goes to a Quaker school) didn't believe me when I told her that Columbus wasn't the first person in America! How can we rightly remember American history in our giving of thanks?


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