Memory and Reconciliation

To remember well is to remember as a human being and a community that does not have the desire to take revenge but for reconciliation.

Memory and Reconciliation

[The thesis is in Swedish]

This thesis asks questions about memory and reconciliation. The aim of the thesis has been to analyze how one from a Christian perspective remembers well. I have explored this topic by comparing and critically evaluating Miroslav Volf’s and Jonathan Tran’s theologies of memory and by examining how their thoughts respond to the important questions that the contemporary theological debate about reconciliation points at.

I have given some theological examples from the last fifty years of Africa in order to show the current interest in reconciliation in the contemporary theological debate. The examples from different countries in Africa show that the current theology of reconciliation focuses on reconciliation as holistic and eschatological. Those perspectives ask important questions about a theology of memory.

I have made a comparative literary study which is systematic theological. My hope is that this thesis will contribute to the current debate about memory within the field of systematic theology. Systematic theology is not a neutral science but a hermeneutical science. It is clear in my thesis that this topic could be explored from many different perspectives. I have chosen one perspective that Volf and Tran have in common: that God loves and forgives his enemies. I am however not only describing and comparing these two theologians but also making a critical evaluation of their theologies of memory. I am using three criteria that Arne Rasmuson uses in his dissertation The Church as Polis in order to do the critical evaluation.  These criteria are a) coherence, b) Christian authenticity and c) applicability.   

The starting point of this exploration about memory and reconciliation begins with works by the two theologians Miroslav Volf and Jonathan Tran who both have written books about memory the last couple of years that have attracted much attention. Miroslav Volf’s theology of memory focuses on the thought of “non-remembrance”. By this term Volf means that God gives the gift of non-remembrance to those who have been wronged. It is also a gift they will gladly share with those who have wronged them. This gift can fully be given fist in the next world even though it can be given in parts even in this world.

Tran on the other hand focuses on God’s gift of re-narration. In order to go on with our memories of evil, we need to re-narrate our past within the greater story of God’s reconciliation. In the liturgy of the Church stories are told and listened to and the community becomes a community of confession and re-narration. By using the criteria of Christian applicability, I have shown that Tran’s perspective of re-narration is to prefer from Volf’s perspective of “non-remembrance”. 

Reconciliation as holistic asks important questions about memory and community. Both Volf and Tran emphasizes that how one remembers gives consequences for the community since one need to remember as one who neither wants to neglect the wrong nor wants revenge. The goal for the reconciliation as holistic is not just to cope with one’s memories of wrongs, but to be able to befriend the former enemies. 

Reconciliation as eschatological shows that a theology of memory needs to remember that: a) reconciliation has to take time, b) we will remember wrongs in heaven c) the Church and the Nation state has competing liturgies that form the citizens’ memories. The Church needs to be a political body that refuses to “forget and move on”.

Maria Ledstam's picture

Posted by Maria Ledstam

Maria Ledstam är doktorand i etik på Menighetsfakulteten i Oslo.

Maria Ledstam is a PhD student at the Norwegian School of Theology.

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