Volf, Miraslav. Exclusion & Embrace. A theological exploration of identity, otherness, and reconciliation. Abingdon Press. 1996.
M.V.- professor of theology- Yale University Divinity School. (Native Croation.)
For me the reading of this book provided much relevant information that I found very personal. Rather than trying to explain how that impacted me I will opt for some endorsement quotes that I resonate with to explain what this book is all about.
“Otherness, the simple fact of being different in some way, has come to be defined as in of itself evil. Christian theology must find ways of speaking that address the hatred of the other. There is no better theology of the present-day context of life and death.” Jurgen Moltman.
“He (Volf) finds hope in the challenge revealed at the heart of the gospel; the wounded yet healing embrace of the suffering Jesus.” Luke Timothy Johnson.
“Exclusion and Embrace is a stunningly brilliant analysis of the toughest Christian challenge of our time. It is a magnificent blend of insightful theology, historical vision, and human insight, one that is enriched by the author’s own multinational identity.” Lewis Smedes.
The cities of Sarajevo, Los Angeles, and Berlin are “connected by a history of vicious, cultural, ethnic and racial strife”, (14) and thus become “symbols of today’s world’, (15) of “identity and otherness”. (16) Central to what these cities represent is the Cross, the self, and the other.
“The vey birth of modernity entailed an exclusion of colossal proportions.” (59) Exclusion manifests itself in many forms, “elimination, assimilation, abandonment”, (87) etc. To resist evil becomes a trap that destroys innocence. The story of Cain and Abel illustrates “the anatomy, dynamics, and power of exclusion”. (92)
The ‘journey’ from exclusion to embrace focuses on four “central sections: repentance, forgiveness, making space in oneself for the other, and healing of memory”. (100) Ours is an age of “oppression/liberation”. (104) Emancipation as a grand narrative is disappearing.
A pure heart is a prerequisite to the action of embrace. When we sin or are sinned against there is suffering. This calls for repentance, by both victims and perpetrators. Revenge and retaliation are overcome by forgiveness. “Forgiveness implies an affirmation of justice.” (124) Without forgiveness justice does not result in reconciliation. “Only those who are willing ultimately to forget will remember rightly.” (132) The story of the ‘prodigal son’ illustrates embrace.
Regarding gender identity, “the ontologization of gender would ill serve both the notion of God and the understanding of gender”. (173) “The relations between the Trinitarian persons serve as a model for how the content of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ ought to be negotiated in the social process.” (181) Gender identity involves a duality that reflects equality but not sameness.
The concept of justice varies from culture to culture and unless there is willingness for some movement towards embrace there will be no agreement on the meaning of justice. There is great lack of agreement between God’s justice and man’s justice. “To know God means to do justice.” (213) There is a profound “injustice about God. It is called grace.” (221) Pentecost is portrayed as an example of justice and embrace.
For an accurate description of an event, memory is not a reliable authority. “We remember what we want to remember. We do with our memories what we want to do with them.” (239)
Modernity has prided itself about knowing but “the agenda of modernity has overreached itself”. (243) The conflict between “the power of truth and the truth of power” (249) presents a formidable challenge.
“The sword intended to root out violence ends up fostering it.” (277) The introduction of the “civilizing process” through reason, during the Enlightenment is a myth that some still subscribe to. Religion and violence work together to sow desolation.
“The Cross breaks the cycle of violence.” (291) “The violence of the Rider on the white horse (Revelation) is the symbol portrayed of the final exclusion of everything that refuses to be redeemed by God’s suffering love.” (299)