There are four theologians, who happen to be my age (or close), whom I have decided to read whatever they write — if I can find time. LeRon Shults, Kevin Vanhoozer, John Franke, and Miroslav Volf. Volf’s newest book, which I want to examine over the next couple of months, is The End of Memory. Beginning this week with this book is especially appropriate because Volf deals with memory and being abused.
In Yugoslavia, with a wife and an almost-completed PhD dissertation left behind, Volf was inducted into the military only to discover that his every move was being watched; he was interrogated and humiliated and abused.
How, he asks, do you remember abuse? How, more importantly, do you remember abuse rightfully and truthfully? And, the ultimate question of grace, “How does one seeking to love the wrongdoer remember the wrongdoing rightly?” How does one remember who desires neither to hate nor to disregard but to love the wrongdoer? And this — don’t forget: How does one seeking to love the wrongdoer condemn rightly?
“My soul,” Volf says, “was at stake in the way I remembered Captain G” (17).
Volf discovered that after the events his mind was enslaved by the abuse he had suffered. He wanted to get the abuser out of his mind (Captain G.) but couldn’t. Evil, he learned, needs two victories if it accomplishes its full work: first, the evil deed itself; second, when the victim returns evil with evil.
Remembering is not a choice; one remembers whether one wants to or not. The issue is how to remember.
Condemnation of the evildoing is part of memory; but condemnation is designed in Christianity to lead to reconciliation, so far as that is possible.