Chapter III: Embrace
“The central thesis of the chapter is that God’s reception of hostile humanity into divine communion is a model for how human beings should relate to the other.” (p. 100.)
The Ambiguities of Liberation
Some claim that dignity and justice are based in freedom, the freedom to choose one’s own life. When this freedom is denied, we call it oppression. When it is restored, we call it liberation; Hence, the categories of oppression and liberation. This leads to the polarization of oppressed and oppressors, where everyone is trying to claim the high moral ground of the victim. But things are usually messy, difficult to sort out. And this can never lead to reconciliation, only blame, guilt, and vengeance.
Reconciliation and lasting peace can not be reached through oppression/liberation, which is based on freedom as the goal. Really, love is the goal not freedom. Freedom is the process which leads to the goal of love. (p. 100-104)
Adieu to the Grand Narratives
“Instead of calling into question the primacy of freedom, should we not critique the pursuit of universal emancipation?” p. 105. “From the postmodern critique of emancipation we can learn that we must engage in the struggle against oppression, but renounce all attempts at the final reconciliation; otherwise, we will end up perpetuating oppression… [we] must be guided by a vision of reconciliation between oppressed and oppressors, otherwise it will end in “injustice-with-role-reversal”(p.109).
The Politics of a Pure Heart
The first move is to call to repentance of all involved. Through the call to repentance, Jesus removes the oppressor/victim distinction. “Jesus Call to repentance not simply those who falsely pronounced sinful what was innocent [pursuit of false purity] and sinned against their victims, but the victims of oppression themselves… The truly revolutionary character of Jesus’ proclamation lies precisely in the connection between the hope he gives to the oppressed and the radical change he requires of them”(p. 114). All, the oppressors and the oppressed must change their hearts and their behavior. For, although it may be impossible to keep hatred from coming to life, the victim must not nurture it; otherwise they will soon become oppressors and perpetrators (117).
The Practice of Forgiveness
The second move is for forgiveness. Yet forgiveness is complicated (p.119). But why forgiveness? Because, if not forgiveness, we end up with vengeance. Why not justice? Because Forgiveness really is an affirmation of justice (p. 122). But where do we find the strength for forgiveness when we are so full of rage? As the imprecatory Psalms reveal, anger is not wrong when it is brought before the Lord. “Rage belongs before God” (124). Forgiveness is the echo of forgiveness received from God when we repent.
Space for the Other: Cross, Trinity, Eucharist
The third move is peace. “Forgiveness is the boundary between exclusion and embrace”(125). Forgiveness breaks down the dividing walls, but leaves a distance between people. Peace is the bringing together of those who were previously at enmity with each other. “Peace is communion between former enemies.” “Forgiveness is…not the culmination of Christ’s relation to the offending other; it is a passage leading to embrace. The arms of the crucified are open a sign of a space in God’s self and an invitation for the enemy to come”(126). The cross is the beginning of the embrace. The life of the Trinity shows us what this embrace might look like. The Eucharist is the ultimate place where we must make space for the other. It is table fellowship, eating.
The final move in order to embrace is to forget. “After we have repented and forgiven our enemies, after we have made space in ourselves for them and left the door open, our will to embrace them must allow the one final, and perhaps the most difficult act to take place, if the process of reconciliation is to be complete. It is the act of forgetting the evil suffered.” (131) But does not forgetting really means that the perpetrators have won. Those who oppress re-write history. To forget is to insure that injustice continues. However, “forgetting is itself therefore not so much our enemy; father, it is those who would rob us of the right to decide for ourselves what to forget and what to remember, as well as when to do so” (132). Remembering and forgetting is essential to the creation of our identities. We are constantly forgetting things. But how will redemption be possible if we forget? And how will heaven not be corrupted if we remember? (see 135-140)
Yet it is possible because God is the one who forget properly. God forgets sins because he can not help but not forget
The Drama of Embrace
There are four movements in the drama of embrace. They are opening the arms, waiting, closing the arms, and opening them again. Opening arms shows desire for embrace. It signifies that I have made space within myself for you, and that I am inviting you. Waiting is the decision to let the other come, or not come. The other is not coerced or forced to embrace. Waiting is the first real encounter with the other as other. Waiting seeks reciprocity, but might be left unfulfilled. Closing the arms is the mutual self-giving of the pairs of two arms forming one embrace. A soft touch and the willingness not to understand are required. Not understanding is the decision to let the other stay as alterity. Opening the arms again is the final movement of embrace. If I don’t open again then the other is diffused into me.