Sunday, October 23, 2005


A powerful reflection from Walter Brueggemann, concerning the historical imagination of two communal traditions which have both known great loss; which have been (and are) tempted to translate that into revenge; and which, in spite of this, retain the capacity for a larger, hopeful memory that neither can exhaust. At the heart of this is surely the ability to move beyond the dominating politics of victim-hood and its correlative separation of a global sense of God from a global sense of neighbour – a difficulty felt especially within the third ‘religion of the book’, Islam, right now.

“For Jews and Christians, loss evokes memory. For the society around us, loss evokes amnesia – and the outcome is a society without reference, without buoyancy, without staying power for things human. The temptation to amnesia is broad and deep and complex among us. Its great lever is the homogenization of television consumerism, in which everything is reduced to the now, to commodity, to private gain and individual comfort, to thin humanness, while all the density of communal miracles and communal particularity is lost. It is not my purpose to offer a cultural critique of society, except to note the seductive temptation that this culture of amnesia is… If we lose our vivid, concrete, nameable memories … our communities of faith are out of business. But the truth – which both Jews and Christians share in common, though they carry it out in very different ways – is this: We are communities of memory, who experience seasons of loss as seasons of passionate remembering. Bound together in loss, we are also bound together in the memory [of hope] that the loss evokes…We now live in a society that wants to separate God and neighbour, to keep something of God without the neighbour who comes with God. But that is futile. God's coming shalom, which is sure for the world, is a gift of neighbourliness. Widow, orphan, illegal immigrant, poor, homeless, disabled, homosexual – all count, all are citizens of God's shalom. Faced, then, with a crushing loss – the destruction of Jerusalem or the death of Jesus, the defeat of goodness or the defiance of decency – Jews and Christians respond by doggedly recalling the enduring evidence of God's love, compassion, and faithfulness… [as it] winds its way through the neighbourhood we call the world.”

See also my review of Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination.

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